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The Versailles Republican

June 19, 2014 • Headlines

Left, Dave Wirrig of Greensburg and Guy Schwering of Osgood present a $1,000 check to Assistant Park Manager Brad Walker.
Parents and family gathered at the lake early on a chilly Saturday May morning for the annual
Laughery Valley Fish and Game junior fishing derby.

Bonnie and Charles Nace of Ohio are one of the 500 vendors at the flea market in Friendship. The event continues through this weekend.
Tom Tepe Autocenter
Tom Tepe Autocenter
Friendship State Bank Whitewater Motor Company Inc.Ryan Holcomb at Edward Jones
Four Seasons Stove ShoppeDearborn County Hospital - Milan Primary CareYour Ad Here
Milan negotiates for lake, dam

Mary Mattingly

“I don’t know anybody who wants to see the lake drained.” That’s how State Rep. Randy Frye opened a meeting Friday regarding the Milan dam, lake and CSX railroad. About 20 people turned out for the meeting organized by Frye and held at the courthouse annex building in Versailles. Those attending were either property owners, associated with the golf course in Milan, town board members, school superintendent, county commissioners, or concerned citizens. And, they agreed with Frye: They want to keep the lake. It’s important to the town, to the county and to the area. “It affects a great many people,” as one local woman said.


Ken Smith with the DNR, Aaron Fricke with Burke Engineering and State Rep. Randy Frye discussed options to keep the Milan lake and dam in operation.

The lake is desired not just as a water source for the golf course and for additional town fire protection, but for the aesthetics to surrounding properties and the town park. If it was drained, it would become a swamp, which opens another set of problems.

Aaron Fricke with Christopher Burke Engineering, which was contracted by Milan town council to do an update of the feasibility study on the dam, spoke at the meeting; so did Ken Smith with the Dept. of Natural Resources/division of water, and Susan Craig with the Office of Community Rural Affairs. No one from CSX railroad was there.

CSX owns the dam. The dam disrepair came to light about 12 years ago, and updates were made by the railroad, but DNR determined a year ago deterioration has continued. There is a contract from the 1940s with Milan that says CSX owns the dam but the town is responsible for upkeep. DNR wants to see improvements, but CSX could choose to drain the lake instead. “The goal is to not let that happen,” Frye said.

The issues
The town has received estimates of $1.5 to $2.5 million to repair the dam. Frye told the audience it’s a million dollar difference due to the unknown of when digging starts into the dam and, “We don’t want to start something we can’t finish,” Frye said

The Office of Community Rural Affairs (OCRA) may be able to provide 50 percent of state money, but Milan must have the matching 50 percent before the state money is awarded, according to Susan Craig. Frye said, “It’s not a great option. We have to find additional revenue to secure OCRA funds.”

It was brought up again that CSX is a privately owned company, regulated by the federal government. They don’t have the responsibility to maintain the dam, and the lake has no value to CSX now that trains don’t use steam power. Dan Peters, owner of Hoosier Links Golf Club in Milan, said at the meeting that the Lt. Governor was here in October and said they had $2 million dollars set aside for the project. However, Frye, who has been involved in the project since 2011, said he’s yet to find any sort of money like that. He has gone to bat for the town though.

“I’ve talked to the governor on your behalf and asked him to call CSX. He is trying to get CSX to come to the table, but we can’t order them to do it. The governor can’t either.” He added, “I think they are going to thumb their nose unless we fund it ourselves and save the lake. That’s where I’m headed. Trying to raise $3 million for Milan lake and dam is not an easy thing to do.”

Dan Peters suggested to build a new dam instead of repairing the existing 100+ year old one. “It would be half the cost,” he said. Ken Smith with DNR stated, “As a knee-jerk reaction I like that idea. It’s different. But not for the cost.” Fricke said he did look at an upstream dam, but it would be more expensive than upgrading the current dam, due to environmental mitigation and some other factors. They could breach the dam and it would cost $1.5 million. He said a new dam and pass through from the existing dam was estimated at $4.5 million, and CSX might send a big bill to the town for draining the lake.

Town attorney Larry Eaton did have some encouraging news to report. He reported he received an email from a CSX attorney indicating they are willing to speak to the town representatives on this. He had yet received any positive communication from the company until this. He added, however, “They want us to guarantee the future of the dam, and any costs associated we cover. “ He said Frye’s and the governor’s involvement have apparently made a difference. If CSX was willing to pay the estimated $1 million or so in repairs, could OCRA use that as the matching money? Susan Craig replied, ”I don’t think OCRA cares where the match comes from.” The town may need to come up with 10 percent, and Paul Hildebrand, town board president, said that shouldn’t be a problem. But he is mainly concerned with the liability the town has for dam upkeep in the future, as CSX has indicated in written communications. Eaton said maybe that condition could be negotiated with CSX.

Frye also has met with former state legislator Bill Davis with OCRA and US Rep. Luke Messer (6th district), both whom have been supportive. Frye learned that CSX has dams like this all over the country and should they finance it, this could set a precedent. Peters asked about if there was money from DNR for wildlife protection, but Smith said the DNR priority is safety regulation with limited resources to protect natural resources. Frye commented, “That’s why we need to find independent funding.” Melissa Baker, new town board member, said she too wished CSX would come to the table. Eaton met this spring with administrative law judge, CSX and DNR attorneys and the judge said they need a plan to lower the lake water levels in case the dam would fail. However, it naturally lowers in the summer. Eaton said they need to meet with CSX as soon as possible.

Having the money from OCRA would help Milan bargain with the railroad, they said. It was stressed by several at the meeting that Milan residents need to fill out an income survey, a requirement for the OCRA grant. Without it, they won’t have a shot at the grant. Peters has paid for the survey postage already, but less than 100 were returned. A few citizens are taking a door-to-door campaign for the survey.

Brad Baughn, DNR legislative director, advised to include it as a line item on the upcoming Indiana budget. While if approved it would not be available until 2015, Frye thought it was a good idea, and would ask for $2.5 million. “But it’s far from a done deal. It’s another option for funding, but it’s not got a great chance to stay in the budget. But I’m willing to try,” he said.

Versailles Town Board
Proposed walking path mapped out

Mary Mattingly

Progress continues on establishing walking paths connecting the schools and town for children. The Safe Route to Schools proposal aims to provide children a safe walking/riding path, connecting the town with schools, and also the sports complex and other parts of town. The town is applying for a $250,000 grant.

Steve Mathes and Sue Meisberger
Pictured left are Steve Mathes and Sue Meisberger.

Town board member Steve Mathes has been attending the recent meetings. He presented the preliminary route to the town board members at the Thursday, June 12 regular board meeting and emphasized it’s a work in progress. There will be an information booth with a large detailed map so the public can view it at the June 28 Versailles Lions courthouse event. Mary McCarty with Southeast Indiana Regional Planning Commission will be on hand to answer questions at that time. She’s also on the committee, along with surveyor Jeff French, and several others from the schools and community. If, and when the funding comes in, it could end up to be three to four miles of paved walkways connecting the town to schools. However, it will likely be done in phases, dictated by the funding.

Property owners impacted by the proposed route have been notified. Feedback is encouraged, Mathes said. It was noted the paths are wide, 8 feet, so two or more people, bicycles, and wheelchairs, could easily maneuver it. The board mentioned that the highway through Versailles poses a challenge for safe walking paths. They are looking at lane barriers to provide added safety on US 421. Mathes emphasized it’s a long-term vision. Mathes informed the board that the planning committee is organizing a bike rodeo in September to bring awareness about the new route and will coincide with the annual bicycle show on the square. Mathes said from what he has learned, such trails enhance property and the community. He noted the popularity of the Osgood trails. Safe Route to Schools and the town’s Main Street committee will be updated on the town website.

Career center
Brad Street, Southeastern Career Center superintendent, and Gary Norman, economic development director, attended the council meeting to request the Town of Versailles be the fiscal agent for a grant they applied for from the Lawrenceburg Economic Development program. They are not asking for money from the town, just as a place to deposit and transfer the funds, should they be awarded it.

Street explained that they want to expand the career center programs for the increasing enrollment at the school. The center opened in 1966 and is about 60 students shy of their 1000 building capacity. Street noted the grant will help address the welding and diesel program. “We have too many kids with 88 students signed up and 40 kids on the waiting list,” Street said. Street noted about 30 percent of their students are from Dearborn County, the granting agency.

The board unanimously agreed to be the fiscal agent. Street also reminded them that the school is often looking for small construction type projects to use for training, with the only cost being materials.

Natalie Gilpin informed the board the Tyson United Methodist Church would be holding the first annual community festival, and requested Tyson Street be closed for the Saturday, Sept. 13 event. This is in celebration and recognition of Uncle Jim Tyson, benefactor to the town of Versailles. Grants are awarded on his birthday, Sept. 14, unless it falls on a Sunday, which it does this year. The awards will then be announced on Monday, Sept. 15.

Storm drainage
Mary McCarty said they are waiting for the disaster recovery grant to be released in early 2015. They met about the easements needed for upgrading the three phase storm drainage system. It’s a $1.3 million project. The environmental review is finished and will be used for it, but there is a million dollar cap, and so that leaves $300,000. “Any money spent on the storm drainage 18 months prior to the grant could be used as a match for material,” she said. Kevin Hensley, utilities manager, will keep track of staff hours, fuel and materials to figure cost for an in-kind match.

Marshal, utility reports
Marshal Joe Mann has been busy solving auto and cell thefts, and burglaries. He reported the cameras are up in the renovated firehouse and carpet has been installed in the interview room. He said he spent some time cleaning up the graffiti on a slide at the Pangburn ballpark. Eight security cameras have been installed at the sports complex and at Pangburn park. Hensley reported the stop sign at the jail has been replaced. Three manhole covers arrived. He’s worked on fixing pumping problems with the lift station.

Unkempt properties
Several residences in the government residential projects in Versailles will be getting letters from the town informing them they are in violation of the town ordinance for unkempt property. Town board member John Holzer mentioned during committee reports that he was surprised at the number of properties that are not annexed to the city. He’ll meet with the surveyor to get an accurate list or map.

Pick up this week's edition of The Versailles Republican for the stories below and more local news. Subscribe by clicking the subscribe link or call 812-689-6364.

• Summertime Fun in Ripley County: Listing of events and farmer's markets
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