County considers new options for subdivision

New proposals intended to reduce flooding in two northern Bartholomew County neighborhoods would lengthen the time residents have to help pay for proposed improvements.

The Bartholomew County commissioners are looking into recent flooding issues in Armuth Acres and North Cliff subdivisions, after more than 40 residents crowded into a commissioner’s meeting on Feb. 25 seeking help.

After listening to the residents complaints, the commissioners cautioned that while they were concerned about the flooding issues, residents of the subdivisions had made a similar request in 2002, but backed out of an agreement for a fix after learning it would cost about $5,000 per person to install an internal drainage system in the two subdivisions.

Then, property owners were told that if they didn’t pay the entire amount within a year, they would be charged 10 percent interest, Commissioner Larry Kleinhenz said. Even with the interest, all homeowners would have been required to pay everything they owned within five years.

[sc:text-divider text-divider-title=”Story continues below gallery” ]

Homeowners in both subdivisions are in a tough situation because they are technically not located in a flood plain — and therefore not eligible for federal flood insurance, according to the group.

But some new alternatives emerged a few days later when the commissioners met with Bartholomew County hydrologist Tom Finke to discuss options, Kleinhenz said.

If the project is designed and classified as an urban drain, property owners would have 20 years to pay for the improvements, rather than just five years, Commissioner Carl Lienhoop said.

“At 10 percent interest, it’s still going to be a pretty expensive project,” Lienhoop said. “But it does make it a lot more affordable for those homeowners.”

The county’s hydrologist also came up with a new direction for the drainage tile. Instead of a pipe extending 8,100 lineal feet west to the Flatrock River, Finke is proposing extending a tile into a Clifford drain that empties into Haw Creek, Lienhoop said.

Since that route would be 2,000 feet shorter that the original proposal, the entire project should be less expensive, Lienhoop said.

The county surveyor’s office has the expertise to plan and install an internal drainage system for the two subdivisions without having to hire an outside engineering firm, Lienhoop said.

But there are some drawbacks, Lienhoop said.

Some additional storm water flowing into the creek would be headed toward Columbus, Lienhoop said. However, the commissioner described the quantity as a small amount.

When similar drainage work was done years ago for both the Jewell Village and Royal View subdivisions, crews had to install a municipal sewage system, the commissioners said.

Constructing the same type of system would also help in the Armuth Acres and North Cliff neighborhoods, which has many homes on septic systems, Lienhoop said.

The nearest municipal sewage system to Armuth Acres and North Cliff is about two miles away, on the south end of the Columbus Municipal Airport, Lienhoop said.

“It would take a heck of a lift station,” said Lienhoop, referring to a mechanism that moves wastewater from lower to higher elevation.

In addition, the required drainage tile will have to be be 36-inches in diameter — a significant factor in the project’s anticipated high cost, Lienhoop said.

To illustrate how expensive the project could be, Lienhoop said that when he installed a 12-inch drainage tile on his farm that extended only 1,200 feet, he had to pay $24,000.

No decisions have been made and Lienhoop said it will be the six-member Bartholomew County Drainage Board that will be balancing the pluses and minuses of any drainage proposals for the two subdivisions.

At this time, the drainage board does not have enough money to finance a project of this size, Lienhoop said. So if the board wants to move ahead, they will have to secure funds from other county coffers such as reserve or general funds, he said.

The drainage board is scheduled to meet at 6:30 p.m. Monday in the fourth floor county council chambers at the Bartholomew County governmental office building, Third and Franklin streets.

“I’m confident in what the drainage board can get done,” Lienhoop said. “It’s just whether the people can stomach the price tag.”

However, commissioners chairman Rick Flohr wasn’t as optimistic about the county’s ability to fix the problem to everyone’s satisfaction.

“Nothing ever works like you think it’s going to, and when you do fix it, there will be someone down the line that will claim we caused flooding in their area,” Flohr said. “My heart goes out to the people who have problems, but I don’t see a real rosy picture myself.”

[sc:pullout-title pullout-title=”If you go” ][sc:pullout-text-begin]

The issue of flooding in the North Cliff and Armuth Acres subdivisions will next be addressed by the Bartholomew County Drainage Board at its next scheduled meeting, 6:30 p.m. Monday in the fourth floor county council chambers of the Bartholomew County government office building at Third and Franklin streets.