WARSAW — Both legislative branches of Kosciusko County government sent a message to the planners for a new sewer district Thursday night, Nov. 8 — “Get your ducks in a row, then come back and see us.”
In a joint meeting of the Kosciusko County Council and the Kosciusko County Commissioners, representatives from both panels heard a presentation from Kenneth Jones, president and chief executive officer with Jones Petrie Rafinski representing a proposed new sewer district for Tippecanoe and Chapman lakes.
“Tonight we were expected to sign the resolution to say that we agreed with it, and we just couldn’t bring ourselves to do that without knowing the cost,” said Council President Sue Ann Mitchell. During his presentation, Jones admitted that a final price tag for the proposed project had not yet been determined.
“There are all kinds of variables that you could encounter throughout the project,” Jones told the two panels. “This year, almost every project that came through came in a little higher than the estimate. It is a challenging, challenging thing. What we’re talking about is building a brand new municipal utility from scratch. It’s never been easy and I’ve been doing this 25 years and there hasn’t been one that I can say, ‘that was a snap.’”
Currently, according to Mitchell, the planners for the new sewer district are coordinating with the Lakeland Regional Sewer District, a municipality serving the Barbee Lake chain, as well as the City of Warsaw in order to possibly coordinate having the sewage from this new district be processed by one of the those two established systems. Mitchell told Jones and the rest of the audience Thursday night that on voting when it eventually happens, she would be abstaining. She said she serves on the board for the Lakeland district.
“I do not oppose the sewer,” Mitchell said during the meeting. “I just want to make sure we’re taking care of the people in the proper way.”
After the meeting, Mitchell said she felt the county’s governing bodies have a responsibility to residents to make sure all the variables are known before they take any action.
“It would make us be like Washington D.C. in signing something and saying ‘we’ll give it to you later, what the cost is,’” she said. “I just could not, in good conscience, do that. Hopefully, before the next meeting, they’ll have that decided. I felt really bad tonight because there were so many people here, but we didn’t know until yesterday and I kept thinking today that they would get us some figures and they didn’t and you can’t make a good decision without facts so tonight, I’m going to go home and put my head on the pillow and sleep well, knowing we made the right decision.”
The council voted unanimously, with Tom Anglin absent and Mitchell abstaining, to table the decision for supporting the resolution until a clearer picture of cost can be presented. For the commissioners, Bob Conley was absent, but Brad Jackson and Cary Groninger both agreed to do the same.
“I guess I would state my support for the project as well, as long as it comes in with numbers that are affordable,” said Groninger. Council member Kimberly Cates agreed that costs should be clearly defined before action can be taken in the council.
“We can’t say yes or no if we don’t have the numbers,” she said.