Commissioners hear new town update

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Becoming a town is a potential cost savings for residents of VanBibber Lake Estates according to proponents working on the incorporation of the rural subdivision.

Marie Kalen told Putnam County Commissioners Kristina Warren, Gene Beck and Dennis O'Hair that she has met with state tax officials who helped her come up with a potential budget for a new town. And depending on an individual property's assessed valuation, the additional tax to operate as a town could be less than the dues paid to the property owners association.

Kalen and a group of VBL property owners are continuing efforts to incorporate the area as a town in what they say is an effort to improve the community.

"We feel with a more organized type of government we can do more for our community," Kalen said.

Money issues, police protection and poor enforcement of local restrictive covenants are among the issues cited for moving toward town incorporation. Kalen said the town could be governed by a five-person council which employs a part-time clerk-treasurer, marshal and deputy. Other expenses include employee benefits, office equipment and supplies and attorney fees. The advantage would be the ability to seek government bonds, grants and loans for improvements to the town.

The current property owners association can have limited success in collecting dues assessed for properties that contain dwellings. Also, the lots that do not have dwellings on them do not have to pay the dues. If the area is incorporated, however, each lot regardless of whether it has a dwelling on it will have to pay the new local tax.

Kalen said the budget estimate for the new town of Walnut Glen is $186,000 for its first year. The net assessed valuation for the town, which follows the current boundaries of the subdivision, is $15,425,800. That would mean a net tax rate of $1.20 per $100 of assessed valuation.

The town would not take over the utilities or roads, which are now controlled by the local conservancy district, and Kalen said the town would likely not want responsibility for the roads for a few years.

For a home assessed at $35,000, the additional tax would be $42.21 per year. Property valued at $50,000 would pay $60.29 more in property taxes. And a home valued at $100,000 would pay $120.58.

All of those new taxes are less, Kalen said, than the current annual dues of $143 assessed by the property owners association. But, she said, the town tax would raise more money.

The property owners association operates with a budget of $65,925.

While some supporters of the town effort spoke in favor of the effort to the commissioners, a few others also expressed concerns that their adjoining property might be annexed into the town in the future. There is no way to establish that future annexations will not occur.

Kalen said more than 50 percent of the current VanBibber Lake Estates residents want to become a town. But there is also a group opposed to it, she said.

There are many empty lots in the subdivision that are not required to pay the P.O.A. dues now, but would incur the additional property tax for the town.

The commissioners agreed that some issues of the town incorporation remain to be worked out between the VBL attorney and the county attorney.

O'Hair, Beck and Warren agreed to table the issue until their Sept. 18 meeting so those issues could be addressed. That meeting, set for 6 p.m. in the courthouse annex, is open to the public.

Meanwhile, a new home for the West Central Solid Waste District may be located on some county-owned land next to the Humane Society of Putnam County.

Jane Collisi of WCSWD asked the commissioners to consider designating about 10 acres for the district office as well as a yard waste site.

The current yard waste site along Ind. 240 at First Street must be vacated within two years due to development on that land by Ivy Tech State College. Collisi said locating the yard waste site next to a new district office would allow for better management of the drop-off site, which collects tree limbs, leaves and grass clippings for mulching.

The commissioners agreed there is county-owned land near the humane society that is not being used, and it could be a good location for the district office.

There could be some neighbor concerns, however, depending on what type of recycling goes on. Sharing the current driveway with the humane society is also a possibility.

Greencastle Mayor Nancy Michael, who serves on the WCSWD board, said she will check with the city planner on any zoning or subdivision concerns for the land, since it is in the city's two-mile fringe. The WCSWD board will probably want to come up with a more specific scope for its new office site before settling on the county land, she said.

The commissioners granted tentative approval to work with the WCSWD board on the project.

In other business, the commissioners,

-- Agreed to apply to the state for approval of the Dunbar Bridge project, costing about $4.35 million to build a new road and bridge across Big Walnut Bridge. The project will likely require a second bridge to be added to help handle a 100-year flood. O'Hair noted that even with federal aid, the project could cost the county $1 million of its own funds.

-- Voted to apply for a grant of $1.8 million in federal funding to replace bridge 146, which is the iron Houck Bridge across Big Walnut Creek north of Greencastle.

-- Learned that final plans for the rehabilitation of the original Bridge 159 at Reelsville should be submitted some time around Labor Day. The plan is for a 2007 construction season.

-- Directed a question about a road to county surveyor Dave Penturf. Mark Hauenstein said he is in the process of purchasing property in Washington Township, but there is a questionable road that is unmaintained but marked as a county road. To get clarification, he was told to contact Penturf, who has old maps that may show whether the road was ever dedicated to the county or is just a right-of-way.

-- Approved an ordinance establishing a "911 Donations Fund" to purchase various educational materials and supplies as deemed necessary for dispatcher education and public awareness. The fund will be perpetual from year-to-year.

-- Approved a resolution establishing a pre-disaster mitigation planning committee. The county is required to develop a risk management plan by 2008 to be eligible for federal disaster funds. The committee will include the commissioners, county plat officer, president of the fire chief's association, sheriff, city engineer, county emergency management director, county health coordinator, mayor, and representatives from each town.

-- Adopted a subdivision in Madison Township to divide 18.38 acres into four residential lots as the Living Water Subdivision.

-- Adopted a subdivision in Cloverdale Township to divide 101.73 acres into three residential lots as Mary's Subdivision.

-- Approved the subdivision of the Melvin Subdivision in Greencastle Township to divide 6.8 acres into three residential lots.

The county commissioners regularly meet on the first and third Mondays of each month at 6 p.m. in the courthouse annex, 209 W. Liberty St., Greencastle.

The meetings are open to the public.

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