Goals of water district outlined

Cathy May, Contributing Writer

About 20 people attended a public hearing June 28 on the forming of the Vernon Fork Water District. A hearing was held in each of the three counties, which will form the district: Decatur, Jennings and Ripley.

The goal of the proposed three county district will be to establish reliable sources of drinking water, provide adequate fire protection, promote public health and a cleaner environment, and ultimately improve the overall quality of life for residents.

A regional water district is a government entity created by law that helps to facilitate the expansion of water service to rural areas. The primary advantage of forming a district is its eligibility, as a unit of government, to apply for low-interest public funds to plan and build needed facilities. Those funds include: the Indiana State Revolving Fund low interest loan program, the USDA Indiana Rural Development loan and grant programs, and the Indiana Community Focus Fund grant program.
The territory to be included by the proposed district includes all unincorporated areas of the three counties excluding the areas of Jennings Northwest Regional utilities, Lake Santee Water District and anyone not currently in the Hoosier Hills Regional Water District.

The district will be governed by a nine member board of trustees, each appointed for a term of three years. Appointments will be made as follows: one by each county’s commissioners, one by each county’s council and one joint appointment of the commissioners and council.

The hearing was facilitated by Lynne Newlin, Regional Water & Sewer District Coordinator for the Indiana Department of Environmental Management (IDEM). During the first part of the evening, the floor was open for questions.

Darlene Volk, clerk-treasurer of the Napoleon Water Company, was concerned because they had not been “in the loop” and kept informed of what was happening. She also wanted to be sure the people selected for the board were people who knew water systems and not just politicians. One suggestions made was to have ex-officio members of the board. They could attend meetings and give their opinion but not vote.

Linda Tieman of the Holton Water Company, said they had already had a water study done with Jennings County. She said because Ripley County is situated higher, the study showed they could not get water because it would have to be pumped uphill. Tiemen was asked to send a copy of their study to IDEM.

Robert Byrum of Batesville was concerned about the cost of putting in the lines to the property owner. It was stated that if your well is not threatened by contamination the regional district board has no specific statutory authority to force anyone to hook on.

Attorney Neil Comer is doing the legal work to put the project together. Comer said, “We are in the infancy stage of this project. We need a good source of water especially in Ripley and Decatur County for both the short and long term.”