CLARKSVILLE — It took almost a year, but two Clark County communities have finally reached a cost-sharing agreement for a project aimed at decreasing downtown Clarksville flooding.
The Clarksville Redevelopment Commission and the Jeffersonville-Clarksville Flood Control District each will contribute $2 million to fund the construction of a new pump station at Cane Run Creek. The flood control district also is paying for project design.
It will likely cause a tax increase for those living within the flood control district, which encompasses some of downtown Jeffersonville and South Clarksville.
Clarksville officials say flooding caused by inadequate infrastructure has caused property damage to downtown buildings and blocked roads near the Radisson Hotel Louisville North and Derby Dinner Playhouse. Now planning the economic revitalization of the south end of Clarksville, officials worry more devastating flooding will occur if the issue isn't fixed.
"It's our duty as the government to protect life and property," said A.D. Stonecipher, Clarksville town councilman and Clarksville Redevelopment Commission president.
Town Council President Paul Fetter said he appreciates the negotiations entities made to reach a "mutually beneficial agreement."
"It takes care of our flooding issues in South Clarksville and helps us work on our potential development for our South Clarksville Redevelopment Plan," Fetter said. "And it's something that's needed to be done for over 50 years."
The current pump station, identified decades ago as in need of replacement, diverts water from a drainage pond to prevent backups. But it doesn't begin pumping away water until it has reached a height of 5 feet in some areas.
In January, the Clarksville Town Council agreed to contribute $1.5 million to the pump station project, requesting the city of Jeffersonville and the flood control district pitch in money, too. They gave the entities until March to make commitments, threatening to seal off storm drains and flood out downtown Jeffersonville if an agreement couldn't be reached.
While the governmental bodies didn't meet that deadline, Clarksville held off on its alternate plan, which would have involved building a separate pipe just for stormwater.
In July, Clarksville sent a letter to the Indiana Department of Environmental Management and the Environmental Protection Agency objecting to Jeffersonville's earlier request to change the timeframe and plan to control sewer overflows.
The EPA is mandating the city mitigate its combined sewer overflows, which occur when pipes underground aren't large enough to handle the amount of rainwater and sewage.
The agreement stipulates the city of Jeffersonville must comply with the EPA mandate by the end of 2025 or else build infrastructure that will decrease the overflows into Cane Run Creek.
Jeffersonville Sewer Board members, who denied a request to share pump station project costs earlier this year, argued sewer overflows weren't a big contributor to downtown Clarksville flooding.
Tuesday evening, the Clarksville Redevelopment Commission passed the project's cost-sharing agreement, making it official. Construction of the new pump station is expected to be complete by the end of 2019.
The redevelopment commission will take out a $2 million bond to pay for its share of the project.
The flood control district must raise the tax rate to cover a $2 million bond to pay its share. A financial study estimated borrowing up to $1.66 million means taxpayers would see an increase of $12.20 in property tax per $150,000 in home property value.
Les Merkley, attorney for the flood control district, said a final increase estimate has not yet been determined because the district is months away from issuing the bond.
Jeffersonville Mayor Mike Moore, a member of the flood control district board, originally voted in favor of pledging $2 million early this year. However, he recently voted against the agreement because of the tax increase.
"I think there were other ways to do this without having to do it this way," Moore said. He proposed reimbursing Clarksville over a period of several years without interest to avoid costs associated with bonds, but the town council rejected the idea.
"Basically the consensus was why should Clarksville pay 100 percent for a project for which the water comes out of Jeffersonville and which is a flood control project?" Clarksville Town Manager Kevin Baity said.
Though Clarksville town officials initially requested Jeffersonville share the cost, Baity said they were withdrawn because of Moore's lack of support.
"I don't believe it's a city of Jeffersonville responsibility ... It's not a question where people in Northaven or Oak Park or the Meadows [neighborhoods] should be asked to pay for it."
Nevertheless, Moore said he recognizes the importance of the project.
"Ultimately, Clarksville is getting what it hoped for, and I'm happy for all the people of Jeff and Clarksville that are in the flood zone," he said. "This is going to relieve a lot of the problems for them."