INDOT tells commissioners no federal money available until 2014

Cindy DiFazio, Staff Writer

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

Kathy Eaton, program budget manager with the Indiana Department of Transportation, told commissioners that INDOT has a mandate to review local projects.

One project under review was bridge #89, a bridge that crosses Ripley Creek on Old Milan Road. Owen “Junior” Heaton, of the Ripley County Highway Department, informed Eaton that the project for bridge #89 had been scrapped.

Another project in question was bridge #38 on Old Michigan Road by the fairgrounds. Eaton noted that the consultant had submitted hydraulics for the project, but INDOT will not review any project that is not linked to federal funding. “You will have to pay 100% of costs incurred,” Eaton told the commissioners. Commissioner Reiners asked, “Are you telling me we’re wasting our money if we go on with this project?” Eaton replied, “Through 2014 there is no federal money available.” She went on to say that counties must follow guidelines for selecting the consultants they use. “If you don’t follow the guidelines, they may not approve you for funding down the road,” Eaton explained. She also said that INDOT is getting current construction costs for local projects and adding dollars to take inflation into consideration. “Then we would have appropriate costs estimates when it comes time to apply for federal monies,” Eaton told commissioners.

She noted that this crackdown on how projects get started is not just happening in Indiana. All states have been mandated to strictly follow federal guidelines. “At INDOT we want to be very active with these projects,” Eaton added.

The “Safe Routes to School” sidewalk project in Osgood will proceed as will a Sunman city project on Eastern Avenue.

She asked that the commissioners send INDOT a letter regarding the status of the two bridges that were discussed, and ended, “We’re here to help you manage these local projects. Feel free to call on us anytime.” Commissioner Reiners asked that Eaton come to the next meeting and she accepted his invitation.

Commissioner Reiners took a moment to eulogize Daren Baker who recently passed away. “We lost one of our true leaders,” Reiners began. He went on to list some of Baker’s involvement in the community including participation on the Ripley County Council, saying, “He was into everything, helping everyone.” Reiners ended by saying, “We are sorely going to miss the guy. He was one of the most pleasant people you’d ever want to know.”

Lester Wilson of New Marion approached commissioners with a request to close a grass road next to his property that he says is not used and he mows. Wilson noted that he is concerned because buildings have gone up along alleyways. “I don’t want to have that kind of problem,” he explained. Attorney Comer asked if the road is on platted land. Wilson responded that the road which is on West Street isn’t even in the center of the right-of-way.

Comer told him that the commissioners have the authority to close the road, but there is a process that must be adhered to. He said that a petition must be filed and all contiguous property owners must be informed. There has to be a public hearing so anyone with objections could come forward. “There is a process you have to go through to close a road. You have to give the public a chance to have its say.” Wilson stated, “The bottom line is it will cost me more to close it than to leave it alone.”

Commissioner Reiners questioned Wilson, “Do you have a fear that somebody is going to want to use it?” Wilson responded, “Maybe in the future.” Comer told him, “We have to go by the law.” Wilson rejoined, “I didn’t anticipate all this problem with a road that hasn’t been used in 100 years.”

Andy Bryant, the Environmental Health Specialist for the Ripley County Health Department and Tad Brinson of the planning commission approached the commissioners to update them on problems with the septic system at the Horse and Buggy Auction House on SR 129, Cross Plains.

Previously, the owner, Troy Mathis, was told to stop having auctions at that location unless portable toilets were brought in. Brinson reported, “They never stopped,” with Bryant adding, “They’ve done nothing and the septic system is in total failure.” Bryant informed the commissioners that he has made an inspection and found cigarette butts, toilet paper and human feces in the pond behind the building. Bryant noted that any sign of waste constitutes failure of the septic system, and that there is a straight pipe carrying waste from the building to the pond. “It’s coming from directly inside,” Bryant stated. He continued, “The first thing we have to do is stop it. It’s running into a pond, contaminating it.”

Bryant said that he had discussed the septic system with Mathis on January 8, 2007. He said that to his knowledge, Mathis has never made contact with the state health department and never installed port-a-lets.

It was discussed that if Mathis ignores official paperwork, an injunction will be sought to force them to stop using the building. Attorney Comer stated that if it is an emergency, if it poses a danger or could cause irreparable harm, a restraining order can be obtained.