Morgan commissioners target drainage issues, hope grant program can help
By Erica Smith
For the Enquirer
Morgan County commissioners want to correct serious drainage issues around roads, including at the West Morgan Road bridge, and they hope a state grant program will help them make needed upgrades.
The commission voted recently to apply for a stormwater management solutions grant that the state is giving out using American Rescue Plan Act, or COVID relief, funds. The grant would cover things such as culverts, bridges and water over roadways.
Commission Chairman Ray Long said each of the four commissioners will submit potential projects from their districts to County Engineer Greg Bodley, who will then decide which projects meet the criteria.
Commissioners said they are studying the grant’s criteria before they choose their projects.
District 1 Commissioner Jeff Clark said some of his projects may connect with other districts. He said they may try to see if replacing the bridge on West Morgan Road will qualify.
“It was an old, old bridge,” Clark said. “We did manage to get some of the right-of-way purchased; I think there’s two more people we’ve got to get additional right-of-way from before we can get started. We’re making progress now anyway.”
Clark said some of the projects, like the West Morgan Road bridge, are expensive and the criteria for the projects are strict.
“We’re not really allowed to get off the right-of-way much anyway; it’s pretty narrow criteria on how you can do some of that.”
The grant program requires a 35% county match in funding and/or other resources for stormwater construction projects.
“Our 35% match, most of that would be in-kind services,” Long said. “Stormwater would be putting in culverts and stuff like that and we would count the labor and machine cost and that kind of thing as our match.”
Long said the county may have to provide some monetary funding as well; however the total is unknown at this point.
“But most of the time, when it’s a low match like that, 30, 35%, most of the time it’s in-kind service; we don’t have to add a lot of money to it,” he said. “We don’t know how much it is because we don’t know how much we’ll get.”
District 2 Commissioner Randy Vest said he has spoken with Bodley concerning projects in his district.
“Various projects will have to have the merit to meet (grant guidelines),” he said. “We’re in the process of trying to look at those to see which ones will qualify for that. We don’t have anything confirmed at the moment.”
Vest said there are several areas in need of stormwater management including spots where water tends to cross roadways when there is heavy rainfall.
“It’s a type thing where a lot of low land where water flows to and it doesn’t move out when the creek backs up and it causes flooding,” he said. “The issues with part of those is that if you try to eliminate that so it doesn’t flood the road then you wind up flooding private property because you have to elevate the road and build it up, put a bridge in. You’re looking at $3.5 million, $4 million to do that.”
District 3 Commissioner Don Stisher said the grant is a new program and he’s still studying its details.
“We’ve got to get all the parameters of it, criteria of it, the understanding of it and what it pays and how much and how far it goes before I will commit to any type projects,” he said. “I’ll have to figure it into my budget and see what my percentage pay cost is and what kind of benefit it is to the taxpayer.”
District 4 Commissioner Greg Abercrombie said he has not come up with a list of projects at this time.
“(Going) to see what some of the other commissioners are doing,” he said. “Mainly get with the engineer.”