Goshen News, Goshen, IN

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August 6, 2013

ELKHART COUNTY COMMISSIONERS: $1.5 million loan approved for Bristol road project

GOSHEN — 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.

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Three Goshen elementary schools — Chandler, Chamberlain and West Goshen — are providing free meals to all students during the school year as part of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Community Eligibility Provision of the Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010. Nearly 80 percent of students at Chandler, 89 percent of students at Chamberlain and 78 percent of students at West Goshen already qualify for free or reduced-price lunches based on their family income. How do you feel about the new lunch program?

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