By Lauren Zeugner
(EDITOR’S NOTE: The Mail-Journal was notified this morning that there were numerous versions of the press release floating around council chambers during the Syracuse Town Council meeting last night. Below is the most up to date copy according to Councilman Larry Siegel)
During the Syracuse Town Council’s regular monthly meeting Tuesday night, April 16, Mike Noe, town manager, read the following statement into the record:
“The town of Syracuse has been working with government agencies, senators, legislators and other interested parties to determine the issue of repair and ownership of the Turkey Creek Memorial Dam, a lake level control device located on Turkey Creek west of SR 13 in Syracuse. The renewed interest began several months ago when residents of the lake area surrounding the town came to a town council meeting inquiring about the responsibility for repair of the dam. Prior to that meeting the town had spent some $80,000 trying to identify and solve the repair issues.
“Consequently, the town felt it should research the ownership issue and try to determine who was responsible for the dam’s repair. The present town manager and town council members were aware that the town had entered into an agreement with the Department of Natural Resources in 1992 to monitor and control the water level maintained by the dam. However, upon research by the local town attorney and reputable title company, the title to the dam and surrounding area is still vested in the original owners and heirs of Samuel Crosson and Henry Ward dating back to 1837. The town cannot find a title transferring such interest.
“Councilman Larry Siegel met with DNR representitives in March 2019 to discuss the ownership and control issue. The DNR was given the title information, but did not want to assume ownership nor did they believe they were the owners of the dam. The DNR further commented that they did not have funds to rehabilitate the dam. DNR reprensentatives have been unable to explain why they had authority in 1992 to contract with the town, but do not have ownership at this time.
“Contact was made with state budget field representatives from the Department of Local Government Finance to determine the town’s authority to spend its funds on the dam. The representative indicated that Syracuse could not spend its money and suggested the Town should contact the State Board of Accounts for additional verification. After Councilman Siegel made numerous attempts to contact the state, a veteran of the SBA emphatically said the town did not have such authority and again referred the town to the DNR.
“The town has now hired professionals in Indianapolis at the cost of $20,000 to find a solution. Through their efforts contact has been made with state senators and state representatives. Senator Blake Doriot has been most helpful and has proposed moving or soliciting funds from various sources. Research has also determined that the creation and utilization of a conservation district may be a means to resolve this issue.
“In conclusion the town has gone to extreme lengths to try to resolve the repair issues relating to the Turkey Creek Memorial Dam. After spending significant funds, the town has come to realize it does not have the authority to maintain the dam. The representatives of the town will continue to seek assistance and ask all interested parties to find a solution to the repair of this valuable community asset.”