McCORDSVILLE — If plans for a $47 million bypass for Mt. Comfort Road are going to succeed, Hancock County officials and leaders in the town of McCordsville need to have the same vision.
That was the message coming out of a joint meeting conducted this week between the Hancock County Commissioners and the McCordsville Town Council.
Discussion centered on how the project would be paid for if it comes to fruition and how a proposed annexation of more than 1,900 acres in Buck Creek Township would affect the road-improvements plan.
The bypass project was proposed as way to alleviate traffic congestion along Mt. Comfort Road during rush hour. It has been on the commissioners’ agenda since 2009, when they created a tax-increment financing (TIF) district along Mt. Comfort Road to fund research, engineering and other costs.
TIF districts are used to pay for improvement projects; certain businesses located in the district pay property taxes into the fund for future use.
Earlier this year, however, McCordsville proposed an annexation of the Indianapolis Regional Airport and portions of commercial development along Mt. Comfort Road.
If that annexation were to be approved, it would put some segments of the TIF district in the town’s control, which could take funding from the bypass project.
Additionally, the county would lose control over land that would need to be acquired in order for the bypass to be built.
“There are some concerns on both sides of the table here, but ultimately, we want to work together on this,” Commissioner Tom Stevens said.
“(The commissioners) received a resolution from the town saying they wanted to see things happen and wanted to see things happen quicker. We want to see those same things, we just need to work out the details.”
This week, town and county officials mulled an agreement that would ensure money generated by the TIF district would go toward the bypass project as planned. They have not yet formalized that agreement.
“The town of McCordsville is in Hancock County. What benefits the town benefits the county,” town council president Barry Wood said.
“It’s going to help that area develop, it’s going to be (in everyone’s) benefit. Our agenda is not to take money out of your pocket, and we can put that in writing.”
The county approved plans for the bypass in 2011. The project calls for expanding Mount Comfort Road (County Road 600W), looping it east and north around McCordsville before reconnecting with Mt. Comfort Road north of State Road 67.
A tentative construction timeline was put in place in 2013, and work was expected to be completed by 2031.
But the project carries a big price tag, and the county needs help paying for it, Commissioner Brad Armstrong said. The county plans to apply for a matching grant from the federal government: 80 percent of the construction funds would be federal money and 20 percent local money, including approximately $5 million from McCordsville.
Town council members said they had not been told how much money they would be expected to contribute to the bypass. The annexation would likely allow for further commercial development in McCordsville, and tax funds generated by that development would be needed to fund the town’s portion of the bypass project.
The annexation has not yet been approved. A public hearing on the issue is set for 6 p.m. Tuesday at the McCordsville Municipal Building, 6280 W. County Road 800N; and the McCordsville Town Council is expected to vote on the issue next month.
If the bypass construction were to continue on schedule, the county would need to apply for federal grants in October, according to Gary Pool, Hancock County highway engineer. For the best resolution, the county, McCordsville and even some surrounding areas, such as Hamilton County, need to be in agreement about the project’s purpose, he added.
“We’ll need to be hand in hand to present this project in October,” Pool said. “The more people we can bring to the table in agreement with this project, the better chance we have of getting the federal funding.”
The boards plan to meet again this summer with the hope of further discussion of these issues, but perspectives seemed positive at the conclusion of this week’s meeting.
“Everyone sitting about that table realizes how important that project is, and they want to see it be successful,” Stevens said.