Possible regional water district discussed

Cindy DiFazio, Staff Writer

The Ripley County Commissioners met in regular session on Monday, February 26. Commissioners Robert Reiners, Chuck Folz and Lawrence Nickell were present. County Attorney Neil Comer and County Auditor Mary Ann McCoy were also present.

Commissioner Chuck Folz reported that on February 16 representatives of Ripley, Decatur and Jennings County met in Greensburg with State Representative Cleo Duncan, the Indiana Department of Emergency Management (IDEM), and members of various state and local agencies to look into the possibility of forming a three-county regional water district.

The purpose of forming a regional water district, according to a January press release from Representative Duncan’s office, would be to increase the residential water supply and promote economic growth in the area. The memo also stated that, by creating a regional water district, the region has a better opportunity to receive federal funding than a single county or municipality would. The press release reported that Duncan encouraged, “Many options were brought to the table and I applaud everyone’s enthusiasm in helping to work in a cooperative manner to provide increased water services to our three counties. Working together we can get a lot more done for everyone.”

Folz said that, if approved, a board would be set up consisting of one commissioner plus one council member from each county and a utility representative.

Some of the first duties this board would be charged with would be related to funding. The water district would require start-up money, so the board would apply for grants and possibly Rural Development money, as well as a 40-year federal loan. Folz stressed, however, “Until the board is formed, no decisions will be made.”

Ripley County Attorney Neil Comer, then opened a dialogue with commissioners regarding what part Ripley County wishes to play in the formation of such an entity. Comer noted that a joint petition would have to be filed by the counties with IDEM and posed the question, “Is our county council interested?” “It’s a lot of grassroots preparation,” he explained. He also inquired what the state’s timeline is. Folz answered that the state has fast-tracked the proposal.

Comer also asked, “What other local group is working on it, and who asked Ripley County to take the lead?” Folz replied, “A Decatur County commissioner asked me to get it started.” Commissioners’ president, Robert Reiners, questioned Folz, “How did we get into the lead when it’s Decatur County that needs the water?” Comer concurred telling the commissioners, “There’s quite a bit involved with it being a three-county deal. It is a pretty substantial undertaking.”

Folz went on to say that $20,000 is being requested from each county to be used as “seed money.” Comer advised that an agreement is needed concerning who is taking the lead so that claims can be paid by the county council.

Comer prefaced his next set of remarks with, “I understand the process. I’ll leave the wisdom of doing it up to you.” He told commissioners that Ripley County must have some long-term goal in mind to participate in this organization. Comer cautioned that the question the county council will ask is “Why do we want to be a part of this water district?”

Folz responded, “My thinking is that first the water will go to Greensburg, then come down 421 to Osgood and Versailles. We would then have water to distribute.” Comer speculated that Ripley County would have to have a 40-year revenue stream in place in order to pay for the piped-in water supply, stating, “So, they’d have to supply it, but we’d have to guarantee we’re going to buy it.”

It was finally agreed that the engineering and feasibility studies would answer a lot of questions. Folz cautioned, “Ten years down the road, we won’t get this offer again.”

In other business, Tad Brinson, executive director of the Ripley County Planning Commission told commissioners that the matter of disputed campsites in the Delaware Campground is to go before the Board of Zoning Appeals on Tuesday, February 27. Brinson stated that the Delaware Campground had been approved in 1990 for an additional 50 sites, but had since put another 92 into service.


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