VERSAILLES – Batesville officials asked Ripley County Commissioners Aug. 19 to authorize improvements to Merkel Road between State Road 46 and Lammers Pike. The county road leads to the city’s new and vacant 72-acre industrial park. They also requested that the county either pay for the project or partner with the city on it.
After studying the narrow road, consultant Steve Moore of VS Engineering, Indianapolis, suggested widening it from 20 to 24 feet and resurfacing it, plus adding a stone shoulder. The projected $767,000 price tag includes construction, $514,800; right of way costs, $123,000; administration and inspection expenses, $52,000; and design engineering, $77,200.
Gene Lambert, Batesville City Council president and Batesville Economic Development Commission member, told commissioners, “Whatever amount you can help us with is certainly appreciated.”
BEDC President Andy Saner reported so far the city has invested $1.9 million in the industrial park on land purchases, surveys and other legal documents. In 2009 HWC Engineering, Indianapolis, estimated to fully develop the site, vastly improving Merkel Road and adding infrastructure (a road from Merkel Road to all lots and utilities within the park) would cost $8.4 million. The BEDC president admitted, “It’s a tremendous cost for us.”
Saner explained, “We feel like this road is inadequate to support what we’re trying to do.” The panel is exploring the possibility of constructing a shell building at the park to entice a business to relocate there. Lambert said companies looking at sites within the park “see issues with the road.”
Lambert noted the upgraded Merkel Road would not look like Lammers Pike, which is very wide with cement curbs. “That’s not the type of road we’re proposing here. Just a widened, flat road that adequately handles two semi trucks going in opposing directions at the same time.”
“We’ve done some traffic monitoring,” according to Mayor Rick Fledderman. During a one-week traffic count in late July 28, most days the numbers were between 500-600. “With this road being brought up to an adequate level, we believe these numbers will be greatly enhanced.”