Ellettsville eyes land to address flooding
Herald-Times (Bloomington, IN), 2014-02-12
Feb. 12--A little piece of property near Jack's Defeat Creek and Turtleback Creek might not be the answer to Ellettsville's flooding problems, but it might be the first step toward creating a plan.
The Ellettsville Town Council approved moving forward with the purchase of privately owned land in the flood plain at Ind. 46 and Hartstrait Road, where water usually pools when it rains. It's a spot the council has been eyeing because it will aid the town in several of its long-term plans, the most pressing being to address a recurring flooding problem.
It's unlikely that any business would be able to build on the flood plain, said Sandy Hash, Ellettsville clerk-treasurer. The town would utilize it as a water detention area and park, though no one is sure how that would work yet. The parcel currently is vacant.
Flooding has been a persistent problem for Ellettsville. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers studied the area in the 1990s, but few of the corps' suggestions to alleviate flooding were put in place at the time because of funding.
However, the problem has become exacerbated since then.
The town has experienced severe flooding in the past four years, with the most recent happening the weekend before Christmas. It forced town departments out of Town Hall and into rented spaces at Eagle's Landing Mall, where they will remain for the time being.
By the end of this year, town council President Scott Oldham hopes to have a plan in place that will address both the flooding and what to do with the Town Hall, which is currently closed.
The Army Corps of Engineers, the Indiana Department of Transportation and the state Department of Natural Resources will all be involved as the town develops a plan, with each agency playing a different role in the process.
Oldham and new council member Scott Thomas have met with INDOT, which will conduct a study of the Ind. 46 split through Ellettsville, to see if its construction has played a role in the increased severity of the floods.
Work with DNR will include deepening the creeks so they hold more water and overflow is less likely. The town already has started the process for getting permission for that work, Oldham said.
The corps of engineers will conduct another study of the area once the snow clears and topography is clearer. This first piece, the purchase of the flood plain property, is actually a suggestion from the original study.
"It's not going to be the only answer to our flooding problem; it does give us a start," Oldham said.
The latest round of flooding also left the town with another problem: what to do with the Town Hall?
Right now, the town has a month-to-month lease on two rooms in the Eagle's Landing Mall while the Town Hall sits empty.
Oldham said the council would come to a decision about the building in the next three or four months, though it will likely be restored.
"The question is not: Can we redo Town Hall?" he said. "The question is: Is it economically feasible, and have we outgrown it?"
The building can always be used for something other than office space, Oldham said.
Some council members have been resistant to getting rid of the building, and he said it will take time to decide what direction the town wants to go.
"This is the time when a lot of things have come to a head at once," Oldham said. "We are 100 percent operational right now. Let's take a step back and look at the bigger picture."
The first part of the plan will be getting the property on Ind. 46, though. It's a space that has been on the council's radar for some time. Not only will it provide a logical space for a retention basin, but it is also is in the path of a proposed connection between Ellettsville's Heritage Trail and the Monroe County Karst Farm Greenway.
"It seemed like an ideal opportunity to check a lot of boxes," Oldham said.
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