Plans to let the dominoes fall in Elkhart

NOW: Plans to let the dominoes fall in Elkhart

ELKHART, Ind. -- When one domino falls, they all fall! Elkhart's mayor, Rod Roberson, is pitching a downtown "domino" plan to prep the city for an influx of future development. Before things like more housing or new development can happen, there are sewer and water drainage issues that must be addressed.

The first domino is the Benham Avenue infrastructure project.

"Focusing on water mains and sewer separation," said Corinne Straight, director of communications. "It is also going to reduce flooding in this area, it's going to improve draining, which is going to be a key area for future development."

The $14.5 million proposal will go in front of the city's finance committee Thursday, before going in front of the council for a second time on Monday, Feb. 5.

 "It's an extension of water lines to match how the streets lay out these days, and it's also a change to the second and third street split which is at the Benham underpass, so it's also a major traffic conversion project and a streetscape project," Straight said. "So, while most of the work is being done underground, people will see a good difference above ground as we add wider sidewalks and change the traffic split to be condensed into one road."

City councilmember David Henke said he is hesitant to support the project without more information, saying he didn't realize street flooding was a concern.

"I would like to draw the money from another area, I don't have a problem with the proposal other than we need to know the rest of the story," Henke said. "So writing a blank check is never a good thing in government. We need to know the rest of the story and I think the public deserves to know what is the ultimate plan for this expenditure and what is it leading up to."

The money, as the project stands now, will come from American Rescue Plan and capital fund dollars.

The city affirms the "domino" plan is part of a bigger plan to bring development throughout the whole city, this first project is simply the first step.

"To understand that nothing happens above ground when it comes to development and investment without that infrastructure being completed, being modernized, and working really well," Straight said.  "When we look at infrastructure projects, that's how we look at it; the underground has to come first."

And business owners like Gina Yoder at Gigi's on Main are thrilled about the direction the city is headed in.

"I'm super excited about it, I think everything that's being done will be great for Elkhart, it's just another stepping stone to where we want to go," she said.

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