Problem area

Jefferson County Commissioners approved a $115,600 contract for engineering services related to the West Street bridge over Crooked Creek in downtown Madison. The bridge ranks structurally as one of the worst in the county’s system and surveying and engineering a replacement is one step in replacing that span (pictured) at some point. Meanwhile, the City of Madison has approved $25,000 in flood mediation work to clear the trees and overgrowth (also pictured) along and in the Crooked Creek channel from Jefferson Street to West Street.

Projects are moving forward at the Jefferson County Highway Department, including a proposal to replace a bridge on West Street at the foot of Michigan Road hill in downtown Madison.

County Highway Superintendent Bobby Phillips noted the county rates all of its bridges to determines which ones have the most structural problems. He said the West Street bridge is “showing distress” the most due to deterioration on the top portion of the span.

Phillips said Jefferson County Highway Department is responsible for all bridges in the county that are more than 20 feet in length and explained that is why the county will replace West Street bridge, know as Bridge 6 on the county’s bridge inventory, even though it is located within the city limits of Madison.

Jefferson County Commissioners approved a $115,600 contract with SJCA Inc., of Indianapolis, for engineering work for the superstructure replacement of the bridge, which includes surveying and hydraulics, roadway bridge design and other aspects of the engineering to prepare for the project. Phillips said money for the engineering work will come from the county’s cumulative bridge fund.

The Commissioners also approved two agreements with FPBH Inc., of North Vernon, to put together all the design work and bid documents for upcoming county asphalt paving projects. Two separate contracts were necessary with FPBH Inc. — one for the Community Crossings component and the other for local projects — with the Community Crossings work not to exceed $24,800 and the local projects not to exceed $7,600.

Phillips said he is hopeful the county will see some cost savings on the projects.

“I’m hoping contractors will be more aggressive for larger projects while they are in the area,” he said, noting there is a greater amount for engineering work through the Community Crossings since the county received a $1 million allocation of which the county must match 25%.

“That goes a long, long way,” he said.

The Commissioners also finalized paperwork by getting their signatures for an engineering contract with United Consulting Engineers of Indianapolis for replacement of Bridge 107 on Sugan Hollow Road. The county had received a grant from the Federal Highway Administration through the Indiana Department of Transportation for that project.

Meanwhile, Phillips received and opened all sealed bids for 2022 supplies for the highway department and announced the cost of each. The Commissioners accepted the bids, which Phillips said are used to secure pricing for the entire year for chip seal products, diesel fuel, vegetation control, rock, stone, culverts, dust control and more.

Elsewhere, Phillips said highway employees received their snow plow training on Thursday from Steve Moriarty, county highway superintendent from Kosciusko County in northern Indiana

“They move a lot of snow up there,” Phillips said of Kosciusko County. He said the training was good as the county highway department prepares for winter.

In other business:

• Commissioner David Bramer provided an update on progress toward finalizing a water provider for the new Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office and Criminal Justice Center due to be completed in 2023. He said he attended the Dupont Water Company meeting Monday, where he was told that since Dupont buys its water from Madison they are waiting on the City of Madison to finish its rate study to know what their rates will be.

“They said they could give us a number but unfortunately that number would be subject to change,” Bramer said. “We’re still working through that. It’s not the answer everyone was looking for, but it clears up why there’s been such a delay.”

Bramer said that Dupont doesn’t currently have any other customers who use the volume of water that will be needed once the new jail is in full operation, and they don’t want to haphazardly provide a number. “They want to give us as much discount as they can because we will be using a large volume of water,” Bramer added.

The issue is that Dupont Water Company provides water service to the north side of J.A. Berry Road — where the jail will be located — and Madison provides service to the south side of J.A. Berry Road. However, Madison has the capability to provide service to either side of the road and County Council members have expressed a preference of buying water for the new jail from Madison because they anticipate buying from Dupont will cost the county more since Dupont buys its water from Madison.

Bramer said Dupont Water Company sent a letter in early January threatening possible legal action if the county doesn’t purchase the jail’s water from Dupont, and cited a case in Jennings County in which a group was sued after trying to buy water from a different water company.

“I know there’s concern and we’re trying to work through it,” Bramer said, noting the issue is not urgent and does not have to be resolved immediately. He said the construction site has all the water it currently needs for work to continue “so it’s not like we’re holding anything up for the construction.”

Meanwhile, Bramer said progress is being made on construction of the new jail. He said the foundations are nearly complete, and cameras soon will be placed on the jail site to provide a live feed going to the county’s website so that people can watch the work being done. The video provides security to the site, but makes it to where “everybody else can keep up with what’s going on,” Bramer said.

• Troy Morgan, director of the Jefferson County Emergency Management Agency, provided an update on a proposed storage building for EMA and the health department. Morgan said he was encouraged at the last County Council meeting to move forward in investigating the project, and determining what zoning issues might be required to locate a structure adjacent to the health department at 715 Green Road.

He said he met with Nicole M. Schell, director of planning for the City of Madison, and was told the structure would be considered a medical/health facility. Morgan noted he is not knowledgeable enough about zoning requirements to fully respond to that aspect of the building, and asked for assistance from Josh Cline, the county’s building and zoning inspector.

• Erica Cline, county archivist and grant writer, said feedback is being sought from the Office of Community and Rural Affairs on a planning grant sought by the Rykers’ Ridge Water Company to evaluate a discrepancy in water usage and determine a solution. Cline said Rykers’ Ridge currently purchases more water than is being used by its customers.

“They need a plan to address whether the meter is not reading correctly, whether it’s actually leaking somewhere” or some other reason, Cline said. She added there have been changes to OCRA’s requirements and eligibility, and efforts are being made to determine what must be done to seek the planning grant for the project.

• Commissioner Ron Lee provide an update that the next meeting to discuss the possibility of creating a local substance abuse facility will be 4 p.m. on Thursday, Dec. 2, at the Jefferson County Public Safety Center. Bramer noted that discussions with Barnes and Thornburg LLP, the firm retained by the county for advise on the American Rescue Plan, have indicated that mental health and substance abuse would be eligible for American Rescue Plan funding, particularly if used as matching dollars for other grants.