By BRADEN LAMMERS
To help encourage development at sites in River Ridge Commerce Center, officials have been seeking money to improve its infrastructure.
On Thursday, a request was made of Jeffersonville’s Sewer Board to help pay for a matching grant secured through the U.S. Department of Commerce Economic Development Administration for improvements to sanitary sewer lines. No action was taken at the meeting and sewer board members questioned the size of the sewer line that was requested and what would be needed to allow it to function.
River Ridge, which approved the public works grant at a previous board meeting, will receive $1.8 million in grant funds to complete several infrastructure improvements, largely around the current development area along Ind. 62 between Salem-Noble Road and Stacey Road. The grant requires 50 percent matching funds from River Ridge and the estimated cost for the improvements total more than $3.6 million.
The request made to the sewer board Thursday was to match $769,000 within the grant. River Ridge would pay half of the 50 percent matching funds and asked the sewer board to cover the other half at $192,250. River Ridge Project Manager and Engineer Marc Hildenbrand said the funding would help fund a new 24-inch sewer main.
“When we come to the development of the full 3,700 or so acres that are within the city of Jeffersonville, we’re going to need a lot more capacity than the [existing] 12-inch line,” he said. “This 24-inch will hold a little more than 6 million gallons a day.”
Hildenbrand continued that the replacement sewer main was included in the masterplan River Ridge completed in 2010. The project discussed Thursday would replace the first portion of the main sewer collector line, which heads toward the Amazon.com Inc. distribution center and the areas that are currently the most developable in the former Indiana Army Ammunition Plant.
The real need for the increased capacity would likely come in the form of a megasite designation at River Ridge.
River Ridge is seeking the designation, which would allow for the location of a company like an automotive, steel or chemical manufacturer to build a plant on 1,500 to 2,500 acres in the commerce center. A site evaluation and certification is ongoing where a large company could locate. Once that process is complete, River Ridge could move forward with seeking the designation for the outlined space.
Hildenbrand said with the installation of the new line, the capacity for sewer lines in River Ridge would increase from about 150,000 to eventually 6 million galloons per day.
But Sewer Board Member Bill Saegesser questioned the installation of what would be an active sewer line with the amount of capacity requested and the size of sewer treatment plant that would be needed to accommodate the capacity requested.
“We’ve not done a very good job, it appears, in coordinating what you’re doing and what we’re doing,” Saegesser said. “Because, if you think that we need a plant that’s going to handle what we have today, plus an additional minimum 6 million gallons a day, we’re building the wrong plant.”
Hildenbrand said that amount of capacity is not needed at this time.
“Instead of going in and installing a line that would have to be replaced in five years, or whatever, we just wanted to go ahead and get in the ultimate design now,” Hildenbrand said.
Saegesser asked to have copies of the masterplan and EDA grant to review.
“I want to see what implication this has for us long-term,” he said. “If you’re thinking five or six years from now we’re going to have a plant that’s going to handle that type of flow, we’re not.”
Hildenbrand explained that the 6 million gallons of capacity would be for the 3,700 acres of development of property inside River Ridge that lies within Jeffersonville. However, he admitted that he did not know when that level of capacity would be required because it is based upon how quickly development in River Ridge would occur and who moves into the buildings being constructed.
“If we land [a megasite] it could change,” Hildenbrand said. “Obviously, there would be funds available if you’ve got that type of 1,000 to 1,500 acre sale with a user of that kind. At this point, we don’t have anything in our pocket, but we want to make sure if something does happen that we are ready for it when it does happen.”
“So do we,” Saegesser replied. “I think before we start putting more pipes in the ground, we make sure that we’re doing the right thing.”
Paul Wheatley, River Ridge director of marketing and finance, explained that the reason River Ridge would want to install the 24-inch pipe now is because of the grant.
“To directly answer your question, why we would upsize it was because we were leveraging half of it via the federal EDA grant,” he said.
Whether or not costs to increase capacity at a new sewer treatment plant that is still undergoing construction would be passed along to Jeffersonville residents was another concern.
“We’re sucking money from our rate-payers to build that plant out there,” said Sewer Board Member Dale Orem. “It’s a lot of money to go into the ground out there. Is it going to behoove us? Absolutely. Is it going to behoove you? Oh, yeah, because you wouldn’t be in business without it. We want to cooperate and do what is right for our rate-payers and do it right for you all, too.”
Wastewater Superintendent Len Ashack added later in the meeting that change orders in the construction costs for the treatment plant are being included for the increase of flow. The changes to increase capacity would not cover the amount that River Ridge was referencing.
“It’s just coming up with the money to handle another 6 million gallons,” Ashack said. “That’s why capacity is in the discussion between them and us is so we can start capturing some money and putting it in reserves, so we don’t have to go back to the rate-payers and get another rate increase.”
Wheatley provided an overview of the projects that are ongoing near the area that would be served by the new sewer line.
“There’s actually dirt moving on three separate buildings that will total 950,000 square feet,” he said.
Among those spaces are the first of what is planned to be three buildings at America Place at River Ridge that would total 150,000 square feet of space. Phase two and three, when constructed, would add 200,000 square feet and 320,000 square feet, respectively.
Construction is also under way on a site at 800 Patrol Road for a 300,000-square-foot space and across Cox Street, which is being renamed, a property being developed by Capstone Reality will add a 500,000-square-foot building,
In addition to the projects under construction, Dayton, Ohio-based The Standard Register Co. previously announced that it plans to locate in the former US. Census Bureau building along Patrol Road; American Fuji Seal Inc. has initiated a purchase agreement with the River Ridge Development Authority to purchase more than 23 acres of property located directly behind the Amazon.com center, next to America Place; and Wheatley said there are plans to add a retail space and an office space between Amazon and Capstone.
“With the amount of inquiries that we get, we feel fairly confident we’re going to see this sort of pace for the foreseeable future,” Wheatley said.