Council agrees to provide money for park improvements

Candy Neal/The Herald
Dubois County Park officials are hopeful of being able to move forward with the first phase of improvements to the park. One of the projects to be done is adding additional RV campsites to the park.

By CANDY NEAL
cneal@dcherald.com

The county plans to provide the Dubois County Park Board with an additional $350,000 to cover the extra cost for its first phase of park improvements.

Dubois County Council members consented to appropriating money from the county’s local income tax-economic development fund. The appropriation will likely be officially approved in December, as all council members at Monday evening’s meeting consented. Councilman Alex Hohl was not at the meeting.

The park board has a master plan for various improvements to be done at Dubois County Park, which will be worked on over several years. The first phase of improvements that was put out for bid this summer included adding RV campsites, a restroom building/information center and a paved parking lot near the restroom building, as well as making trail improvements.

The lone bid received for that phase was just over $1 million, twice as much as expected and two times more than what the park board has available.

The park has a $250,000 Land and Water Conservation grant from the Indiana Department of Natural Resources and match funding in its coffers to cover a $500,000 project.

Christine Prior, president of the Dubois County Park Board, told the council that the overage was due to the current challenges in the supply chain and increased construction costs. The park board and its project engineer, Dan Engelbrecht of Hafer Design, has looked at ways to cut the cost, such as tapping into a nearby water pipe instead of laying 10 linear feet of piping. But even with the tweaks, the project will cost between $850,000 and $900,00, Prior explained.

She talked to the Dubois County Commissioners about receiving funding from the American Rescue Plan money the county has received. Originally they thought that money could be used for a project like this. But they have since learned this project may not qualify for the money. No one has received a definitive answer from the federal government. So that option was taken off the table.

“We don’t want to put the county at risk,” Prior told the county council.

However, the state grant funding could also be at risk if the current project cannot be done as planned.

“If we do not get $350,000 from the county, we will probably have to go back to the drawing board completely. We can’t do the plan as we submitted it for the grant,” Prior said. “And that means we can probably only do one of those things on our own.” People in the community have been giving donations, but it’s not close to being enough the cover the $350,000, she said.

Prior told the council that there would be a good return on the investment made into the park. Campsite rentals bring in about $50,000 per year, which goes into the county’s general fund.

“With these new campsites, we feel like we can raise another $15,000 to $20,000 a year,” she said. “There is a return on the investment cash wise, and also quality of life for the residents of Dubois County.” Ninety% of the campers are from Dubois County, she added.

The council agreed that spending the $350,000 on park improvements would be money well spent. “It’s a real jewel,” Council President Mike Kluemper said of Dubois County Park. “It just needs polishing.”

A second round of bids for the park improvements will be opened in December.