By JOHN KLINE
THE GOSHEN NEWS
Initial funding for a modernized wastewater treatment plant will soon be flowing into the town of Millersburg.
Elkhart County Commissioners Monday approved additional appropriations totaling $150,000 from the Millersburg I and II Tax Increment Finance districts to go toward initial funding of a multi-year, $440,000 rehabilitation project to upgrade the city’s ailing wastewater treatment plant.
Word of the proposed rehabilitation project first came to light this past August following a presentation to the Elkhart County Redevelopment Commission by Millersburg Water Department Superintendent Ben Eldridge. During the presentation, Eldridge informed RDC members that the Millersburg wastewater treatment facility is in serious need of repair, with most of the components at least 35 years old.
In order to remedy the situation, Eldridge put together a plan with the help of Indianapolis-based engineering firm Triad Associates Inc. to essentially gut the town’s current treatment facility and use its skeleton as the base for a near-new facility at the cost of approximately $440,000.
After an initial review of the proposal, RDC members eventually decided to fund a total of three-fourths of the project, or $397,500, leaving town officials to fund the remainder of the project cost. That decision, RDC members said, was made because it was felt that the town needed to have some personal investment in the project as well.
In discussing where the funds would come from, the commission agreed to pledge 100 percent of the remaining funds left in what is known as the Millersburg I TIF district, which is set to expire this year, to the project. Commission members also pledged to pay $53,000 a year toward the project for the next seven and a half years out of the Millersburg II TIF — an area encompassing the now defunct Carriage Inc. RV manufacturing complex.
Going the payment route, RDC members said, would allow Eldridge to take out a loan for the full amount of the project immediately, rather than having to delay the project until the commission could come up with the full amount promised outright.
“So that $150,000 goes toward the town of Millersburg for an upgrade to their sewage treatment plant, and this was approved by the Redevelopment Commission,” said Elkhart County Planning Director Chris Godlewski. “The town has also gone forward to get a state revolving loan fund from the state to cover all the extra costs.”
South Benton TIF
In other action, the commissioners approved an additional appropriation of $65,730 from the South Benton TIF to pay for legal fees and project costs associated with the more than $1 million in water and sewer extension projects that have taken place in the area over the past few years.
According to Godlewski, the South Benton TIF was created around 2007 in the area located immediately north of the town of Syracuse on Ind. 13 as part of a plan for an extension of development north of Syracuse. However, due to the fact that only one addition to a manufacturing building has gone into the area since the TIF was established, Godlewski said it took several years for the TIF to generate enough revenue to begin making payments.
“This dates back five or six years,” Godlewski said of the TIF. “There is finally enough money in that fund to help offset some of the sewer and water they already put in for this area.”
To date, Godlewski indicated, the South Benton TIF contains approximately $66,700. Through an interlocal agreement established between the Elkhart County Redevelopment Commission and the town, the commission will receive 15 percent of revenue generated through the TIF, while the town will receive 85 percent.
EDCEC Annual Funding
The commissioners Monday also approved a 2013 funding request by the Economic Development Corp. of Elkhart County, though in a slightly reduced amount.
A not-for-profit economic organization whose primary objectives are the retention and expansion of local businesses, attraction of new businesses, and local entrepreneurial development, the EDCEC typically receives an annual contribution from the county of around $200,000 in the interest of spurring economic growth in the county.
However, this year the EDCEC requested an additional amount of around $56,000 to help fund a regional marketing campaign known as Michiana Partnership Inc.
“The EDIT request is for $257,051,” said County Administrator Tom Byers. “That’s $201,004 for our proportionate share, and then $56,047 for the regional marketing campaign.”
According to Dorinda Heiden-Guss, president of the EDCEC, Michiana Partnership Inc. is a regional partnership which includes Elkhart, St. Joseph, Marshall and Kosciusko counties as well as three counties in Michigan.
“The overall goal is to work in regional partnership for a pro-marketing effort,” Heiden-Guss said of the partnership. “It’s goal is to market the region as a whole and pull in the multiple county strengths by building upon the commuting patterns as well as our media coverage areas.”
While happy to provide support to the EDCEC, Commissioner Mike Yoder said he wasn’t comfortable supporting the additional request of $56,000 for the regional marketing campaign due primarily to the impact it would have on the county’s already stretched EDIT Fund.
“The $201,000 I’m fine with,” Yoder said. “The regional thing is a little bit iffy for me. We all know the pressure on our EDIT fund this year. In fact we may have some issues with that later in the year. So that’s the only reason I’m questioning the extra $56,000.”
Commissioner Terry Rodino agreed, and a motion was passed to approve only the $201,004 portion of the request for the EDCEC.
The request will now move on to be heard by the Elkhart County Council during its April 13 meeting.