MIDDLEBURY — A project to connect a Winnebago factory to the town water supply passed the final hurdle this week at the Middlebury Town Council meeting. 

The town agreed to borrow money from the Local Major Moves Construction Fund to pay for what’s called the Winnebago Water Main Loop project.

The project, which is meant to provide adequate fire protection for a $12.2 million factory expansion, is expected to cost about $344,900.

“We need to boost up the fire flow volume for their suppression systems,” Town Manager Mary Cripe said. Prior to the loop, the systems ran at about 600 to 700 gallons per minute and will increase to around 1,700 gallons per minute.

Winnebago has agreed to pay back 50 percent of the project cost over five years, Cripe said, and Elkhart County Redevelopment Commission has agreed to use money from the Middlebury East TIF District, owned by the county, to repay the other 50 percent back to the town.

“There is an interlocal agreement with the county to reimburse those funds,” she said.

The project will create a water line loop about 4,000 feet long, spanning from Grace Lawn Cemetery to the Winnebago plant, along C.R. 14. The area is not currently annexed into the town, though it’s not far from the town line and there are hopes to have the area annexed in the near future.

Winnebago’s expansion was planned in two phases, starting with a combined 180,000 square feet of new space in the form of a new manufacturing and assembly building and a new lamination building. Phase 2 would include another two buildings for manufacturing and customer service and an expansion of the lamination space.

The expansion was said to be worth about $10 million in real estate, $1.2 million in machinery and $16.8 million in payroll for 225 new jobs. The Elkhart County Redevelopment Commission heard about the plan in April, when discussing separate water loop projects for Jayco and Winnebago.

Given all the recent water and sewer projects in town, including a project along U.S. 20 from C.R. 35 to S.R. 15, the Indiana Department of Transportation has also agreed to allow the town to add water and sewer works along the shoulder of the pavement.

“With the lake there at Westlake Subdivision, they’re going to be filling that in and there’s a whole bunch of things going on,” Cripe said, hinting at the possibility of future projects to the west. The town approved a sewer study including finding a resolution for failing septic systems in the Westlake subdivision.

In other council action:

n Bids came in for the 2019 paving projects. They included Rieth Riley Construction Co. of South Bend, with a base bid of $783,767; Welsh & Kelly Inc. of South Bend, with a base bid of $730,844.30; Phend & Brown of Milford, with a base bid of $939,348; and Niblock Excavating of Bristol, with a base bid of $873,249. The council took the bids under consideration.

n The town approved agreements with INDOT for three Community Crossings grants. The grants will fund paving of State Street and Winslow Street for $335,760; 14th Street, Mall Street, Lawrence Street, Brown Street, Highland Park Dive and Woodbridge Court for $622,500; and Crystal Valley Drive for $41,739.

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