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Evansville voters will have referendum on lake

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GINA R. HEINE
September 10, 2008
— Evansville voters will be asked on the Nov. 4 ballot if the city should spend up to $2 million to restore the drained Lake Leota.

About a dozen residents encouraged the council to restore the lake Tuesday night before the council voted 7-0 to add the advisory referendum to the ballot. Alderman Tom Cothard was absent.


The non-binding referendum will read: “Shall the Evansville Common Council approve spending an amount not to exceed $2 million in order to restore Lake Leota?”


The project potentially would add a $73.23 tax on a $100,000 home for a 10-year bond, $59.28 for a 15-year bond or $50.20 for a 20-year bond, according to a council memo from City Administrator Dan Wietecha.


The lake, a centerpiece in the city, was drained in 2005 without a plan for its dredging. It has sat empty since.


If voters approve the restoration, however, the dredging could be done by spring. It is being put out for bids, council President Mason Braunschweig said, and the council will meet Nov. 11 to approve a bid, if that’s what the voters decide.


The council also approved these items related to the dredging:


--A contract with Daria and Declan Every to place about 200,800 cubic yards of dredged soil material on their 100 acres of farmland near the lake. The city will pay the Everys $110,000, according to the contract.


--A contract with landowner Rod Courtier for easement during the project.


--Hiring Vierbicher Associates to prepare bid documents and contract specifications for the project at a cost of no more than $10,000.


Residents provided numerous reasons to restore the lake, from its present condition harming the community’s image to providing a place for kids to fish just as older residents enjoyed when they were young.


A couple of people questioned the need for a referendum, citing previous referendums that voters approved to restore the lake. Randy Rinehart of the Save Our Lake Environment group presented the council with a list of nearly 500 signatures of residents who support the project.


Several dollar amounts have been used in the lake discussion since engineers first presented a plan in February. The latest engineer’s opinion of probable cost came in on Friday at $1.99 million.


That, however, does not include a box culvert to the northwest of the lake that would help restore the natural flow of Allen Creek into the northern part the lake. That addition, engineers said, could add up to 50 years of life on the dredging project.


Discussion Tuesday night included whether or not to add the culvert project to the referendum price tag because engineers said it would add $200,000 to $400,000.


Mayor Sandy Decker said redirecting the flow of the creek would require permits and legal paperwork with the railroad and state, which would slow down the dredging project.


Council members decided not to change the project at the last moment. A $2.4 million price tag could decrease support, some alderpersons said, and engineers said the culvert project could be done in the coming years.


View documents:


Probable cost estimates [PDF]
Memo regarding tax impact [PDF]
Agreement with landowner [PDF]

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