State grants $10M for water development
Cindy DiFazio - Staff Writer
State Representatives Cleo Duncan and Dave Cheatham held a press
conference on Monday, May 14 at the Decatur County Courthouse
in Greensburg to announce a $10 million appropriation by the State
of Indiana to fund water systems for Ripley, Jennings and Decatur
counties. Duncan said that the state budget was passed on April
29 and included a line item granting the three counties the monies
through the Build Indiana Fund. These grants will allow the counties
to hire professionals to investigate and propose solutions to
local water problems, then take actions to improve the availability
and distribution of water.
Duncan explained that the announcement was slightly delayed because,
We wanted local entities to have a chance to reach an agreement.
She noted, I wanted to make it very clear that this money
is to benefit these three counties to ensure there will be enough
water for any economic development projects the counties wish
Rep. Cheatham thanked Duncan for her hard work on the project
saying, Im so thankful for Cleos expertise.
Shes been very helpful and good to work with. He added,
The idea is that we need to look at this as a regional endeavor
that any group, business or community will profit from.
Cheatham went on to explain that the new water resource board
will look into both short and long-term needs. He told the gathering
that originally $20 million was requested to help the three counties
connect their water resources. Cheatham said that while the $10
million will not provide all the water the area needs forever,
it will help cover the needs in the short-term. He told the group,
Although we originally asked for $20 million, were
happy to get what we could. Now we need to see how far we can
connect with $10 million.
The hope is to provide a uniform level of water to all included
areas by interconnecting those who have more water with those
who have limited access. Local water companies would still maintain
their local rates and agreements. He noted that it would take
only a short connection with Holtons water company to reach
into Ripley County. A plus for smaller communities, for example,
Westport or New Point is that with all the communities tied-in,
should a small area see a growth spurt in businesses or suffer
a contamination problem, the affected area could still be supplied.
Cheatham said that while all three counties have more than enough
water at this time, Jennings County has the most, with an extra
1-2 million gallons per day. Decatur County has the greatest need
at this time. He questioned, Were looking at new development
and asking can we meet those needs? His answer,
With these connections, we think we can.
Cheatham also said that although all the technical parts of the
project are not yet in place, the water boards involved have committed
to be a part of the project. Duncan commented, This whole
issue has been thrust upon us because economic development is
coming and we need an infrastructure in place.
Asked what kinds of strings might be attached by the state, Rep.
Cheatham replied, The idea is to be shovel-ready for businesses
to relocate here. We already lost a business because we couldnt
connect to enough water. Both Cheatham and Duncan were adamant
that this state funding is not leverage between Greensburg and
Decatur Water. Duncan stated, We are pioneers together in
this water district. Cheatham agreed, We are not here
to bargain, were here to help.
He also noted that these are grants, not loans, which will keep
water rates low and improvements economically feasible. Rate
payers should not have to pay for this expansion, Cheatham
commented. This is a $10 million asset to the community
that is not on the backs of rate payers.
There is a two-year window in which to spend the $10 million.
If the monies have not been used, they revert to the state. Were
hoping we have a lot of water needs because of economic development,
said Cheatham. He went on to assure the group, This is where
we serve, these are our people, and thats why we want this.
Decatur County Commissioners Charles Buel and Jerome Beuning also
were on the dais to take part in the announcement. Beuning is
on the committee to form the water board. Buel noted that Decatur
County Water has always felt there was a need for a regional water
board and commented, Were willing and ready to get
it started. Both commissioners thanked Duncan for spearheading
this effort with Beuning noting, The state didnt leave
us high and dry!
Duncan closed by remarking, I am very selfish. I want to
have good jobs available for my kids and grandkids. I hope youre
all as selfish as I am to want good things for your families here.
CINDY DI FAZIO PHOTO
Pictured are Representative Dave Cheatham and Representative
Cleo Duncan speaking at a press conference regarding $10
million in state funding granted for the development of
water resources in Ripley, Jennings and Decatur counties.