County can’t commit financially to Milltown sewer project
By Stephanie Taylor Ferriell, Senior Staff Writer, [email protected]
Due to ongoing financial instability, Crawford County is unable to commit financially to the Milltown sewer project. The Milltown Town Council asked the county to commit something — but stopped short of asking for a specific dollar amount — at meetings of the Crawford County Board of Commissioners and County Council on Jan. 12.
The commissioners said a verbal commitment of $20,000 was made last year. However, COVID-19 has had a dramatic negative impact on the county’s financial situation.
Bill Byrd, representing Milltown, told the council he has spoken with the Harrison County Council several times regarding funding for the project.
“They always ask about Crawford,” he said, noting Harrison County expects Crawford County to put “something in the pot.”
The population of Milltown is split about 50-50 between Harrison and Crawford counties.
Josh Breeding, Milltown’s town manager, explained the town received a $700,000 grant from the Indiana Office of Community and Rural Affairs for the $1.6 million project. The town also increased usage rates.
Breeding said equipment has been moved in and earthmoving is set to begin. The sewer project will replace the old, outdated facility and provide service for years into the future.
Josh Breeding said in 2020 Harrison County indicated it would commit $450,000 toward the project. However, Harrison council members were firm: “They want to see a commitment from Crawford before they commit,” said Breeding. He said Harrison County did not say how much Crawford should contribute, just that the county should provide some funding.
That, however, is a problem, council members concurred.
“It would be great if we had an abundance of money,” said council president Chad Riddle.
Riddle said he’s concerned if the county commits funds to Milltown’s project, it will open the door for other towns to seek county funding for future projects. The county simply doesn’t have the funds to assist towns on an ongoing basis, he said.
Councilman Bill Breeding said he’s not so sure the Harrison County Council is going to allocate funds to Milltown. He based that on conversations he’s had with some council members.
“If we had the money, it would be wonderful,” said Bill Breeding. “I don’t think we’ve got the money to do the projects we’ve got.”
He ticked off a list of upcoming county commitments, including $1 million for broadband and another $1 million for matches on the Alton bridge projects.
“We didn’t have enough money to get through last year,” Bill Breeding added. “This year is going to get worse. I don’t want to be cruel or uncaring, but I don’t see how we can do it.”
Council member Craig Menke, in his first meeting on the council, said perhaps the issue could be looked at in the future. He said by late summer or fall, the council will have a clearer picture of where the county stands financially and what the 2022 budget is looking like.
Milltown officials were told to check back with the council in six months.