City acquires property for bypass project

Seymour has secured the last five properties it needs to start construction on the southern extension of Burkart Boulevard.

Through eminent domain, the city purchased the properties earlier this month for a total of $707,593. The amount was more than city officials anticipated having to pay, Mayor Craig Luedeman said.

When the properties were originally appraised late last year, they were valued at $560,045, but court-appointed appraisals came back last month around $140,000 higher, Luedeman said.

“It was higher than we expected, but it was still within our scope,” he said.

The properties were purchased by the city’s redevelopment commission, which is funded through revenue generated from the city’s two tax increment finance districts put into place in 2008. Those districts encompass the Eastside Industrial Park and Cummins and Freeman Field Industrial Park and capture tax money from new industrial development or increased property values in the TIF district.

More than half of the $707,593 went to Seymour Community School Corp. and Parkland Inc., which owns Village Green Mobile Home Park on the city’s far south side.

The school system received $287,155, and Parkland Inc. $202,666. The amounts are considered “just compensation,” according to the appraisers’ report.

The school property needed by the city includes 10 to 11 acres of farm ground and will impact the corporation’s access to and egress from Seymour-Jackson Elementary School, the district’s transportation building, central office and the new ag science facility.

Other properties acquired by the city through eminent domain were owned by Paul and Angie Rennekamp, Robert VonDielingen and Warren and Doris Keyser.

Eminent domain is the process by which government can take private property for public use with fair compensation.

Even though the properties now legally belong to the city, Luedeman expects some litigation to continue.

“I know Parkland has filed an objection,” he said. “He’s (Gregg Pardieck) contending we’re dividing his farm.”

In all, the city spent around $3 million to acquire 24 parcels from 14 owners, Luedeman said. All of the properties were considered vacant or unused.

It has taken the city a year to acquire the property needed to build the $20 million road, which will allow motorists, especially semitrailer traffic, to bypass Seymour from the intersection of West U.S. 50 and Airport Road to Burkart Boulevard and East U.S. 50.

There is still some property owned by the airport that is needed for the project, but the city has to wait until the Federal Aviation Administration signs off on the transfer first, Luedeman said.

“It might be a year out before we get those,” he said.

The overall project has not been delayed, however, and construction is scheduled to start in spring 2020, Luedeman said. The project will go out for bids in November.

That’s good news for the city’s next mayor, who will take office in January 2020.

“The next mayor will actually build this road,” Luedeman said.

The first phase will take Burkart Boulevard from U.S. 50 on the east side of the city south through farm fields to South O’Brien Street near Silgan Plastics.

The project includes construction of a railroad overpass to give motorists a route for getting around trains traveling on the Louisville and Indiana Railroad line, which runs through the city, bisecting it into east and west halves. The overpass will cross the rail line southeast of Silgan and just north of East County Road 340N.

It will take two years to build Phase I.

The second and third phases of the south extension project will connect Burkart to Freeman Field by taking the route to South Airport Road, which will then reconnect with U.S. 50 on the west side of the city.

Along with the new road, the overall project also includes a 12-foot-wide walking and biking trail.

Although he has put a lot of work into getting the project ready, Luedeman is not upset he won’t be in office when it starts.

“It’s such a long process,” he said. “This is a six- to 10-year project. The thing that nobody will see is all the hard work that goes into it before, but I’m just happy the next mayor doesn’t have to do all that.”