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City receives funds to remove dam

Administrators give state of the city/county

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The City of Crawfordsville has received funding to remove the low-head dam from Sugar Creek, Mayor Todd Barton announced Tuesday, after years of efforts to address safety concerns on the water.

The dam, which sits outside the former Crawfordsville Electric Light & Power plant, pooled cooling water in the early years of the plant’s operations but has long posed a danger for canoeists who get trapped in the dam’s current.

“Fortunately, we’ve been very lucky that all the rescues in recent years have had a positive outcome, a string of luck we don’t wish to test any further,” Barton said in his State of the City address.

The matching grant from the Indiana Department of Natural Resources will allow the city to hire a contractor for the project, which is expected to get underway in late summer or fall after water levels drop. The state’s portion of the funding is not to exceed $80,000.

The project has also received funding from the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service.

Members of Friends of Sugar Creek, a nonprofit organization dedicated to protecting and restoring the watershed, welcomed the news.

“This has long been a dream and a goal of the Friends of Sugar Creek,” said board president Ed Fain.

The group actively began calling for the dam’s removal after the plant was decommissioned about a decade ago, working to determine who owned the dam. An ecologist was brought in to study potential contamination caused by toxins trapped behind the dam.

“Our concerns were proved to be unfounded, fortunately,” Fain said.

Removing the dam will also improve the creek’s ecosystem, according to the group, noting that some species of fish no longer exist above the dam.

Biological and environmental studies on the dam have been completed and the city will soon begin seeking bids for the project, Barton said.

Barton’s yearly update, which was broadcast on local radio and released on the city’s “Crawfordsville Connection” podcast due to the pandemic, also touched on the ongoing response to the coronavirus.

“We’ve not faced anything like this in modern times and there was no playbook to follow,” he said. “Yet I firmly believe we’ve done very well in this community during this incredibly complex situation by applying common sense and making data-driven decisions.”

Barton praised the community’s “perseverance and unity” during the pandemic and acknowledged the more than 50 Montgomery County residents who’ve died from COVID-19.

Despite the economic impact of the virus, the city’s property tax collections were normal and there was only a slight decrease in local income taxes, Barton said.

The impact on gas tax revenue, which provides street maintenance funding, remains uncertain, he added.

The city ended last year with $30.1 million, according to the clerk-treasurer’s records, up from $29.7 million in 2019. Barton entered the mayor’s office in 2012 with a cash balance of $21 million.

Montgomery County Administrator Tom Klein also provided an update on the county’s operations during the broadcast.

Klein praised county officials for rising to the occasion and providing services during the pandemic.

“Every facet of county government was affected by the virus, and every department rallied in order to meet this challenge,” he said.

“We believe 2021 will be a year in which we can all get back to the business of helping each other,” Klein added.

The county distributed more than $50 million in property tax revenue to towns, schools, townships, libraries and the City of Crawfordsville in 2020.

Dispatchers in the Central Communications Center answered more than 77,000 911 calls and the probation department provided more than $380,000 in grants.

The highway department paved 12 miles of roads and sealed cracks in 30 miles of the newest roads.

The community updates are sponsored by the League of Women Voters of Montgomery County and the Indiana Federation of Business & Professional Women.

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