By Deb Patterson
SYRACUSE — The district plan for the Turkey Creek Dam and Dike Conservancy District is a road map. “The purpose is to give some direction on how to proceed … how to deal with the responsibility for, maintenance and overseeing of the control structure and deal with the dike structure. It is a plan of action to implement,” explained David Hollenbeck, district attorney.
The plan was presented during a public meeting Friday, May 28, in the Syracuse Community Center. Following the presentation, the board voted unanimously to approve the plan. It will be sent to the Natural Resource Commission and the Indiana Department of Natural Resources Division of Water for their review and recommendation of acceptance. The final step will see the plan presented to Kosciusko County Circuit Court Judge Mike Reed for final approval.
Once the plan is approved, the conservancy board can proceed in a legally binding capacity and officially take ownership of the lake control structure and dike. Repairs can then begin.
The hour long presentation by Hollenbeck; Jeff Rowe, Baker Tilley Municipal Advisors; and Bregan Eicher, Lawson-Fisher engineering, provided a summary of the nearly 100-page plan concerning the engineering and financial areas. Hollenbeck provided a brief timeline of the district’s formation.
The engineering area takes a look at the foreseeable maintenance of the lake control structure and what it will take to repair the dike, as well as the consequences if it is not repaired. The plan also includes a plan of action and cost estimates, monitoring of the lake control device and an estimate to replace the gates in 10-15 years as well as concrete spalling.
The financial aspect focuses on the benefits of the district, the estimated dollar loss to property using the current assessed valuation — noting there would be a $646 million loss of property value should the structure not be maintained, and the economic benefit. The financial area also includes the costs for the dike and gate repair, maintenance and administrative costs per year.
There were some questions raised by board members requiring further explanations by both Eicher and Rowe.
The board was advised it could be 60-90 days before action is taken by the NRC and that a 30-day notice must be given to the shareholders before the court hearing is held. He also noted there was no reason why the board could not move forward on some aspects of the dike repair work, just documents could be signed until final approval is given.
During the meeting Hollenbeck asked the board to consider filing two petitions with the court to be heard at the plan approval hearing. These petitions focused on a compensation rate for board members not to exceed what is approved by state law and establish annual voting by district instead of at-large voting.
Hollenbeck expressed while the existing board may not desire to receive compensation, they must consider future board members. Establishing compensation would be done by resolution each year when the budget was prepared. However, he stated board members did not have to take the compensation. The statute allows for $100 for not more than two regular or specially called board meetings per month and $50 for not more than five days per month devoted to the work of the district in addition to reimbursement for any expenses.
Explaining the voting by district petition, Hollenbeck stated the statute allows all freeholders to vote for vacancies regardless of the seat up for election. However, the statute does allow for a petition from the board to the circuit court to modify the order to provide that each director representing an area be elected by a majority of the votes of the freeholders of the respective areas.
During board comments it was noted this was one reason why the seats on the district board were divided into five equal districts — two representing Syracuse Lake and three representing Lake Wawasee. John Earnest, board member, expressed the need to make sure Syracuse Lake has two representatives on the board.
During other matters the board was updated on the process of developing a website and a brief presentation on the cost to shareholders regarding the Capital Improvement Fund, should the district use the maximum tax levy of $.0333.
This also prompted discussion on what shareholders will see on their tax bill in 2022 and how the district will receive the funds with the option of advertising for tax anticipation notes to operate until funds are received. Rowe noted there will be a general fund levy and the CIF levy. The general fund levy will be set later this year through the Department of Local Government and Finance.
No date was set for the next meeting.