The infrastructure bill has local government interests

January 3 — Cities, towns and counties in southern Indiana need to upgrade their infrastructure. Many have limped for years with dreams of better roads and better bridges, struggling with aging water systems that break down every week and sewage systems that have become undersized and no longer in use. able to meet the needs of the community. The big drag on these improvements has been money. But with a trillion dollars plus a federal congressional infrastructure cleanup package, there’s hope some of that work can be done.

“All the small communities are in the same boat,” said Susie Roach, member of the City of Odon board of directors. “The facts are that we have not been able to meet the needs of our communities. I think we all hope that the federal infrastructure bill will help us.”

Indiana learned that $ 800 billion was for the state. Much of that should be for roads and bridges. This area has some great projects that need attention. These include the Ohio River Bridge for I-69 or the Mid-States Highway. There is even a proposed road that would connect SR 57 on the north side of Washington to the Daviess County Airport and add another exit near the airport on I-69.

“I’m not familiar with all of these projects, but this federal infrastructure funding could make a big difference on projects like the I-69 bridge or the Mid-States Highway,” said Ron Arnold, Daviess County Commissioner.

Although these are huge projects, even some smaller ones could prove to be a big help. The town of Montgomery has been told that it cannot make major additions to its sewer system. The state of Indiana has told the city that unless it improves lagoons and lift stations, it will no longer be able to accept sewage customers.

“It comes at a price of $ 5 million and we’re still trying to figure out how to pay for it,” said Mike Healy, Montgomery Town board member. “We applied for a grant and it was refused. We are working with our engineers and trying to find alternative funding.”

The Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act provides $ 55 billion for water and wastewater treatment systems. According to the White House, it is the “biggest investment ever made” in improving water in the country.

“We’re still looking at it, but we don’t see exactly where the money is going and how it’s being distributed,” Healy said. “We need a lot more clarification.”

Montgomery is not alone. Washington is studying the possibility of expanding its sewer system on the east side of the city. This is something that might be a necessity if and when a new employer decides to relocate to the I-69 interchange.

“We have several infrastructure projects,” Washington Mayor Dave Rhoads said. “There are a lot of pots of money going down the drain, but no one seems to know what we could use it for.”

The need to improve the sewers prompted Washington and Montgomery to consider joining forces to try and develop a solution.

“We know if someone wants to build some kind of water-intensive factory, then we’ll have to add to our sewers,” Rhoads said. “We spoke with Montgomery and depending on where the plant is built, we could all be better served by joining our systems.”

“It’s something that we could explore,” Healy said. “At the moment, we don’t even know if such a project would be feasible.”

It’s not as if Montgomery and Washington haven’t worked together in the past on infrastructure needs. Currently, the city obtains its electrical service from Washington.

“Whatever we do, it’s going to cost a lot of money, and if we can get the federal government to take part of the bill, that would be good for the taxpayers in Washington,” Rhoads said.

This is the same situation Odon faces, except the big problem is the town’s aging water system. Due to the need, the city has already started to move forward on a potential project. The city hired Commonwealth Engineering to begin researching and putting in place plans to update the water treatment plant.

“We expect these results in March,” Roach said. “They are helping us find the money to pay it, but we expect it to be expensive.”

Although the water plant is the focus for now, city officials know the distribution system needs a solution as well.

“The factory is 40 years old,” Roach said. “Some water lines go this far back. They break all the time and we’ll have to consider a way to replace them. We’re not looking at something that will get us through next year. We have to work for five or ten. years. Maybe even longer. “

And that prompted the city of Odon to seek federal infrastructure funds.

“We know that hope is not a good plan,” Roach said. “But we are trying to raise the tariffs and look for money to achieve it. We also hope that the infrastructure bill will make money available to us to try to make projects easier for our city. . “