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Connector road waste of money

By Chris Schmelz

Per our meeting last night, I know you mentioned a survey. I am not sure if you filled it out for us or not, but I want to make sure my views are on record.

First, I want to say that I am very much against this Watson connector road being built. I believe it is completely unnecessary and a waste of Indiana taxpayers’ money. This money could be used in so many other ways and benefit many more people. You are proposing a five-mile stretch of road that the cost per mile to build doesn’t add up to the theoretical benefit. If you look at the population of the area, the traffic data and the amount of wrecks reported, the cost analysis doesn’t add up.

This project is being pushed through by a minority of people, and the majority are being kept in the dark.

With the inflation we have experienced in the last year, which doesn’t look to be going away for a while, I believe this project will definitely go over budget.

I know this is a sparsely populated area, and the thought is that this project won’t impact near as many people as it will help. However, most of these residents and landowners have very deep roots in Harrison County.

Think of the family farms and lives that will be negatively impacted for years to come. Take for example my parcel of land. At first look, you would see the three proposed routes and wonder why I’m so upset. I probably won’t be losing any land unless the final route changes. However, the loss of privacy is just as important to me as a loss of land.

This farm has been in my wife’s family for over 40 years, and we have now owned it for 18 years. I am a lifelong Harrison County resident of 42 years and my wife has lived on this farm her entire life. I graduated from the University of Louisville, and my current full-time job is in Louisville. However, my heart is on this farm in Laconia, where we have chosen to stay.

We have three kids, ages 11, 13 and 16 who know no other home. I can’t think of anything more important to me than my family and my land. I can step out at night and see no houses or lights and it is very peaceful.

If Alternative 1 is accepted, the road would run against my northern property line and cars would drive by and see my whole property. This would be a dramatic change to the privacy we have always loved about this place. The sound of my creek running over the rocks, the call of the quail in the summer or the sound of our beloved beagle hound Annie running a rabbit will never be the same. There will be cars, trucks, semis and farm equipment all traveling on this new road, and my privacy will be gone forever.

One of my favorite things to do is walk my property early in the morning or late in the evening to check my fence. While I’m out, I always check on my livestock. Depending on the time of year, I will also be checking my garden, pumpkins and blueberries. My dog always comes with me. It is a great stress reliever for me to have this beautiful landscape that is quiet and peaceful. My next generation will never get to experience this beautiful piece of land the way our family has for the past 40-plus years. The serenity will be gone. This is not the legacy that I want to leave for them. It is not in my character to stand aside when I feel there has been an injustice done.

You want to put me in an impossible situation where I have to choose from three alternatives and put neighbor against neighbor. There is no doubt Alternate 3 wouldn’t hardly effect me at all. If it’s Alternate 2, then I would loose some privacy, but Alternate 1 would be the worst for me. However, if Alternate 2 or 3 are chosen, then my neighbors will suffer the same loss of privacy and some many acres of land.

To end, I would please ask that you and INDOT re-evaluate this project. From my perspective, I feel the little bit of good that some people think they may be getting if this project is completed is definitely not worth the major stress and potential loss you will be putting on many long-time Harrison County residents.

If enough educated people look at the cost analysis and benefit-to-loss ratio, I believe a majority would see this is not a good use of funds.

Editor’s note: Chris Schmelz of Laconia wrote this as a letter to Peter Putzier, a representative of the Loch Group about the proposed connector road in southern Harrison County that would run between state roads 11 and 135. He also copied it to the Indiana Dept. of Transportation and Gov. Eric Holcomb.