Though too far in the future to of be any help with the company's recent service problems in the greater-Vincennes area, AT&T does have plans for another cellphone tower in Knox County.
This tower would be in the U.S. 41 Industrial Park on what is known as the “Lewis property,” a 50-acre section the Knox County Development Corp. purchased from the Bob Lewis family in 2014.
The 335-foot tall unit would replace equipment AT&T has been using that's attached to WIN Energy REMC's communication tower, hopefully providing better service to AT&T customers.
Lee Parker, an engineer with GPD Group Inc. of Akron, Ohio, which is working with AT&T on the design, attended Wednesday evening's Knox County Drainage Board meeting to seek a waiver on having to include a detention pond as part of the project.
County surveyor Dick Vermillion said the project met the board's stipulations for receiving such an exemption.
But that didn't dissuade board members and nearby property owners from questioning the propriety of the project.
“Why build it there?” ask Terry Vieck. “You're down in a hole there and it's underwater 90% of the time.”
Where the tower would be placed is a 100-foot-by-100-foot square down in the southwest corner of the property near Keller Road — and adjacent to Swan Pond Ditch, a part of the Vieke Ditch Association.
Ed Vieck serves on the board of that group. He, as politely as possible, called the site “crap property” that wasn't suitable for anything other than maybe getting a crop out of it if the weather cooperated.
But the generally poor appeal of the property was exactly why KCDC was offering it to AT&T.
According to a letter of support for the project written by Kent Utt, president and CEO of the development organization, putting the tower anywhere else would impair the chances of luring other businesses to the property — businesses that would bring new jobs and new tax revenue to the county.
While it would generate some new property-tax revenue, it was highly unlikely AT&T's project would add jobs.
“So basically, KCDC has this piece of crappy property that's not good for anything else and they've found a way to make some money out of it,” said drainage board chairman Jim Sexton. “That's what it comes down to, right?”
With a shrug of his shoulders and a nod of his head, Parker indicated he agreed.
“But our only concern is whether what they plan to do will increase the runoff (of surface water) onto other properties, right Dick?” Sexton ask Vermillion.
“Right, and what they're showing (with GPD Group's design) is that it won't,” Vermillion said.
But Ed Vieck and his brother, Bill, still had their concerns.
Ed Vieck said every 4-5 years the ditch association cleans out the bed of Swan Pond Ditch, to maintain the depth of the original design and guarantee proper water flow. The dirt that's removed — the spoil — is deposited onto the association's 75-foot right-of-way.
AT&T's plan includes an access road off Keller Road, and Vieck pointed out that road would be within the right-of-way.
“So there's going to be times (every 8-10 years) when we'll be dumping spoil on that road,” he said.
Indiana Department of Natural Resources' regulations require that dirt be spread out so it raises the grade of the land no higher than 6 inches.
Ed Vieck had two questions: who would be spreading out that spoil, and who would be making sure it didn't get higher than 6 inches?
The answer to the first question was easy: the property owner, in this case KCDC, would be responsible.
The second was a little more difficult: DNR, the drainage board, the Vieke Ditch Association — all would have some involvement.
“It's like everywhere else, everybody is going to have to monitor it,” Vermillion said.
Bill Vieck said such monitoring would be important, for any increase in the grade would cause flooding elsewhere — including the rest of KCDC's property there.
Vieck distributed pictures he'd taken in February illustrating how much water flows through that area when there are hard rains.
“And we're getting more hard rains,” he said. “So the potential for trouble is there.”
Vieck said the area was unique, that a channel has developed along Keller Road from Decker Road to the north; water flows into the area because there is no where else for it to go as the ditch bank is too high.
“You can float a boat down it when it rains,” he said, adding that the depth of the water in the area AT&T wants to build it's access road can reach 2 feet or higher.
“And it takes 3 or 4 days for that water to drain,” Bill Vieck said. “There's water there today.”
“Everyone knows it's low through there,” Sexton agreed. “But for us, the question is whether what AT&T wants to do will make the situation worse, and that doesn't seem to be the case.”
So there is nothing we can do to make sure that spoil is properly dealt with? Terry Vieck ask.
Sexton said the board's meeting minutes would reflect the concerns of both the members and the property owners about AT&T's project — that there would be an official record the issues were brought up for discussion.
There could be some type of separate agreement between AT&T and the ditch association, added Vermillion, or the board could include a resolution requiring certain conditions be met, having it be a part of approving AT&T's request for a waiver.
“So there would be the board's approving of the waiver, then approval of a resolution, worded however you want it worded, addressing the road and the spoil and whatever else you want to include with the Vieke Ditch Association,” he said. “For AT&T it would be you get the waiver but you'll also be responsible for this other.
“Then it would be up to AT&T what they want to do,” Vermillion said.
“The way I see it, there is one party that's being left out of this whole discussion,” said Tim Ellerman, a county commissioner and also a member of the drainage board. “We've got AT&T, we've got the drainage board, and we've got the Vieke Ditch Association.
“Where's KCDC?” he ask. “It seems to me they need to be tied into this in some way.”
“Well, it is their road,” Sexton said.
In the end the board agreed to a resolution requiring KCDC to make sure that any spoil deposited on the access road be addressed in such a way that it raise the grade of the land no more than 3 inches, half of what DNR requires.
“That puts responsibility where it belongs, with KCDC,” Ellerman said. “And if there's ever a problem, it means it a local issue, between KCDC, the ditch association and this board — we won't have to worry about dealing with somebody in Ohio or wherever but get it settled here in Knox County.”