The Marshall County Regional Sewer District conducted its second meeting Tuesday in the County Building.

Ken Jones Sr. from Jones Petrie Rafinski (JPR) in Elkhart said the preliminary engineering report was filed with the Indiana Department of Environmental Management (IDEM) outlined the initial project, the lakes area, Latonka, Mill Pond, the group of 4 or 5 lakes, west and south of Plymouth.  The project has just under 630 residential equivalents.  He said it was a medium to large-sized project.

A basic timeline was provided to the Regional Sewer members.  Jones said the preliminary engineering report and district plan have already been submitted. That plan will be worked on and trimmed down so it is specific to the first project.  JPR will begin working on the qualifying preliminary engineering report which will be used to qualify the project for funding.  The U.S. Department of Agriculture through the Rural Development Program helps to fund rural utility projects.  Their program is a 40-year low-interest loan and is income-dependent.  Jones said the beneficiaries would have to qualify for the various rate levels. JPR will need to conduct an analysis of the census tracks around the lakes project.  He anticipated it would be at the market-rate level.

That preliminary engineering report will also be submitted to the State Revolving Loan Fund which is a branch of the Indiana Finance Authority.  Jones said it is the other primary funding source that they would recommend for the project.  They offer a forgivable bond anticipation note which is grant money that comes to them.  He said it’s limited and competitive and requires a carefully prepared application to score high.  It is typically submitted between April and June with results within a few weeks.  Ken Jones told the board they could partner with both opportunities on this lakes project.

Jones said with the prior background work his company did in the county, they could have a document ready to submit by the end of the year. 

Ken said the environmental work and documents can begin at any time now, but that work isn’t completed by JPR so additional funds may be required to hire a company.  That work includes the archeological investigation, the historic preservation investigation, and the wetlands investigation. He did secure a couple of quotes for the work.

In February the Preliminary Engineering Report (PER) will be posted online and in the Plymouth Public Library for the public to read and study.  A public hearing will probably be conducted in February too.  JPR will need to file the project before March 31st to get in line for a potential project to start later in 2024 with construction to begin in 2025.

Mr. Jones said while we’ve all seen inflation at the grocery and gas pumps, the materials for a regional sewer project have been impacted more.  He said in their next meeting he may discuss the potential for breaking down this first project into three phases.  He said, “That would be a strategic move. Mostly in the way of trying to maximize subsidization. These programs we’ve talked about are annual and they have a certain allocation of funds that they are allowed to distribute.”

Mr. Jones also discussed the need for outreach to the community.  He said, “You want to make sure that residents, the affected parties, and the folks that aren’t necessarily affected by this first project can learn as we go, along with you and us and we learn more about the project.”  He suggested a social media presence and said JPR could assist.  Ken suggested a Marshall County Regional Sewer District website and said the materials JPR has gathered over the course of this entire project can be shared on the site along with meeting notices, agendas, and minutes. 

Regional Sewer Board President Tom McFadden said he would address the issue of a website presence with the county commissioners.