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City, county projects will take shape in 2013

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GREENFIELD — Greenfield and Hancock County officials hope that 2013 will be a year in which several road and building projects they have been juggling will come to fruition.

The New Year is an opportunity for them to plan for the future and make changes in infrastructure, from Potts Ditch in Greenfield to the roundabout on Mt. Comfort Road.

And while there will be no election in 2013, the county clerk’s office will seek public input on the proposed vote center concept.

In Greenfield, a project that could cost nearly $10 million is still on the table, though financing is up in the air. Potts Ditch runs through Greenfield and occasionally causes flooding in the historic downtown district. While Greenfield officials have wanted to address the problem

for years, in 2012 city engineer Mike Fruth presented a long awaited proposal to reroute the ditch.

Now city officials must decide how the project, which will also cause extensive road work, will be funded. Mayor Dick Pasco said Greenfield will have to borrow money for the work. This year the city council will be asked to approve financing the project.

“That will probably be the biggest issue for (2013),” Pasco said.

Another drainage improvement project for the New Year is in the Weston Village neighborhood. The first phase of improvements took shape in 2012; the second phase begins this year.

Karla Vincent takes the reins as city engineer in 2013 as Fruth becomes the new utility director for the city. Vincent, who had served as assistant engineer, said there are several other projects in the works that will be completed in the New Year.

A fully functioning roundabout at Apple Street and New Road should be completed this month, Vincent said. While vehicles will be able to drive in a full circle at the intersection soon, finishing touches will be added to the roundabout in the spring.

Ground will be broken on two other major road projects in Greenfield this year. As soon as the final parcels of land are acquired, construction will begin on the South Franklin Street expansion project. The street, used primarily for industrial traffic, will be expanded from U.S. 40 south to Davis Road.

A street by Hancock Regional Hospital will be expanded to improve traffic flow. A turn lane will be added to Boyd Avenue that, because of its proximity to Hancock Regional Hospital, is one of the city’s busiest thoroughfares.

A turn lane will be added on Boyd at Ind. 9, which will ultimately help with traffic flow. Vincent said that will allow the traffic signal on Ind. 9 to be green longer, which should reduce backups on the busy state highway.

City officials are also kicking around the idea of a mandatory spay and neuter ordinance. Pasco said ultimately he would like the entire county to have such a law, though county commissioners were hesitant when the idea was first pitched in 2012.

At the county level, elected officials hope to continue to iron out how to better fund road maintenance.

Roadwork was a hot-button topic in 2012 as some county officials balked at the rising cost of the proposed roundabout at Mt. Comfort Road and CR 300N.

A suggestion to bond for $2 million primarily to buy new trucks for the highway department received public pushback in 2012. The county council decided against the bond even though it would have freed up more money for road construction.

The council also reduced income taxes slightly for county residents. As a result, officials are back to the drawing board with regard to maintaining the county’s aging roads, many of which have been turned to gravel in recent years.

“There’s so much more that needs to be done,” council President Bill Bolander said.

In 2013, an overhaul of the county highway department’s budget will take shape. An equipment committee was formed to help determine how much equipment is needed for the department; the county’s financial adviser is examining the department’s budgets as well.

Commissioner Tom Stevens said he’s hopeful road maintenance solutions can be found in the New Year. Meanwhile, county officials are still working to acquire the final three property parcels needed to being the multi-lane roundabout project at Mt. Comfort Road and CR 300N.

Joe Copeland, engineer for the Hancock County Highway Department, said the county is in the process of purchasing the southeast parcel; the two remaining parcels will go through court mediation this month. If all of the property is in hand by the summer, construction could begin in 2014.

“You’re not going to see the roundabout built (in 2013) because it’s going to take too long to get all this taken care of,” Copeland said.

County officials also hope to better plan ahead for projects in general, Stevens said. This year commissioners started creating a capital improvement plan so big-ticket building items are laid out to minimize unexpected surprises.

Aging jail locks, for example, were a surprise to county officials. New locks will likely be purchased this month.

There will be no elections in 2013, but Clerk Marcia Moore said she will still keep busy. In the spring, Moore hopes to hold meetings to receive public input on the proposed vote center plan. Vote centers would replace traditional neighborhood precinct voting with large rooms throughout the county where anyone can cast a ballot.

“I really want to know if people are interested,” she said. “I really do because honestly, I’m kind of tied about it. I don’t know if the county is ready for vote centers or not. Maybe it doesn’t make sense for us. Maybe it’s too much of a change.”

The election office will also make it a priority this year to clean up voter rolls. Letters will be sent to registered voters, and if the notices are returned by the post office twice the voter can be listed as inactive. This, Moore said, will help reduce voter fraud.

Moore’s office also oversees court documents, which will be digitized in 2013. Hancock County is one of several in the state that is switching to the Odyssey Case Management System, an initiative to get Indiana’s trial courts onto one system to make for easier reference for attorneys, judges and the general public.

“I’m not just sitting here twiddling my thumbs,” Moore said. “We are definitely working and moving ahead.”

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