ANDERSON – After a lengthy debate Tuesday, a divided Madison County Council voted to use a portion of a special state distribution of local option income tax funds on road repairs.
The Indiana General Assembly this year passed legislation returning a portion of the LOIT (local option income tax) funds to local units of government for road repair.
A requirement by the state was 75 percent of the funds be used on roads and bridges with the remaining 25 percent to be used at council discretion.
The council voted 4-3 to appropriate $2,726,290 on the roads. Council President Fred Reese joined with Clayton Whitson, Lisa Hobbs and Robin Wagner in approving the appropriation.
Madison County’s share was $3,636,954 and the county commissioners asked the council to appropriate the entire amount.
Commissioner John Richwine said the intent was to use the $2.7 million on the roads and keep $1 million for a possible state grant if the county’s request for $14 million in federal funds for the replacement of the Eisenhower Bridge was denied.
County Engineer Chuck Leser said the county needs to spend $5.5 million annually to maintain its 900 miles of roads.
At one point, the council was informed that 260 miles of county roads had not been touched in more than a decade.
Leser said the county is spending $5 million this year on road repairs, which includes $1.3 million in wheel tax funds.
“This was a road funding bill. That’s why we requested the 100 percent,” Leser said.
Richwine said the state funding was an opportunity the county never had to get ahead of road maintenance.
“This opportunity won’t come around again,” he said.
Councilman Steve Sumner made a motion to table the request that failed for the lack of a second.
Sumner said the county would need $4.5 million as matching funds on the Eisenhower Bridge project and said the appropriation could wait.
Leser said if the county waits until September to learn about the federal grant and it’s approved, the paving season will have ended.
Councilwoman Lisa Phillips-Cannon, who voted against the $2.7 million in funding, said the council promised voters they would improve the roads.
Clayton Whitson, who made the motion to appropriate the $2.7 million, said the Eisenhower Bridge is not the only need in the county.
There was concern among several council members about where the county would obtain the $4.5 million in matching funds for the bridge.
“I’m tired of borrowing money,” Reese said before the vote.
Richwine said the county could issue a 20-year bond for the matching funds on a bridge that would last 50 to 75 years.
Leser said if the federal funds are approved the Indiana Department of Transportation is prepared to accept bids for the work next April and the county would need the matching funds in May.
Follow Ken de la Bastide on Twitter @KendelaBastide, or call 640-4863.