Town moving project forward

McCORDSVILLE — McCordsville officials no longer are proceeding with plans to annex part of Buck Creek Township that includes Indianapolis Regional Airport off Mt. Comfort Road.

After a recent meeting with the Hancock County Board of Commissioners, town officials agreed to withdraw plans for the annexation in order to keep the Mt. Comfort Road bypass project going.

It was the second meeting between the two boards in as many months, and officials are one step closer to coming to an agreement on funding and a timeline for the bypass.

The commissioners agreed to give the town $15,000 to help it study possible funding sources for the costs of the project the town would be responsible for.

The bypass calls for expanding Mt. Comfort Road (County Road 600W), looping it east and north around McCordsville and reconnecting with Mt. Comfort Road north of State Road 67. The project was approved in 2011.

Its proposed completion date is 2031, but the project carries a big price tag; and county officials say they need help paying for it.

The county plans to apply for a matching grant from the federal government: 80 percent of the construction costs would be covered by the grant, and 20 percent would need to come from local money, including approximately $5 million from McCordsville.

In 2009, the county created the Broadway tax-increment financing (TIF) district along Mt. Comfort Road to fund research, engineering and other costs of the bypass project.

TIF districts are used to pay for improvement projects; certain businesses located in the district pay property taxes into the fund for future use.

If the annexation of the airport were approved, it would put some segments of the TIF district in the town’s control, which could take funding from the bypass project, county officials say.

Additionally, the county would lose control over land that would need to be acquired in order for the bypass to be built.

At Thursday’s meeting, officials agreed the town will withdraw its proposed annexation of the airport, and the county will move up completion of a portion of the construction project to benefit McCordsville.

However, officials disagreed on how to proceed with the agreement. There are two options — the county and McCordsville could enter into an interlocal agreement, which is binding, or they could draft a nonbinding resolution.

Town attorney Gregg Morelock suggested the boards enter into an interlocal agreement, which was met with hesitation from county attorney Ray Richardson.

Richardson said he has concerns about the agreement because McCordsville might not be able to meet financial obligations for the project.

“I haven’t heard anything that makes me feel comfortable that you (McCordsville) will ever have a significant amount of dollars for this project,” Richardson said.

Morelock responded, “What obligation has this town ever undertaken that they have not met? What financial obligation? There’s not one, ever.”

Council members for McCordsville also sharply disputed the notion the town would not have funding available, pointing to local TIF funds and other sources of funding that could be used.

Town council member Barry Wood suggested a solution: “Enter the contract with the stipulation that if either party can’t fulfill their portion of the agreement, then the agreement is void.”

Town council President Tom Strayer said he is confident McCordsville will have the necessary funding in place, and he wants an official agreement that treats the town fairly.

“The town doesn’t want to be pushed into a corner,” Strayer said. “We don’t want to be told not to annex and then not have an agreement in place after the fact. That was the main concern.”

County officials want to fully understand McCordsville’s financial situation and agreed to allow town manager Tonya Galbraith to conduct a survey to study possible funding sources; the county agreed to give $15,000 to McCordsville to cover costs associated with the survey.

That work needs to be complete by Aug. 11 — when the town is scheduled to make an official decision on the annexation.

Staff writers Caitlin VanOverberghe and Samm Quinn contributed to this story.