By Deb Patterson
A plan to repair the lake level control device in Syracuse will be a “win, win” for the town of Syracuse and the residents upstream and downstream. Repairs will be done in two phases.
The first phase is repairs immediately upstream and downstream of the device. This will be done with funds received from private donations, expected receipt of grants and county drainage funds. The second phase is the future repair of the device itself is proposed to be made through funds received by the creation of a conservancy district. The conservancy funds will also be earmarked for necessary repairs to the “dike” protecting Wawasee Village.
A meeting of representatives from the Syracuse Town Council, Turkey Creek Township Advisory Board, Kosciusko County Council, Kosciusko County Commissioners, Kosciusko County Emergency Management, Kosciusko County Drainage Board and Syracuse Lake Association was held Friday, May 3. The representatives were called together by Bill Pipp, who represented a group put together by Wawasee Area Conservancy Foundation, Wawasee Property Owners Association and Syracuse Lake Association.
“The goal is to get it done … we do have money,” said Pipp. He admitted it is a complex issue, encouraging those present to move forward with the first phase and then figure out the rest. “At the time we know money is in place.”
At the conclusion the of meeting those present knew the project is going to move forward. “When we all work together we can make things happen,” said Sue Ann Mitchell, county councilwoman. Brad Jackson, county commissioner, stated while there may be disagreements, those disagreements can be put aside and “come together for what is best for the community.”
“We know who the stakeholders are now, we’ve been fairly lucky in the last couple weeks … come up with some options that make this a much more tenable project,” stated Pipp.
One of those options is financial help from the county drainage board.
Mike Kissinger, county surveyor, announced after research, he learned Turkey Creek is a county regulated drain and funds collected through property taxes by those in the Turkey Creek watershed could be used for repairs downstream of the control device. Kissenger stressed from his understanding the funds could be used for repairs along the creek’s bank. Approval from the drainage board would be required.
Discussion then went to the immediate area upstream of the control structure. Larry Martindale, Syracuse Town Council president, stated, “Syracuse can’t spend $1 according to our attorney. We don’t own it … we could use our people to perform the work.”
Pipp stated the material would be purchased with donations received. That material will include glacial stone for the northwest and southwest side of the area immediately upstream. ”That still leaves the structure for long term,” he stated. “We need to take care of phase one right now.”
Further discussion included obtaining necessary permits and project specifications. It was agreed to contact Lawson Fisher, who has presented proposals on the project to handle what is needed.
Moving on to the long-term perspective, Pipp presented paperwork that would create a conservancy district, specifically to raise funds and oversee future repairs. He explained this conservancy district would be narrow in its focus. The district would focus on flood control, drainage and safety. The town would remain in control of operation of the device. He noted there are 2,400 freeholders for the conservancy, those with property on the channels and lake frontage of Lake Wawasee, Mudd Lake and Syracuse Lake.
“We want this fixed. We don’t want an extra shoreline,” Pipp stated. Pipp further explained the conservancy, which would be a government entity with the five-member board initially being appointed. After the first specified term those individuals would be elected at an annual meeting by the freeholders. Pipp stated the goal is to have the conservancy in place by 2020.
Veering from discussion of repairs to ownership, it was noted prior to 1998, Crosson Mill Park did not have an owner listed. In 1998 the county auditor at the time listed the town as the owner. It was just recently removed from the tax rolls and ownership is listed as unknown. Since the town had maintained and used the ground for more than 15 years, it was noted there would be little to no problem of the town taking adverse possession of the property.
Martindale noted that will be a topic of discussion by the town council.