Salamonie River flood control meetings with staff from the Army Corps of Engineers will begin in March, Portland Mayor Randy Geesaman told Jay County Commissioners Monday.

Geesaman said the Corps has been doing cost/benefit analysis on the project, a process which required getting assessed valuations for all properties in the 2011 and 2015 flood zone.

“It’s not just the downtown buildings,” said commissioner Barry Hudson.

Geesaman agreed.

“It’s a pretty widespread area they’re looking at,” the mayor said.

While Geesaman had hoped that the meetings with the Corps would begin in January, the cost/benefit portion had resulted in a delay.

“They’ve been requiring more information,” he said.

The county is partnering with the City of Portland for the local share of the cost of the Army Corps study.

Meanwhile, the county has also contracted with the engineering firm of Butler Fairman and Seufert for a study of Portland’s flooding issues related to Millers Branch, which drains land north of the city through residential and commercial neighborhoods en route to the Salamonie.

During a 2017 meeting with Choice One Engineering of Portland, commissioners were told that the Corps not only had jurisdiction over the Salamonie River but Millers Branch as well.

Hudson pressed the mayor on whether or not that was actually the case, and Geesaman said he’d try to get an answer.

Commissioner Chuck Huffman said he had also posed that question to Butler Fairman and Seufert but had not yet received an answer.

Geesaman said the offices of U.S. Sen. Joe Donnelly and Rep. Jim Banks had been helpful in getting an initial response from Norfolk and Southern Railway about the railroad trestle across the Salamonie near Blaine Pike and West Water Street.

Norfolk and Southern rail traffic generally ends at the Tyson Mexican Original plant west of the city, although there are rail cars and other equipment on tracks east of Portland.

“That is an obstacle,” said Geesaman, noting that the railroad trestle is located at a sharp bend in the river and is believed to be a factor in impeding the flow. “Maybe there is some option there.”

Commissioners gave unanimous approval to the purchase of new accident extrication equipment for Jay County Rescue 19 that will replace an old “jaws of life” hydraulic unit that has been in use since the 1970s.

Cost of the Amkus ION cutter, spreader, ram and related equipment will be $31,285. Emergency management director Ralph Frazee said his office already has about $5,400 on hand from past donations from the public. The balance will be paid from the county’s cumulative capital development fund.

The new unit will be battery powered, while the current equipment requires the use of a generator.

“You’re probably saving at least 15 minutes,” said commissioner Mike Leonhard.

Commissioners also heard an update from community developer Ami Huffman, who is working on a number of projects including housing options and the possibility of an early childhood development center making use of space now used by Jay Schools.

Huffman is working with Youth Service Bureau, United Way of Jay County and The Portland Foundation on the project.

Transform Consulting of Columbia City has been contracted to conduct a feasibility study and will look at the Judge Haynes Elementary School building, the General Shanks Elementary School building and the current administrative office building.

The Haynes building is slated for closure at the end of the current school year, and it is possible that one or more of the other two could become available if further consolidation occurs.

In other business, commissioners:

•Signed a 2018 management contract with Jay County Hospital for Jay Emergency Medical Service at a rate of $1,100 per month.

•Approved a tax abatement study by Umbaugh and Associates related to the potential second wind farm in the county. The estimated cost of $4,000 to $5,000 will be paid by Colorado-based Scout Clean Energy.

•Acting as the county drainage board, agreed to set in motion consolidating the small M.L. Sommers Watershed with the Salamonie River Watershed. Currently the Sommers Watershed drains just 119 acres via one tile, county surveyor Brad Daniels told the board.