GOSHEN — Elkhart County Plan Commission members Thursday voted to approve a new Tax Increment Finance District for the town of Wakarusa which could bring some significant utility improvements to the area over the next few years.
According to Bodie Stegelmann, a local attorney representing the Wakarusa Redevelopment Commission, the commission is seeking to establish a new, 25-year TIF district along the town’s Ind. 19 corridor to be known as the Ind. 19 Corridor Economic Development Area.
Tax Increment Financing, or TIF, is a public financing method that uses future gains in taxes to subsidize current improvements within a specified district.
“The Redevelopment Commission seeks approval of the TIF area to facilitate and assist in financing municipal utility improvements, specifically water supply, wastewater treatment, and possible relocation of the town’s well-field,” Stegelmann said of the request. “Timing-wise, there’s replacement of one pump station that’s scheduled for expansion in 2017. The sanitary sewer system would involve improvements to sewer lines, lift stations, and the addition of an offline combined sewer storage system. And maybe the biggest concern for the town is that the current (sewer) system is a lagoon system, and there’s a real question about whether IDEM will continue to permit that in the future.”
Jeff Troxel, town manager of Wakarusa, was quick to agree.
“The lagoon system is a big concern for us,” Troxel said. “We’re one of the few communities that still have a lagoon system. IDEM, I don’t know how long it will be before they finally say, ‘Enough with the lagoon system. You’re going to have to either build a new facility, or you’re going to have to pipe it’. In that case, if we don’t have the funds, the options are to pipe it to Elkhart or to Nappanee.”