The Herald Bulletin

April 30, 2013

Anderson University will host 3rd public meeting about reservoir tonight

Debate now moves to local government

By Stuart Hirsch
The Herald Bulletin

ANDERSON, Ind. — Tonight’s meeting on the proposed Mounds Lake Reservoir will mark the end of the beginning of public discussion about the project.

Debate has been raging on social media, of course, where supporters and detractors alike have been trumpeting the rightness of their positions since late March.

But official consideration hasn’t yet really engaged.

Apart from unabashed support in Chesterfield and Daleville, most political leaders have been careful in their public comments about the proposal, calling it things like an interesting idea, or a concept worthy of study.

That will change in the month ahead as the five affected taxing units — Madison and Delaware counties, Anderson, Chesterfield and Daleville — begin debating non-binding resolutions about whether to support a second phase of study.

Chesterfield will be first out of the gate on Monday night, said Clerk-Treasurer Deborah Dunham.

She’s cleared the Town Council’s agenda as much as possible to accommodate high attendance and extensive public questioning.

If numbers warrant, the council will be prepared to pick up and move to Millcreek Civic Center, she said.

Rob Sparks, executive director of the Anderson/Madison County Corporation for Economic Development and chief proponent of the reservoir, said all he seeks at this point is an expression of support for more study.

No money will be committed to the project and the resolutions will not form the Mounds Lake Commission to govern development of the lake.

From its dam head just west of Scatterfield Road in Anderson, the reservoir would back water up seven miles to Delaware County Road 300 South and encompass 2,100 acres.

According to preliminary estimates, the project would cost between $300 million and $400 million to build. Its primary purpose would be to supplement the Indianapolis metropolitan area’s water needs.

The next phase of study will cost an estimated $300,000, according to Sparks. He hopes funding will come from federal or private grants.

Two interesting results have emerged from the first public presentations so far, Sparks said.

One, is public interest in additional environmental studies. The second is a desire for public participation in planning.

“I would not have thought that we would be thinking about these things until next spring,” Sparks said.

Because of that interest, he’s proposing that a community planning study led by local council of governments in Madison and Delaware counties hold 15 meetings — five in each town and city — over the summer to create more public engagement.

Meanwhile, tonight’s final meeting, starting at 7:30 p.m. at Reardon Auditorium and organized by Connect Madison County, will follow the same panel discussion format as previous events in Chesterfield and Daleville.

The usual panel of Sparks; Chad Pigg, president and CEO of SESCO Group; and Jonathan LaTurner of DLZ will present their thoughts about the feasibility of the reservoir.

They will be joined by Anderson real estate agent Jim Bittner, Kim Rogers-Hatfield of White River Watchers and Tom Bannon, executive director of the Anderson-Madison County Visitors and Convention Bureau.

Find Stu Hirsch on Facebook and @StuHirsch on Twitter, or call 640-4861.