Plan to close drain, create trail

City officials are working to improve drainage issues and provide a new multi-use pedestrian trail that would follow the Von Fange ditch on the city’s northwest side.

The Board of Public Works and Safety has agreed to pay $93,500 to Wessler Engineering in Indianapolis to complete a study that will show whether it’s possible and worthwhile to turn the open Von Fange ditch into a closed stormwater sewer system, said Randy Hamilton, utility director.

Because open drains get clogged up with silt, weeds and trees, they can be costly and time consuming to clean out, Hamilton said.

When ditches become overgrown, it takes up stormwater capacity and restricts water flow, taking excess water longer to outlet at the East Fork White River.

The piping system would allow the water to drain away faster and help relieve flooding of area streets and in people’s yards, he added.

Flooding is not the only issue that would be helped by installing a piping system, Hamilton said.

It also would reduce insect infestations, mainly mosquitoes that are attracted to standing water, keep pollutants such as trash from getting into the stormwater system and ultimately ending up in the East Fork White River and prevent children from playing in and possibly getting hurt or drowning in the ditch.

“We hope this will provide us with a more cost-effective way of maintaining the ditch and making it safer,” he said.

The Von Fange ditch is regulated and controlled by the Jackson County Drainage Board, which is responsible for maintaining all legal drains in the county; however, no attention is given to the Von Fange and other ditches in Seymour, Hamilton said.

“They are not maintaining the drains in Seymour due to a lack of funding,” he said. “The county only maintains ditches where they are collecting ditch assessment fees.”

Instead of maintaining the Von Fange, the county does not charge the city the assessment fee and the city maintains the ditch, Hamilton added.

If the city decides to install the underground stormwater sewer line, the Von Fange ditch could become a multi-purpose trail.

The trail would begin near Fountain Street and follow the ditch south to Community Drive.

“Seymour has some trails within the city and this project, if done, could add several miles to that and with this location be more accessible to the community,” Hamilton said.

The report from Wessler Engineering will determine whether the plan works, what benefits the city will receive and what the overall cost of the project will be.

If approved, the project would be paid for through stormwater utility funds, Hamilton said.

Board of works member Jim Rebber, who also serves on the city council, asked if the project would help eliminate flood areas and decrease homeowners’ insurance costs in those neighborhoods near the Von Fange ditch.

Hamilton said that wouldn’t necessarily be an end result because those costs are based on flood plain maps.

“Will it help? Sure,” Hamilton said of the project’s impact on flooding. “Will it eliminate all flooding situations? No. As far as the insurance part, that’s really up to the mortgage companies.”

Jeremy Gray, the city’s building commissioner, said if the work proceeds then there is a chance that changes could be made to the flood plain maps.

“We can get with FEMA and let them know what we’ve got and that may make a difference,” he said.

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January Rutherford is a reporter for The (Seymour) Tribune. She can be reached at jrutherford@tribtown.com or 812-523-7069.