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RSD: Sewer treatment pipes irreparable

Kaitlyn Clay, Staff Writer, [email protected]

Returning with a more recent update on the Berkshire wastewater treatment plant project, Bob Woosley, of Heritage Engineering, and Tom Tucker, the Harrison County regional sewer district board president, addressed the Harrison County Board of Commissioners with their concerns at Monday morning’s meeting.

They had initially thought in their proposal for a new treatment plant system that they would be able to use existing piping under the Berkshire Mobile Home Park and not have to replace it. However, after televising the lines, the sewer district has determined that the system is not in a repairable state and will have to be completely replaced.

Woosley explained the district has submitted plans to the state revolving fund agency with hopes for loan funding. However, without county aid, this would drastically increase the rates of customers in New Salisbury, something the district is trying to avoid. And, with upcoming housing developments of Apple Orchard and Kepley Fields and potential commercial and retail developments, the pair is worried if this issue is not taken care of. it will put all of those projects in jeopardy.

Woosley and Tucker explained that the first phase of the project, which would replace the pipes and collection system for the mobile hope park, could cost upward of $1.4 million.

“This could buy us a couple of years before we would have to completely replace the treatment plant, which will cost over $2 million,” Woosley said. “We need $250,000 immediately to just get the project started as soon as possible.”

He also said that if this issue isn’t taken care of, it could shut down development opportunities in the area.

Woosley and Tucker hope to be able to use COVID relief funds that will be allocated to the county from the state but would need approval from the council in order to do so. The two men intend to present this issue to the council at its meeting Monday evening.

Phil Williams, a resident of Harrison County, approached the commissioners to remind them of Harrison County’s opportunity to join an initiative intended to promote economic growth throughout the state of Indiana.

The Regional Economic Acceleration and Development Initiative (READI) is a grant program administered by the Indiana Economic Development Corp. On May 3, Gov. Eric Holcomb announced the launch of the $500 million grant program in hopes to accelerate the state’s economic growth.

Williams reminded the commissioners that Harrison County is currently not associated with a Regional Development Authority (RDA) or a regional non-profit organization, making the county not eligible for any of the READI grant money.

He also shared that July 1 is the last day the county has to join and identify the region they are a part of to the state in order to receive grant funding.

Commissioner Charlie Crawford reminded Williams that this was an initiative the county was made aware of both in 2015 and 2017 but had declined to join. He said he believes the Harrison County Council had no intention of changing its minds on that decision.

The county council last voted to not join the RDA in 2017 as it wanted to wait to see what legislation would come about regarding RDAs. The council was also interested in learning more about how joining the group would affect riverboat funds at the time. The council had previously declined forming an authority in 2015 as well.

The Harrison County Fire Chiefs’ Association, represented by Jon Saulman, chief of Harrison Township Fire Dept., and Jeff Hess, chief of the Boone Township Volunteer Fire Dept., approached the commissioners to seek approval for the upcoming year of funding for the county.

Saulman explained that the fire departments are on a rotating schedule to receive funding and that Boone Township, Palmyra and Lanesville were voted to receive the funding for next year on the rotating schedule within the nine total departments in the county.

The commissioners, minus Jim Heitkemper, who was not in at the meeting, approved this request unanimously.

Harrison County Highway Dept. Director Kevin Russel approached the commissioners with some good news at the meeting that the Indiana Dept. of Transportation had decided to donate two trucks to the county, rather than leasing them as they had first intended.

Russel suggested the commissioners consider the proposed amendment to an existing agreement, which was unanimously agreed on by Commissioner Nelson Stepro and Crawford. Russell said the trucks seemed to be in decent shape and would only need some repair work done.

He also shared with the commissioners that he would be bringing them scoring sheets in regard to letters of interests from consultants for the upcoming bridge work projects that would need to be completed. Each commissioner will be able to score the letters, and Russell will take the letter with the highest average score to the state for approval.

The commissioners’ next regular meeting is scheduled for Monday, June 21, at 7 p.m. at the government center in Corydon.