Goshen News, Goshen, IN

March 10, 2013

ELKHART COUNTY COUNCIL: Millersburg wastewater plant to get a major upgrade

By JOHN KLINE
THE GOSHEN NEWS

GOSHEN — A modernized wastewater treatment plant is on its way to Millersburg.

Elkhart County Council members voted on Saturday in favor of updating the Millersburg plant, closing out a process that began last August.

Council members approved amendments to two Millersburg Tax Increment Finance Districts that will allow for partial funding of the $440,000 reconstruction project. Tax Increment Financing, or TIF, is a public financing method that uses future gains in taxes to subsidize current improvements within a specified district.

According to county attorney Craig Buche, the project came to light following a presentation to the Elkhart County Redevelopment Commission by Millersburg Water Department Superintendent Ben Eldridge in August. 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, with some severely rusted.

Eldridge put together a plan with the help of Triad Associates Inc., an engineering and architecture firm based out of Indianapolis, to gut the town’s current treatment facility and use its skeleton as the base for a near-new facility at the $440,000 cost.

“This project,” Buche explained, “is intended to substantially restructure their operations and to increase the efficiency, reduce the energy usage, increase the capacity and facilitate those enhancements.”

During the RDC’s Sept. 27 meeting, commission members revisited the project proposal, deliberating for more than an hour on how much of the project they felt comfortable funding, eventually deciding to fund three-fourths of the project.

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 Tax Increment Finance District, which is set to expire next year, to the project.

In addition to the Millersburg I TIF funds, 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, which Eldridge indicated brings in about $160,000 to $180,000 in tax revenue per year.

By going the payment route, RDC members said it 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.

“The RDC did not feel that they should fund the entire project,” Buche said. “They felt the town needed to have some investment in the project as well, and set up a payment schedule so the town could go out and get a loan for this project. It’s anticipated that these funds, the maximum amount being pledged (by the RDC), $397,500, would cover three-fourths of the financing of that project.”

Six Span Right-of-Way

In other business, council members approved a request for $550,000 from the Major Bridge fund to go toward right-of-way acquisition for the recently completed Six Span Bridge project.

“This is the settlement for acquiring the real estate we needed from the McDonalds at C.R.17 and Ind. 120 for the Six Span Bridge project,” said County Highway Manager Jeff Taylor. “That acquisition has been tied up in litigation, and it went to mediation, and the settlement that we reached is $550,000. They’re not happy and we’re not happy, so that’s usually where the mediator wants to land.”

Taylor said the $550,000 figure is significantly higher he had anticipated as the result of the final mediation.

“We’ve had an amount programed into the 10-year plan, and that number had always been $400,000,” Taylor said. “We were willing to pay $400,000.”

Animal Control Services

Council members also approved an additional appropriation from the General fund for $194,044 to go toward animal control services within the county.

According to Elkhart County Administrator Tom Byers, the additional appropriation is part of five interlocal agreements establishing animal control services for Elkhart, Goshen, Middlebury, Bristol and Wakarusa.

Those interlocal agreements make up a larger, county-wide agreement first approved several years ago establishing Elkhart County government as the intermediary between the Elkhart County Humane Society and the various communities included in the agreement.

“This is about the eighth or ninth year that we have had this arrangement,” Byers said. “Basically what they do is those communities give us the money, and then we in turn pass that money on to the Humane Society along with the county’s portion. That was set up originally to try to help the Humane Society so they weren’t having to bill and keep track of the funds coming in from about six or seven different governmental units.”

The city of Elkhart is currently set to pay $115,000 in animal control costs, while Goshen will pay $64,644, Middlebury will pay $5,400, Bristol will pay $4,000 and Wakarusa will pay $5,000.