By Lasca Randels
WARSAW — Kosciusko County Surveyor Mike Kissinger told Kosciusko County commissioners at their meeting Tuesday, Sept. 29, that funds are needed for “the largest reconstruction project we’ve ever done.”
The James Welch Drain starts just north of SR 19 and CR 200S and continues southeast down to south of the intersection of Shilling Road and CR 950W. The drain is located in the Mentone area.
Kissinger said the ditch was built in 1904. Parts of it were added after that, he said, “but basically you’re talking about a system that’s 120 to 80 years old.”
“There are a couple of areas that are really suffering right now and the landowners have asked me to take a look at it,” Kissinger told commissioners.
A reconstruction means basically the ditch can no longer function as it was constructed to do.
“We have to separate maintenance and reconstruction,” Kissinger said.
He explained that with some drain projects, they can continue to perform maintenance “but reconstruction is another beast.”
Kissinger said they have seven other ditches that need reconstruction and described the James Welch Drain as “kind of a roadblock.”
“We can’t move on to the next ones until we take care of this one,” Kissinger said.
Reconstruction money is typically financed through the county’s General Drain Fund and paid back by landowners. However, due to its size, this particular project comes with an estimated cost of $357,000.
“We don’t have $357,000 in our general fund,” Kissinger said.
He approached the Kosciusko County Council for help, with the council recommending the money could come from the rainy day fund.
County Auditor Michelle Puckett said she reached out to the state board of accounts since the county does not typically do inter-fund loans. Because this is a reconstruction, it has different restrictions, Puckett explained. The state board of accounts informed Puckett that the only place the money can be transferred from the rainy day fund is to the county general fund.
Puckett described the process as the rainy day fund would have to transfer those dollars to the county general fund; the county general fund would then have to transfer the funds to the general drain fund; and the general drain fund would then have to transfer the money to the reconstruction fund.
“This is a process we would probably do via resolutions,” Puckett said. She described it as a multi-step process that will span five to seven years.
“When those taxpayers pay it back, if they pay it back in the first installment there is no interest, but if they carry it out to the five years there is interest on those payments,” Puckett said.
She suggested entering into an agreement that outlines how repayment of the loan will be handled, such as whether the interest would end up going back to the rainy day fund or if it would remain in the reconstruction fund.
The Drainage Board will hold a public hearing to discuss the reconstruction project on James Welch Drain.
That hearing will be in December or January, if the money is available, Kissinger said, and a contract would be lined up in February or March, with construction due to be finished around May.
“I do want to make sure everybody understands, this is a project that goes into 2021, but I have to make sure there’s gonna be money there before we have our public hearing,” Kissinger said.
He pointed out that one landowner owns 36 percent of the entire shed area “so they’re going to be paying 36 percent of that shed area,” Kissinger noted. “So the drainage board is going to have a tough decision to make.”
Puckett will work with County Attorney Chad Miner to finalize the fund transfer repayment process.
Commissioners approved the transfer of funds for the project.
In another matter, Terry Burnworth, owner of Pyramid Consulting Services out of Indianapolis, requested formal approval to enter into the final negotiation process with two companies regarding the Kosciusko County public safety communications project.
The two companies are L3Harris Technologies and J&K Communications Inc. Commissioners gave approval for Burnworth to enter into negotiations with the contractors.
Puckett told commissioners that all transfer books and historical plat books were scanned so that the information can be found online. She requested and received approval for services from Schneider in the amount of $7,500 for creating the project, with a $2,500 yearly maintenance fee. The information will be available on the Beacon site.
Puckett also received approval for the Capital Improvement Plan to be amended. Typically the EDIT Fund helps support county general expenses by about $2 million per year, Puckett said; however, going into 2021, the budget committee wanted to increase the amount to $3 million. The Capital Improvement Plan caps at $2.5 million so the plan required an amendment. Miner worked on amending the current three year plan, which will expire at the end of 2021.
Kosciusko County Systems Administrator Bob Momeyer received approval for vendor recommendations regarding the new phone system and upgrading of the fiber network to support the phone system.
Momeyer’s recommendations were New Paris Telephone in the amount of $129,257.07, with recurring costs of $1,185.30 per month; and SDS Communications for the fiber install in the amount of $22,831.05. This will be paid for with CARES Act funds.
In other news:
- Kosciusko County Highway Department’s annual bid opening for county supplies will be held at 9:15 a.m. Nov. 10.
- County Administrator Marsha McSherry announced that the glycol needs to be replaced in a chiller at the Kosciusko County Justice Building. This will be addressed at the next meeting.
- Assistant Plan Director Matt Sandy gave an update regarding the new digital permitting process. Sandy said they will be doing some test runs but said so far things have been moving smoothly.
- Commissioners approved a project coordination contract between the Indiana Department of Transportation and Kosciusko County for the local Trax Project in the area of CR 1300N.
- Kosciusko County Highway Superintendent Steve Moriarty received approval for a contract with LPA Consultants, which allows the county to apply for federal fund assistance with the Husky Trail project.
- The next regular meeting will be 9 a.m. Oct. 13.