Greenfield officials agree to city-county jail utility agreement

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GREENFIELD — Two Greenfield boards over the past week have voted to OK a memorandum of understanding between the city and the county to run water and sewer utilities to the edge of the property that will house a new county jail, a point of contention between the two governments for months.

Greenfield Utilities will spend about $444,000 to extend water and sewer lines from existing connection points near Jaycie Phelps Road to the start of a nearly mile-long road that’s under construction to run north from U.S. 40 to the proposed 20-acre jail site, located between County Roads 400E and 500E. The county plans to pay about $38 million to build a 440-bed jail on the northwest corner of the parcel.

While the city has agreed to pay to extend the lines to the edge of the nearly 120-acre property, Hancock County will need to pay a $52,000 connection fee and a $64,000 availability fee to Greenfield. Those fees are based off servicing the 20 acres for the jail, instead of the entire county-owned property.

The Greenfield Board of Public Works on Tuesday approved the memorandum of understanding, and the Greenfield City Council approved it Wednesday. The Hancock County Commissioners in July amended a previous version of the agreement the board of works OK’d in late June, and the commissioners in August voted 2-1 to enter into the final agreement. Commissioner Marc Huber voted against it.

Huber, as well as the other two county commissioners, have disagreed with the city on how much Greenfield should pay for utilities. The commissioners also wanted the city to extend and water and sewer within 50 feet of the jail building, but city officials would only take it to the property line.

Mike Fruth, director of Greenfield Utilities, has said a city ordinance instructs the department to take utility lines to the edge of a property; the developer pays for utility work inside their property. Fruth said running water and sewer inside the property would cost the city about $232,000 — money that comes from ratepayers, not property taxes. He said the city’s $444,000 construction fee considerably outweighs the $116,000 the county will pay the city for connection and availability fees.

The city will also seek an alternate bid for the utility infrastructure inside the county-owned property. Fruth said he plans to present that bid to the commissioners, and if they accept, the county would then pay for all costs associated with the engineering and construction of the water and sewer lines.

The board of works last month approved a $9,000 contract with Cleland Environmental Engineering to develop the design of the lines that will run along the county road that will lead up to the jail. In May, the city paid that engineering firm $26,000 to design the water and sewer extensions along U.S. 40.

Although the county would pay for the construction of water and sewer on their property, Greenfield Utilities will maintain the lines at no cost the the county, except if the county chooses to tap into the lines because of new construction. Fruth said under state regulations, it’s common for a utility department to own and maintain lines inside any sort of development, rather than the land owner.

The commissioners had disagreed in the past on paying for any additional “tap” fees on the utility lines within their property.

Fruth said the city plans to bid out the utility extension project in the next 30 days.