October 10, 2012

Flora receives $500k grant for wastewater project

Council president hopes project will solve long-time problem.

by Sarah Einselen

FLORA —  The Indiana Office of Community and Rural Affairs awarded the town of Flora half a million dollars to fund most of a $700,000 wastewater project planned for the northern section of town.

The project will keep the town from having to raise sewer rates to fund wastewater line replacements and manhole reconstruction, said town council president Josh Ayres. The town had a plan for how to foot the remainder of the project cost, he added.

Flora was one of 38 Indiana communities, and the only one in Carroll County, that received a total of more than $16 million in Community Focus Fund grants this fall, according to an OCRA spokesman. Sixty-eight communities applied for the funds.

This year was the town’s fourth try for the grant, which will be used to replace 8,420 linear feet of wastewater lines and reconstruct three dozen sanitary manholes.

Ayres said the town has been on a “sewer ban” since 1974, meaning the state Department of Environmental Management prohibits hooking up more than one single-family dwelling at a time.

The sewer ban is intended to keep rainwater from overwhelming the town’s wastewater treatment plant during a rainstorm. Improvements have been made over the years, Ayres said, to try to bring the wastewater infrastructure up to the point where the sewer ban is no longer needed.

“We have been trying to fix that situation since 1974,” Ayres said. “This is one more step so we can get us so that we’re not under that ban.”

However, this is the first wastewater project that the town has received a grant for. In the past, the town council has had to raise wastewater rates, a move Ayres was reluctant to repeat.

Council has raised wastewater rates just once in the last 11 years, he said. He characterized rates now as falling in the “high middle” when compared to rates at similarly sized Indiana towns. He’d rather keep it that way.

Flora’s grant is one of several that Carroll County towns have won in the last few years, according to Laura Walls, executive director of the Carroll County Economic Development Corporation. The Kankakee-Iroquois Regional Planning Commission applied for Flora’s grant and others on behalf of its member communities.

“From an economic development standpoint, it really puts Flora in a position to be competitive for future development,” Walls said of the grant. Lots available for industrial development in Flora’s existing industrial park and along Ind. 75, where the county economic development corporation has an 80-acre option, would have been a challenge — at best — to develop without these upgrades, she said.

“Getting these upgrades in infrastructure and maybe getting the sewer ban lifted will make development at these sites possible,” said Walls.

The town hired Lafayette-based T-Bird Engineering to start planning how best to use the grant funds. Ayres hopes work will begin sometime next spring or summer

“We’re really, really grateful to get this grant to help us with this,” Ayres added. “We’re working pretty hard here to get things right.”