Members of the county's drainage board have for months discussed the propriety of making another appeal for more money to facilitate their work.
Over two years ago, board chairman Jim Sexton and county surveyor Dick Vermillion pitched to the county council the benefits that would accrue if the fiscal body were to agree to an additional deposit into the General Drain Improvement Fund, to augment the $250,000 approved to open the account in 2003.
More money would mean more ditches would get cleaned out, with those in need repaired, all to aid in the proper flow of surface water away from fields and other properties.
What they got, Sexton has often recounted in the months since, was a very polite brush off.
“They told us what a good job we were doing and all that,” he'd say when the subject came up at subsequent drainage board meetings. “But we never saw any more money.”
But with the urging of county commissioner Tim Ellerman and a feeling of what-have-we-got-to-lose, board members last month instructed Vermillion to try again in July.
So on Tuesday he was back seeking more funding from the council, now meeting in a different location (Vincennes City Hall rather than the Vincennes Fortnightly Clubhouse) and before a slightly different membership (with new board members Jay Yochum and Rich Chattin having joined the council through election and appointment).
And this time Vermillion was also more proactive, having already submitted an additional appropriation to the council for $350,000 — to either be approved or rejected.
He pointed out how the General Drain Improvement Fund now had a balance of just over $200,000. But that wasn't enough money to undertake a pair of major — and much needed — projects as well as maintenance on the many miles of ditches the county is responsible for.
Money spent from the fund is eventually paid back through assessments charged to landowners within a ditch's watershed. That replenishing, though, takes time, and Vermillion points out that many of the ditches on the drainage board's to-do list haven't been touched in 40 years.
“And in some cases it's been longer than that,” he said. “Some are in awful shape.”
The Bonewitz/Dellinger project involves ditches dating back some 70-plus years measuring more than 13 miles in length taking runoff from a nearly 30,000-acre watershed.
Vermillion told the council an estimate of the cost of cleaning it out was over $343,000.
Patrick Ditch runs to almost 5.5 miles and drains over 3,ooo acres.
Vermillion says he hasn't begun to put together a cost estimate on that project — partly because his office is frequently tied-up with other work related to drainage projects.
One of the reasons the board is asking for additional money is to allow Vermillion to hire contractors to do some of that work to keep the projects progressing.
Council president Bob Lechner praised Vermillion for the work he and members of the drainage board have been doing.
“I like your approach,” he said. “You're systematically taking these ditches on one at a time ... It's never fast enough for everybody but you're making a difference.”
Councilman Harry Nolting asked if this was money Vermillion was requesting now, or could it wait until next year, after the adoption of a new budget
“If you want to wait, that's fine,” Vermillion said. “We're not going to get to them until next year away.”
So rather than approve or reject the drainage board's request for additional money, the council agreed to table it until budget hearings, to be held Sept. 10-12 at the courthouse