County OKs $6 million for sewer project


Hancock County officials and NineStar Connect are preparing for wastewater infrastructure improvements along CR 200W between Philadelphia and CR 300N.

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HANCOCK COUNTY – Officials have designated $6 million in federal pandemic relief funding for sewer infrastructure on part of the county’s west side.

The amount aligns with leaders’ previous decision to assign 40% of the $15 million Hancock County received from the American Rescue Plan toward infrastructure. The rest is going to mental health initiatives and nonprofit organizations serving the county.

Much of the proposed sewer infrastructure will be along CR 200W between CR 300N and the unincorporated community of Philadelphia. CR 200W has been drawing a lot of attention lately due to an interchange anticipated off I-70.

The project is ranked highest among several in a county wastewater master plan, which prioritizes sewer needs throughout unincorporated areas. County officials commissioned RQAW, a Fishers-based engineering firm, to complete the study earlier this year.

The CR 200W wastewater project is in a sanitary sewer service area established by NineStar Connect, a Greenfield-headquartered cooperative that provides various utilities in and around Hancock County.

NineStar Connect has a wastewater treatment plant north of U.S. 40 near Philadelphia. Michael Burrow, president and CEO of the cooperative, said at a Hancock County Commissioners meeting last week that the plant has a capacity of 60,000 gallons and is expandable to 5 million. He added that as that part of the county grows both north and south of I-70, NineStar Connect anticipates the need for a regional wastewater system.

“So that’s where we’ve designed it, and where we’ve put our stake in the sand,” Burrow added.

NineStar Connect has another wastewater treatment plant north of I-70 next to Heartland Resort Campground. As a part of the CR 200W sewer project, the cooperative will decommission the plant and renovate existing assets into a lift station to carry flows to the Philadelphia plant. The lift station will serve the nearby Riley Village community and surrounding area as well. Burrow added NineStar Connect is one easement short of being able to put to bid a project that will also bring water service to the area.

The existing sewer system near CR 200W and Philadelphia currently has only one lift station, which serves the The Boulders neighborhood. It will be expanded as a part of the project. More lift stations will be added as well, including one at CR 200W and CR 300N.

The project also calls for 8-inch force mains and 18-inch gravity sewers connecting lift stations to the Philadelphia plant.

“This project is as close to shovel-ready as you’ll get,” Burrow told the county commissioners, adding NineStar Connect is working with landowners to acquire right-of-way along CR 200W from the entrance of The Boulders to CR 300N.

The project was initially estimated to cost $7.5 million, but Burrow said it’s now anticipated to exceed that due in part to the economic challenges lingering from the COVID-19 pandemic.

“I’m an infrastructure guy at the end of the day, and I really do believe that this is going to be good for the community and create additional development opportunities for the community,” he said.

Burrow added he’d like for construction to start in 2023 and estimates it will take 11 to 12 months.

The county commissioners voted unanimously to designate the $6 million to help with the project. Their decision followed a recommendation from the committee established to explore how to spend the county’s American Rescue Plan funds, which includes commissioners president John Jessup and county council members Keely Butrum and Jim Shelby.

Officials said the CR 200W sewer project positions the county nicely to tackle similar needs in the eastern part of the county, something they said is important to them as well, but pricier. Infrastructure eyed for the Charlottesville area ranks second in the wastewater master plan’s list of priorities, and is estimated to cost over $10.6 million.

“I think that this has always made the most sense – to get that moving, to get that set, then some priorities can be shifted out there,” county commissioner Marc Huber said of taking on CR 200W ahead of Charlottesville.

Other areas outlined in the study include Maxwell, near the new county jail north of U.S. 40 east of Greenfield, and the southern and southeastern parts of the county.

Hancock County Wastewater Master Plan