Chelsea Schneider, Municipal Innovations Specialist, Aim
Following a torrential downpour that left many Sheridan residents grappling with floodwater, town and county officials partnered on a series of innovative solutions to offer long-term relief.
In June, community leaders came together to celebrate upgrades to the town’s stormwater infrastructure. The work includes drainage improvements funded by a first-of-its-kind federal loan through the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The Indiana Office of Community and Rural Affairs also granted the town $500,000 for stormwater upgrades.
Altogether, the work reflects a major expansion to the capacity of Sheridan’s existing infrastructure and aims to solve drainage issues that caused severe flooding in 2011.
Sheridan Town Council President David Kinkead said he’s often been asked how many people will see positive effects from the project. When local leaders started researching the issue, they heard stories of flooded streets, yards, houses and basements.
“It is really hard to tell how many people are really going to be affected because some people think a sump pump and a wet crawl space is just the norm. But I think people down the road are going to understand this drainage project is going to take care of a lot of the issues we have,” Kinkead said at the event.
Town officials reached out to the Hamilton County Surveyor’s office and Drainage Board following the flood. The result: Town and county leaders embraced a collaborative spirit to solve the problem, Kinkead said. The county contracted with Banning Engineering for a watershed study of the area of town most prone to flooding. The work includes relieving drainage issues on a road that held several inches of ice during the winter; installing a 48-inch mainline storm sewer and new ditch; and adding piping to reduce infiltration into the sanitary sewer system.
“The plan is an excellent example of how working together municipalities can complete projects and fund them in innovative ways,” said Joe Miller, project manager with Banning Engineering. “A project of this magnitude typically takes 20 years to complete and this happened in less than five. It’s pretty impressive the amount of people who have sweat equity in this project.”
Alleviating the risks of flooding was a team effort, Hamilton County Commissioner Mark Heirbrandt said. Along with Banning Engineering’s watershed study, Taft Law served as counsel to Sheridan on the USDA loan.
“As I reflect upon this project and being involved in it since 2013,” Heirbrandt said, “I can’t help think about the many people that I’ve spoken with over the past several years that had been affected by the flooding and how it’s impacted them.”
To fund the work and pay back the federal loan, Sheridan instituted a stormwater utility fee. In the meantime, the county loaned Sheridan money as the town’s funds build up.
“We all came together, saw a project through,” Kinkead said, “and it’s for the people we all represent.”