Despite the Franklin County Redevelopment Commission having no role as catalyst in the extension of Brookville's sewer line up Reservoir Hill to support housing development, the proposed project took up the biggest chunk of the group's discussion for a second straight time. FCRC met for the first time in 2023 on Feb. 28.

“It's a READI-related project,” reelected president Bill Schirmer said in response to new appointee Derrike Kolb's query. READI is the state's Regional Economic and Acceleration Development Initiative ultimately designed to make Indiana communities more attractive to new residents.

“Directly, we have nothing to do with it right now,” he added. “Only thing is, there's a TIF (Tax Increment Financing) district commissioners have to agree to, and the school board tentatively agrees to but that doesn't come into play (yet).” 

If the approximate $4.5 million tab is picked up from a total awarded to Southeast Indiana READI and project gets final approval from the semi-private, semi-public Indiana Economic Development Corporation, then Schirmer said “we agree to enter into a TIF district, make the recommendation to commissioners … so it's elected officials who will vote on it.”

A special meeting called by Brookville Town Council took place the following night so Schirmer (as a member of the SEI READI group) could present most of the details of the sewer layout, how the system operates and some financial numbers – though some numbers he wished to not divulge as they could affect later bidding processes. John Palmer, reelected as FCRC vice-president, was also set to present Wednesday as he sits on the local READI group as well.

“Redevelopment starts if the town wants to (extend) the sewer, then commissioners say create a TIF,” said Palmer. 

Another new appointee, Brian Patterson, said he respectfully disagreed.

“If the people are going to be a majority of the spokes in the wheel for the project, they need to know what's going on upfront,” he stated. “If we're running a sewer line through their yard, they should know types of fees and expenditures and what it looks like financially before we create a (residential) TIF district.”

“In the event this moves forward, by all means we'll have that conversation,” Schirmer answered. 

There was a sense of urgency noted as the $4.5 million has a June deadline, so if the sewer wasn't moved forward by local entities, it would go back on the table to be spent elsewhere in the region.

Schirmer said all parties in the process were essentially looking for that “warm fuzzy feeling” to push it ahead. 

Patterson said he was on board with the project, seeing its long-term value, but didn't know if everyone would come together quickly to support it. “I feel like we are in a battle with every other entity in SEI.”

BTC voted to sign a letter of support for the project earlier this year, but council president Bridget Hayes was on hand to say she wanted the special meeting to educate her board – a few who just recently took their positions. Commissioners were to voice their approval provided letters of support from BTC and the school board were received.

“From the outside looking in, it seems the project is hanging by a thread,” Patterson said and Schirmer agreed. “And the reason it's dangling appears to be lack of information. Information is key.” Schirmer hoped many questions would be answered at the special meeting.

Further discussion was planned for the March 2 BTC meeting. Schirmer said if the project was moved forward, the paperwork would be in IEDC's hands about 60 days for a decision.

Sara Duffy, nonvoting member representing the school board, mentioned that affordable housing is always brought up as part of the proposed project. She thought it would be better to think outside the box and work out something with developers where for every dollar invested, for instance, a portion of that would go into rehabbing homes elsewhere in the county so existing housing stock doesn't continue to deteriorate.

Patterson said there are federal and state programs like that in place, saying Lawrenceburg currently does a similar thing.

Member Tim George asked if there's a current list of abandoned or deteriorating homes for the county; Patterson said the 2020 Census results should contain number of owner-occupied homes.

In finances, the TIF district (Golden Road) holds a balance of $289,449.75 with appropriations around $275,000. Kolb, elected secretary, asked about those. 

Schirmer said $10,000 was committed to Smith Welding and Thompson Machining on State Road 101 North for an infrastructure match and $250,000 was there in case FCRC had to foot the county bill for its share of the gas line installed up Hwy. 101 by Sycamore Gas. READI funded the other $250,000 and Sycamore was to cover the remaining balance above $500,000.

The operating balance stands at roughly $43,000; commissioners put $1,000 a month into the fund.

Another commitment was the PILOT program (payment in lieu of taxes), in which the commission is to take 15% of what is captured from the current TIF district and return it to FC schools. This would then be earmarked for specific school spending – marketing of the school system could be an option. The agreement for the reimbursement is not in place yet, but Schirmer said the number is about $7,500.

Next meeting is March 28, 5 p.m.