By Deb Patterson
It’s been close to two years since discussions were held publicly about how to finance repairs needed to the Syracuse Flood Control Structure, also known as the Syracuse Memorial Dam. Since then a committee of representatives from the Syracuse Lake Association, Wawasee Property Owners Association and Wawasee Area Conservancy Foundation was formed to try to help the town find funds to undertake repairs.
Urgent emails were sent to members of the SLA and WPOA encouraging its members to send letters to state representatives and senators asking their help in getting funds appropriated for the much needed repairs to the flood control structure. The recipients of the emails were encouraged to send letters yet this week. This request is in an effort to assist the town to find funds to undertake the repairs.
Kay Young, president of the WPOA, stated the group is “trying to get something done. (The repairs) need to be done now. We’ve waited 10 years and the price keeps going up.” She also added the group is assisting town officials in trying to find ways for continual funds to be allocated for further repairs as the years go on.
Lawson-Fisher Associates P.C. Consulting Engineers, South Bend, conducted an engineering report for the town in April 2009. At that time preliminary cost estimates were between $170,000 and $260,000. An updated cost estimate was provided in August 2018. The cost ranged between $575,000 if done in a single phase or a total of $620,000 if done in two phases.
The engineering study came as a result of a July 2008 inspection where state inspectors found there was a sections of the sheet pilings that had rusted through and earth was eroding through the hole. The inspection also found the upstream left bank sheet piling needed to be watched due to age and on the downstream side the concrete walls were cracking, the concrete cap on the sheet pile had deteriorated and the endwall for the gates showed signs of calking and needed to be watched.
It was during a May 2018 meeting called by then Syracuse Town Manager Henry DeJulia with representatives from Turkey Creek Township Advisory Board, WPOA, SLA, and WACF when it was learned the town had not budgeted funds for the maintenance of the structure since it took over control in 1992. He stated at that time the town council had other priorities instead of adding a line to the budget for maintenance.
The matter was the main theme at the SLA annual meeting in 2018 and at a town council meeting in August 2018. Town Council Member Larry Siegel explained to those present the town’s budget is regulated by the state as to what it can do with accumulated funds and there is no fund available for maintaining the water control device. He was quoted as saying “We all get it,” he said. “The state hasn’t given us the way to accumulate funds for the dam.” He also stated state officials needed to hear from more than just him.
The town has reportedly had the sole responsibility for the maintenance of the dam since at least 1990.
Documentation on file shows in 1990 a letter was sent to Richard K. Helm, attorney, asking the DNR Division of Water for information regarding the control structure and legally established normal water level of Lake Wawasee. That letter, while providing the established water level of the lake, also stated “The structure is owned and operated by the City of Syracuse …,” and was signed by George C. Bowman, P.E. Head, Lakes and Dams Section Division of Water.
There is also documentation in the Syracuse Town Council minutes of Sept. 15, 1992, and a recorded agreement between the town and the DNR, signed by Matt Vigneault, town manager and John N. Simpson, director of the Division of Water, stating the town has the sole responsibility for the maintenance and repair of the control structure to maintain the legally established average normal level of the lake and be responsible for all annual routine maintenance.