2013-07-10 / Front Page

Owen Council Exploring Options To Pay For Sewer Extension Work

by Michael Stanley
Staff Writer

Owen County will not receive grant funding to help pay for the county’s remaining portion of an estimated $2.5 million sewer expansion from Spencer to State Road 43 South, the county council learned Monday evening.

However, with several aspects of the project continually coming in under budgeted costs, the expected $1,360,000 county portion of the project could be as low as $400,000 in committed funding from the county Economic Development Income Tax (EDIT) fund.

The council received an ordinance outlining the county’s commitment of $1,000,000 in EDIT funds over a 10-year period.

Construction on the project is expected to begin during the week of July 22 by Orleans, Indiana contractor Infrastructure Systems Incorporated.

“The way I’m reading this is, we’re not just providing a guarantee, we’re the ones paying for this, we’re the ones borrowing the money. This is not us co-signing and guaranteeing that the redevelopment commission is going to pay it back, it’s (the county) who is paying this. I think we made it very clear during our work session that this is the last possible resort we would ever get to, is borrowing this million dollars. I would like to know what the total project cost is, because as I understand, it has come in well below their original estimates,” councilman Anton Neff said. “I think it was going to be $2.8 million when it was all said and done; they have $2.4 million in private bonding they are able to pay for already, so if there is only $400,000 left, why are we entering into a $1,000,000 loan?”

Words of agreement and nods came from the remaining six council members.

“$400,000, we could (pay) over (a period of) months and not even need to take out a loan,” councilman Chuck Hess added.

“It puts us in a difficult position – this wasn’t brought to us until today,” council president Patty Steward said. “We’re not prepared to do anything.”

Steward was set to meet as a member of the Owen County Redevelopment Commission for additional information concerning the project Tuesday morning.

In appropriations and transfers, the council voted 7-0 to pay the remaining

$16,000 in retainage fees from the county’s EDIT fund in the form of payment application number 10 for the final payment for work on the courthouse handicap accessibility improvement project to 3-D Professional Contractors at the request of Matt Sward of the Southern Indiana Development Commission.

The board also voted 7-0 to appropriate $759 from the Local Drug-Free fund. The request was made by Owen County Drug-Free You & Me Coordinator Dave Newgent, who noted the monies would go to the Indiana Youth Institute in an effort to help reduce youth substance abuse.

In an update on the county’s highway department, Owen County Commissioner Tony Voelker told the council he and county highway department superintendent Joe Pettijohn were unable to meet to compile a final spread sheet on prioritizing road repairs and will report back to the council in August.

Voelker did, however, inform the council that an agreement for services with 39 Degrees North will be paid for out of the highway department budget. The 2013 amount will be pro-rated at approximately $2,900 and services will begin on August 1. Those funds will be taken from the highway department’s contractual services line item and the annual cost of $6,500 will be budgeted for within the highway department budget for 2014 and beyond.

There was a consensus council opinion to request quarterly reports from the highway department in regards to new Local Road and Street funding beginning in fiscal year 2014.

“At that time, maybe appropriate money as needed, rather than lump summing $400,000 additional into the budget to be transferred somewhere it shouldn’t be,” Lawson said.

Steward proposed oversight of the additional road funding over the next two fiscal years.

“It’s one of those things where, if a road is taken out in the latest storm, no problem, spend the money and come to us, we’ll appropriate the cash to cover that,” she noted. “We’re not trying to micromanage anything.”

The council consensus was to report, reconcile the department’s planned needs for the next quarter’s projects and release the expected funding to provide oversight.

The council also briefly spoke about the 2014 community services grant program administered by the council. Owen County non-profit organizations will have until 4:00 p.m. on August 16 to submit applications to the county auditor’s office for funding in 2014. It was noted that local transportation service Rural Transit, which has received local government funding in years past, did not submit an application in 2012 and therefor did not receive funding from Owen County in 2013. The council encourages all local non-profits to submit an application for consideration.

County auditor Mike Wood later informed the council of recently released figures from Indiana Auditor Tim Berry highlighting Owen County’s portion of the August 2013 distribution of $33 million in riverboat wagering tax revenue sharing to counties, cities and towns. The Town of Gosport will receive $4,893.16, while the Town of Spencer will receive $13,133.33. Owen County will receive a total of $109,782.10.

The Owen County Council will meet again in regular session on Monday, August 12, beginning at 7:00 p.m. in the Commissioners’ Room, located on the second floor of the Owen County Courthouse.

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