Inform, Entertain, Inspire
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Elkhart Commissioners approve Rescue Plan funding for potential sewer cleanup

Elkhart County Administrator Jeff Taylor speaks before the County Board of Commissioners on Tuesday, Jan. 4.
Elkhart County Administrator Jeff Taylor speaks before the County Board of Commissioners on Tuesday, Jan. 4.

On Tuesday, the Elkhart County Board of Commissioners agreed to spend over $1.2 million dollars in COVID relief funding on a potential sewer cleanup in a rural part of the county.

Commissioners President Suzie Weirick said Tuesday the residents of Foraker and Southwest, between Goshen and Nappanee, have had to deal with illicit waste discharge for over 20 years.

The commissioners approved $50,000 in American Rescue Plan funding to conduct a rate study and another $1.2 million for a design survey and construction inspection for a new sewer plan in the area.

The county also has a $1.8 million grant to help with the project, but County Administrator Jeff Taylor said it will lose that funding if the project isn’t “shovel-ready” by June 1.

Commissioner Brad Rogers expressed concern about the project’s speed and what it might cost residents.

“We’re going ahead with appropriations for design and for future construction, but how do we know that the rate study will come back as reasonable?” he said. “Say it’s $200, or whatever?”

Taylor said if rates end up that high, it would be up to the county to decide whether to pause the project or stop it entirely.

“It sounds like this might be a little bit of a ‘cart-before-the-horse,’” he said. “But again, we’re full steam ahead because of the pending grant that’s available that we risk losing.”

Rogers said the county should hold public meetings with the residents of Foraker and Southwest before a decision is made.

But Weirick said holding meetings before the conclusion of the rate study would be moot.

“This project has been presented and pulled back for years, on and off. It’s been a bit of a yo-yo type of situation,” she said. “Unless we have any data to show them what they’re going to have to pay, we have nothing to present.”

Weirick said the county has a “rough idea” of what similar projects have cost per household and user, but didn’t specify what those potential rates might be.

“We know that there are some questionable fees, and we know that it’s not going to be easy for anybody,” she said. “But at the same time, we are under obligation as a county to make sure that we do not produce illicit discharge to this degree.”

The commissioners ultimately approved the funding in a unanimous vote.

Contact Gemma at or follow her on Twitter at @gemma_dicarlo.

If you appreciate this kind of journalism on your local NPR station, please support it by donatinghere.