Residents in Edwardsport on Tuesday got a step closer to seeing some of their streets restored.
Members of the county council were the first to approve an inter-local agreement between county and the Edwardsport Town Council for the repaving of several streets that see heavy traffic — and the damage that's come with it — as a result of the Duke Energy power plant.
Councilman Randy Crismore encouraged his fellow members to approve the inter-local agreement, which resulted from a county Redevelopment Commission meeting held last week.
Crismore is a member of the body, which for the first time since the Edwardsport plant was built has excess funds to spend. He and his colleagues voted to divert some of the money to much-needed infrastructure improvements in Edwardsport and in Westphalia as well.
The county's Tax Increment Finance Zone was drawn years ago, its boundaries the footprint of the power plant.
Per the agreement, the RDC collects the additional property tax revenue generated from the increase in the assessed value within the district. Duke, via the RDC, keeps 45 percent of that revenue, which is then used to slowly retire the $27 million in bonds sold to help finance construction of the $1.34 billion plant.
The other 55 percent has always been allowed to pass through to the appropriate taxing entities — North Knox School Corp., township fire departments, etc.
But for many years, all of the 45 percent was needed to make Duke's bond payments.
As time has passed — and a 10-year abatement granted to Duke nears its expiration — the amount collected by the RDC has increased, enough to now give them a little extra to spend.
After a lengthy discussion last week, the RDC voted to set aside $500,000 for road repair in the two communities, an estimate put together by highway superintendent Benji Boyd.
“There is a lot of traveling back and forth, in and out of the power plant and to the railroad,” Crismore said. “And a lot of those deliveries really tore up Edwardsport and Westphalia's roads.
“It's been a really good feeling to know the TIF zone has finally generated some money for the county to spend to help,” he said. “And I feel very confident that we're heading in the right direction.”
But the county can't just pave streets inside Edwardsport, as it's an incorporated town. Hence the inter-local agreement.
That document, which also needs to be signed by both the county commissioners and the Edwardsport Town Council, will allow those streets slated for repaving to be included in the county's current asphalt contract with E&B Paving.
That contract, according to county commission president Kellie Streeter, is left open-ended each year for such additions as county elected officials deem necessary.
The county council's attorney, Andrew Porter, who also serves as legal counsel to the RDC, said doing it this way comes at a significant cost savings both to the county and to Edwardsport.
The roads in Westphalia can be added without such an agreement as Westphalia is an unincorporated town.
Streeter said she plans to now take the inter-local agreement to the Edwardsport Town Council on Monday; the commissioners will then consider it when they meet Tuesday night.
As for when paving might actually begin, Streeter said given recent wet weather and construction delays, she “simply doesn't know.” She does, however, hope to see it done during this construction season, if possible.
After meeting all its bond requirements and setting aside a little extra for next year, the RDC had just over $1.3 million to dole out. State law already allows for the North Knox School Corp. to be a beneficiary of those funds, up to 15 percent, to be exact. So the RDC voted to give to them this year the maximum amount of $283,000.
The RDC must, however, hear and approve a plan for how that money will be spent before it’s spent.
Moving forward, the RDC plans to put together, guided by state law, a policy as to how these excess funds can be spent.