Government Center

MOROCCO — There is no guarantee that a vote will take place, but the $9 million request from the Newton County Commissioners to use landfill tipping fees to expand water and sewer utilities up to Roselawn will be on the Newton County Council’s agenda for their meeting Sept. 11 starting at 8:30 a.m. at the Government Center in Morocco.

The additional request, which was approved at the Aug. 3, commissioners’ meeting by a 2-1 vote (Kyle Conrad voted no), has been advertised in the Newton County Enterprise and is on the council’s agenda, according to Newton County Auditor Tami Jackson.

At the Aug. 3 commissioners’ meeting, Commissioner Tim Drenth said that there is some interest again by some elected officials to run water and sewer to Roselawn. Drenth, however, did not respond to an email asking what elected officials have shown interest.

Drenth made the motion for the request and it was seconded by Mickey Reed, and it passed 2-1, with no comments debating the request from any of the commissioners.

Drenth added that the request to the council will come from the commissioners but if approved the planning will go through the Newton County Regional Water and Sewer District.

This action came five months after Drenth came before the County Council, along with Wessler Engineering, to present the estimated costs of the water and sewer project, which at that time was $8.4 million.

The estimates included running a sewer line from the district’s new plant up 400 E to the wooded area past Lincoln Elementary, which is the spot for a proposed 90-unit residential development. The sewer portion of the cost was estimated at $5.5 million, while the drinking water supply (2 shallow wells), treatment, and distribution project had an estimate of $2.95 million.

Back in February, Drenth said to the council “My only purpose of doing this project would be to serve those potential 90 lots.”

While the council has not taken a vote on the project they did discuss it when an update of the project was given to them in February.

“I think it is a good project and I believe there is a need for it, but I would be reluctant to fund the whole thing,” said Council President Scott Carlson. “I think the future users should have some skin in the game. My vision would be a combination of a grant and a loan.”

“I was surprised with how many people were favorable of it,” Council member David Atkinson said of Lincoln Township residents back in February. “I think the tide is turning in Lincoln Township and there is a sentiment to incorporate there.”

Council member Pat Mulligan added that there is no doubt that future growth along SR 10 is possible and something he would support but he thinks it should be up to the people who live there to make that decision if they want it. “Let them decide,” said Mulligan.

“Who would head that up, there is no leadership up there,” answered Drenth.

Mulligan responded by saying this would open “Pandora’s Box” for all the incorporated towns to start looking at expanding infrastructure past their boundaries and asking for the county to pay for it.

“I feel we are pushing this just for one development and for one developer,” said Abbey Rossiter. “I have a lot of concerns, and I think there are better ways we can use landfill money. I also want to make sure if anything does get approved that the residents are protected and not forced to hook up to these utilities if they don’t want to.”

At a previous meeting Drenth and County Council Vice President Michael Mark, who were both on the water and sewer district at that time, said that residents would be grandfathered in and they would not be forcing anyone to hook up to the utilities. However, a state statute regarding water and sewer districts show several instances where residents may be required to tie into those utilities at some point.

Rossiter also asked Drenth if he planned on having any community meetings in Lincoln Township about the proposed project to get feedback from the residents and he answered that those meetings weren’t needed for this.

When asked why the developer needs this infrastructure when other subdivisions are going up without it, Drenth said it is because of the size of the lots.

“These would be smaller lots with more dense housing, like townhomes and duplexes, that could not be built without water and sewer there,” said Drenth.

At the end of the council meeting back in Feb. Carlson asked Drenth to go back to the Newton County Regional Water and Sewer District and talk about different funding options.

Newton County Regional Water and Sewer District President Randy Decker told the Newton County Enterprise that the board briefly discussed a loan from the State Revolving Fund but there are no other funding options on the table for the project except the $9 million request for landfill tipping fees.