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Utility pact aids X-Plex idea

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GREENFIELD — Though proponents of a new county fairgrounds and expo center have yet to decide where the complex would go, one site now has a commitment for utilities through a an agreement between NineStar Connect and the city of Greenfield.

Both sides are calling the arrangement unusual for Indiana. Proponents of the new fairgrounds are calling it a key step in the project’s development.

The site being considered as one possible location for a new fairgrounds, about 200 acres of county-owned farmland north of U.S. 40 between CRs 400E and 500E, is outside Greenfield’s city boundaries, with electric service provided by NineStar.

Should that property be annexed at some point in the future, however, state law gives a municipally owned electric company such as Greenfield Power & Light the authority to trump a cooperative utility like NineStar and provide service within the expanded city limits.

Under the new agreement, NineStar would provide electricity and fiber-optic connectivity to the site, with the city providing water and sanitary sewer service without annexing the area.

“This is a big step for us,” said Kent Fisk, a proponent of the move who heads a committee formed to work out the business and management details of the project.

“This makes us really happy. One of the hurdles that could shut this project down was whether infrastructure could be had,” Fisk said.

The city currently has water and sewer lines at the city limits near CR 400E, about 1,500 feet from the site, said Greenfield utilities director Mike Fruth.

“Both NineStar and the city of Greenfield wanted to make sure this would not be a stumbling block for the project to move forward,” Fruth said. “NineStar is actively engaged in supporting the current fairgrounds, and the city didn’t want to see the issue of who provides service to become a problem,” he said.

Mike Burrow, president and CEO of the cooperative, said the city’s ability under “a quirk in state law” to serve customers at the site should it be annexed at some point was concerning. Without the agreement, the cooperative would stand to lose territory it now serves.

“It caused us concern from our perspective because we serve a lot of people throughout the county,” Burrow said.

Amid those concerns as talks have progressed on the fairgrounds, NineStar approached Greenfield Mayor Chuck Fewell several weeks ago to explore an agreement.

“We had a series of meetings to see how we could work together, and we appreciate his willingness to work with us,” Burrow said.

The arrangement has precedent with a similar agreement some 10 years ago for the city of Greenfield to provide water and sewer service to the Indiana Department of Transportation for rest stops along Interstate 70, Fruth said.

The water and usage is metered at the city limits with maintenance of the utilities outside the city boundaries handled by those agencies with jurisdiction.

Should the county farmland ultimately become the site of a new X-Plex, as it has come to be known, Fruth said a similar arrangement would be anticipated without the need for the city to annex the property.

For proponents of the fairgrounds complex, the deal represents a major development.

“It’s huge being able to work out these territories,” Fisk said. “Everyone should appreciate how hard that is.”

The collaborative effort is another sign, Fisk said, of the cooperation being shown by a variety of interests and stakeholders involved in the discussion.

“It just shows this is a community project, and we want everybody to have a piece of it and be happy,” he said.

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