Members of the Lake Lemon Environmental Cooperative attended the Sept. 8 Brown County Regional Sewer District board meeting to ask the board to team up with them to create a second sewer project, this one for the Lake Lemon area.
The BCRSD has been working to bring sewer to the Bean Blossom area for around 20 years.
BCRSD member Richard Hall said the group should organize town hall meetings outdoors to measure and confirm the Lake Lemon neighborhood’s interest in a project.
Frank Van Overmeiren told Hall that he did not think the meetings were necessary because they had gathered addresses as part of a petition process to show support for the project and over 80 percent of the 85 homeowners supported the project.
He said he had sent the documents to board member Clint Studabaker. “I received a chunk, but not that high (of a percentage),” Studabaker said.
He suggested to the cooperative that they document interest the best they can early on in the process, especially when applying for funding and working with regulatory agencies.
“In order to make your project a step up and have a strong probability of success, there are some things we’ve been through, hoops we’ve already jumped, that we want to make sure together we jump through instead of halfway down,” Studabaker said.
Studabaker echoed Hall in asking the cooperative to set up a meeting to meet the interested homeowners. “To make it a viable project, we may have to expand beyond that group in order to make funding agencies happy, regulators happy and we want to be as prepared as we can as we go forward,” he said.
BCRSD President Mike Leggins suggested sending out a mailer to the property owners. Vicki Perry, state coordinator of the Indiana Rural Community Assistance Program, offered to share a template needs assessment the cooperative could use to mail out to homeowners.
Van Overmeiren and cooperative member Russ Herndon said they could go back out to get signatures on the assessment if needed.
Herndon asked what the next steps would be if the two were able to get information showing that over 80 percent of homeowners were supportive.
Studabaker suggested forming a small group to work on the project going forward. Studabaker and BCRSD member Phil LeBlanc volunteered to work with Van Overmeiren and Herndon going forward.
“Let’s get with it, since we haven’t had a chance to in the last six months,” Studabaker said.
Herndon also asked if the Lake Lemon project would have to wait while the BCRSD works on bringing a sewer system to the Bean Blossom area.
“I doubt it has to wait,” Studabaker said.
“You will find that funding isn’t falling off trees with every project you want to do. It will be difficult to prioritize and get money from funding agencies. … The size of your project will greatly affect the rates of what it will cost to fund it and pay back the cost of the collection and treatment system.”
Herndon said that the need for sewer in the Lake Lemon area may be greater than the need in Bean Blossom because when the water rises in the lake, effluent from septic systems goes into it.
“We want to figure out a way where we’re not waiting another five years to try to get sewers,” he said.
Van Overmeiren said the cooperative has been talking for the last six months with people from the State Revolving Loan fund and that a challenge could arise if multiple requests for funding are made for sewer projects in areas close to each other.
“We have to figure out a way to stagger projects so we’re not competing against each other,” he said.
He added that the State Revolving Loan fund representatives had told him funding may also be available from the federal level for a sewer project near Lake Lemon “because we essentially deposit septic systems into the lake body when high water events happen. We don’t go through a watershed. We could qualify for other funds,” he said.
“That’s another avenue, but those are not always there.”
Studabaker said that as a regional sewer district, the board is there to work with interested groups, like the cooperative.
“I don’t think any of us consider this a competition. We’re fine with you all going ahead. I think it’s great,” BCRSD member Debbie Larsh said.
Resident Tim Clark also attended the virtual meeting on Sept. 8. He asked the regional sewer board if they had a percentage of people who supported bringing a sewer system to the Bean Blossom area, like members had suggested to the Lake Lemon cooperative.
“The letters of interest for the Bean Blossom project were from 1998. Has there been any effort to update those to see what current residents think?” he asked.
Project engineer Gary Ladd said the letters had not been updated.
“We corresponded with several people through field work, email and telephone calls, but we have not updated that list,” he said.