Clinton County and the city of Frankfort are partnering for a project that would expand water and sanitary sewer service west along the Ind. 28 corridor to the area surrounding the Interstate-65 interchange.

An interlocal agreement was signed by the county commissioners, county council and Clinton County Building Corp. on Monday morning before the Utility Service Board signed the agreement along with related sewage and water resolutions in the evening. The City of Frankfort Common Council may adopt a resolution approving the agreement at its 7 p.m. regular meeting on Tuesday.

“We will be the last body to officially vote on this,” Frankfort Mayor Chris McBarnes said. “Once the vote is taken, the government process in regards to the agreement will be done.”

A recent development plan completed for the county identified the lack of water and wastewater service as the limiting factor for development in the area surrounding the I-65 interchange and the Ind. 28 corridor leading to it west of Jefferson Street.

“Currently, there is no sanitary sewer or water service any further west than Jefferson,” said Josh Uitts, county commissioners president. “So, the Ind. 28 West and I-65 interchange has had a little development, but the main thing that has been holding development of that interchange back is industrial water and sewer service.

“If you look along I-65 between Chicago and Indianapolis, it is one of the very few interchanges that has not been developed,” Uitts continued. “And we are in a prime spot, dead center between Indianapolis and Lafayette to be able to develop that and see growth out there.”

Uitts added that the project is not solely about developing the area west of Frankfort.

“If we realize the potential for development, the long-term plan is to stave off future taxes increases by increasing the assessed value,” he said.

If all involved parties approve the agreement, Uitts says that bids on the estimated $13 million infrastructure project would be reviewed late this year or early in 2020.

“We would need to finish engineering and design (before then), and property acquisition and right of ways will need to be purchased,” Uitts said. “It will actually start construction in the spring of 2020, and final construction will be completed in the spring 2021.

“That doesn't mean though that we won't have the ability to serve customers before then,” he added. “I am sure we will be able to pick up as we go. That will serve an area all the way from Jefferson along the corridor past the interchange, so all four corners will be activated with utilities as well as half a mile to the west – almost to rural town of Fickle. The main idea was to activate the interchange immediately. Long term, it is built so that the areas between can also be developed.”

Utility Service Board President Mike Kelly says that the USB agrees to maintain and service the new water and sewer infrastructure.

“(The county) will own it until the bonds are paid off, and then it will become part of the city infrastructure,” Kelly said. “It is something that has taken a long time to get it all worked out. We have all had people working on this with engineers and design people to get this so that it could be done. The major part of this is being paid for by the county.

“(New businesses) need to have fire protection through sprinkler systems and those kind of things, so they need a good supply of water,” he added. “And then they need the wastewater disposal. Way before we got involved with this, we decided to expand capacity to double at the wastewater treatment plant. What it does for us is allow us to share that burden of cost with more people. So, it is actually a win-win for the rate payers of Frankfort for water and sewer because they are going to get some help from people they would not have gotten help from before.”

Kelly says that the current rates are set for the next three years, but those who choose to build in the Clinton County I-65 Allocation Area will pay system development charges.

“If a new business goes in there, they will have to pay to the Frankfort utilities $500 per EDU (Equivalent Dwelling Unit),” Kelly said. “Also, they have to pay (to the county) $2,500 per EDU for sewage and $1,000 per EDU for water. That is kind of like buying into the system so that they are helping pay for the system.”

McBarnes says there will be system development charges for any new development, whether it be industrial, commercial or residential.

“That has to be put in place through the city council to be carried out by our utilities,” McBarnes said of the city's system development charge. “There will be a charge per EDU that will have to do with the square footage of the property. A residential development will pay but it will be much less than a major industrial development.”

Uitts says the project's origin goes back to before he was a county commissioner.

"There has been an economic development plan to develop that area,” he said. “This is just following through on that long-term plan. This time of the year in 2017, we made the decision that we wanted to get water and sewer to that interchange so we can develop it and, in turn, bring in more tax revenue and stave off future tax increases. Really, it is a long-term investment. It is a long-term strategic plan to do this.

“Assuming the council agrees, it's another example of working together and doing what is right for everybody,” Uitts added. “Those (USB) guys had some great ideas because that is their business. They had some great suggestions and changes to the design of the project. That really helped us out. It has been a great partnership.”

McBarnes says the project should help keep rates down for current customers.

“The more users we can bring into our system, the more we can defray costs over the service area,” McBarnes said. “It will stabilize rates and hopefully even work to bring rates down in the future. That is a huge benefit to existing rate payers in our city. This will be county government paying for the expansion itself. We did not want rate payers to be burdened by this.

“The other positive is the economic development brought in by this expansion,” McBarnes continued. “Thirty years from now, they will look back at this and potentially say 'That is when things really started to boom.' It speak to the relationships we have. Without a cohesive relationship between these three bodies, this would have never gotten done. The development that will come from this could really be transformational.”
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