WARSAW — An order stating a petition to create the Turkey Creek Dam and Dike Conservancy District has met all legal requirements and was signed by Kosciusko Circuit Court Judge Michael Reed Thursday afternoon, March 5. The matter will now be sent to the Natural Resources Commission according to state statute. A public hearing is expected to be announced by the NRC. No date has been set, but it is expected the hearing will be held within the next several months.
Approximately 32 people attended the hearing, some unsure why they were there or what was actually going on. Reed did provide an opportunity for any person to speak in opposition. While no one spoke in objection to the matter at hand, several residents did raise questions before the judge and Christopher Ripley, Blachly Tabor, Bozik and Hartman, counsel for the freeholders.
Reed explained the hearing was an initial hearing to determine whether the proper legal forms and necessary signatures were obtained to proceed further. It was also explained the matter would then go to the Natural Resources Commission to make a study and file a report with the court. He suggested the public hearing would be the time to have any questions answered.
Two individuals did raise questions to the judge after he asked if anyone was present to talk. Neither person was asked to identify themselves. The questions concerned who was paying into the taxes to maintain this and if all the responsibility of the water control device would leave the town. Another unidentified person questioned why they received the notice of the hearing when they didn’t sign anything or know about the petition. It was even voiced some of those who signed the petition were ineligible.
“It all remains to be seen,” stated Reed regarding the taxes and responsibility. Ripley noted notices were sent out beyond the boundaries of the proposed conservancy district to ensure everyone was notified. The minimum amount of signatures needed for the petition was also noted.
During the actual hearing, Riply presented three affidavits which had been electronically sent to the court prior to the hearing. One affidavit was certification from Michelle Puckett, auditor, verifying the number of signatures.
That affidavit showed 2,718 freeholders owned property within the boundaries of the conservancy and of the 642 signatures 495 signatures were certified as eligible freeholders. It was noted this was 18.2%. The state statute requires a minimum of 15%.
The other affidavits were proof of publication of the hearing and of the mailing list of who was sent notices.
When Reed opened up the hearing to hear any objections several questions were raised as to who was in the conservancy, who could sign the petition, how will they be notified of the public hearing, if a list of names of those who signed the petition and who received letters was available. Reed informed those present the information, all open to the public, was available through the court’s online program or through the clerk’s office.
Reed approved the prepared order, referring the matter to the NRC for further action. Ripley noted while he believed the NRC had 90 days to hold a hearing, he expected it to be sooner than that.
Following Reed adjourning the hearing and leaving the courtroom, a number of residents gathered around Ripley to ask questions. That group soon broke up into two groups with Ripley answering questions to one group and William Pipp, one of the initial organizers of the conservancy, responding to questions from another group.