Elkhart County Commissioners Monday gave their blessing to a $1.5 million loan request by the town of Bristol for a road construction project aimed at rerouting truck traffic connected to the relocation of Utilimaster from Wakarusa to Bristol.
Following more than five years of plans and conversations, the long-time manufacturer of commercial truck bodies and walk-in delivery vans announced early last year its plans to move its entire 106-acre campus along Ind. 19 to a 425,000-square-foot building on Earthway Boulevard that had previously been occupied by the former Odyssey Group.
According to County Administrator Tom Byers, the proposed interlocal agreement involves the county loaning the town $1.5 million from its Major Moves fund to go toward construction of a new connector route between Ind. 15 and Maple Street in order to ease the increased traffic expected due to the Utilimaster move.
“Ever since Utilimaster announced that they were going to be relocating from Wakarusa to Bristol, we have been having ongoing discussions with the state and the town of Bristol regarding some relocation of some roads and in particular an upgraded intersection at Ind. 15,” Byers said.
According to county attorney Craig Buche, $500,000 of the initial $1.5 million loan would be expected to be repaid to the county as soon as the project is completed from a reimbursement from the Indiana Department of Transportation. The remainder of the loan would then be paid back into the county’s Major Moves fund over approximately 10 years through the Tax Increment Finance revenues from the Town of Bristol.
“Last month we took the interlocal agreement to the County Council,” Byers said. “There were some concerns raised about the terms and conditions of the loan, and rightfully so. I think the original agreement called for a 2 percent loan over 20 years, and the request was to modify that to make it more in line with what the county does.”
According to Byers, the county revisits the interest rate on the money the it loans itself out of Major Moves every six months on Jan. 1 and July 1, and with the revised agreement, the town of Bristol’s agreement will now mirror that same process.
“It sets the initial interest rate at 2 percent, and then we will evaluate that interest rate at the same time we evaluate our own,” Byers said. “In no case will we charge the town of Bristol a higher percentage than we charge ourselves on the loans.”
With the interlocal agreement and additional appropriation request approved by the board, the request will now move on to the Elkhart County Council for final review and possible passage.
County surplus property
The Board of Commissioners also held a public hearing Monday morning to consider the sale of several tracts of county-owned surplus land connected to the recently completed C.R. 17 and Six Span Bridge projects.
According to county attorney Gordon Lord, four properties were advertised for sale as surplus properties. Those properties were:
• 22043 C.R. 38, Goshen;
• 22127 Ind. 119, Goshen;
• 22053 Sunset Lane, Elkhart; and,
• 21833 Ind. 120, Elkhart.
“Each of these came to be owned by the county through road projects,” Lord said. “They ended up being properties needed to do a bridge or road project, and then after the project was done, what was left of the properties became available as surplus.”
In order for the commissioners to rule on a bid Monday, Lord indicated that a bidder would have to submit a bid of at least 90 percent of the appraised value of the land as required by state law. The law does however allow the commissioners to negotiate on a price less than 90 percent of appraisal for 60 days after the initial hearing, he said.
“If the commissioners don’t feel any of the prices are appropriate, even if they’re over that 90 percent threshold, the commissioners can have another hearing or they can actually proceed toward hiring a broker or go through a public auction,” Lord said. “So there is flexibility, and no duty to approve anything today.”
Lord added that all four properties were appraised by an independent appraiser and confirmed by Elkhart County Highway Manager Jeff Taylor. The appraisals for each property are as follows:
• 22043 C.R. 38, Goshen — $65,000;
• 22127 Ind. 119, Goshen — $80,000;
• 22053 Sunset Lane, Elkhart — $150,000; and,
• 21833 Ind. 120, Elkhart — $160,000.
A total of four bids were accepted by the board Monday. Bids submitted included:
• A $100,000 bid by Ronald and Tina Drake for the 21833 Ind. 120 property;
• A $45,500 bid by Emojean D. Abbot for the 22043 C.R. 38 property;
• A $50,000 bid by Frank Lucchese for the 22053 Sunset Lane property; and,
• An $18,000 bid by John Nunemaker for the 22043 C.R. 38 property.
Because none of the bids were at or above the 90 percent assessed value mark, Lord suggested the commissioners accept the bids and send them on to the County Highway Department for review. Lord also suggested that the department set up conversations with all interested parties over the next two weeks in order to see if they can come to an agreement on an acceptable price. The board approved the motion.
In other business, the board:
• Approved an agreement with County Health Officer Daniel A. Nafziger to extend his contract for another four-year term;
• Accepted a bid by Mishawaka-based Gibson-Lewis LLC for $333,000 to construct a new Highway Department truck barn at the intersection of C.R. 38 and C.R. 17. The bid was forwarded on to the Highway Department for review.