ARTICLE

Ownership switch to aid Delhi dam rebuilding effort

Lake Delhi residents will vote Tuesday on a $6.1 million bond issue

A large sandbar is visible after water from Lake Delhi flowed through the breached dam. Photographed Sunday, July 25, 2010, in Delhi. (Jim Slosiarek/SourceMedia Group News)
A large sandbar is visible after water from Lake Delhi flowed through the breached dam. Photographed Sunday, July 25, 2010, in Delhi. (Jim Slosiarek/SourceMedia Group News)

DELHI — Members of the Lake Delhi Recreation Association, which owns the failed dam that impounded the former Delaware County lake, voted 420 to 16 on Sunday to authorize their board to transfer ownership of the dam to the community’s official governing body.

Leaders of the effort to rebuild the dam and restore the lake said Sunday’s vote bodes well for a successful outcome in another key election Tuesday, when Lake Delhi residents will vote on a $6.1 million bond issue to help fund the rebuilding effort.

Though that margin may not be as overwhelming as Sunday’s vote was, recreation association Executive Director Maggie Burger said she is confident the bond issue will get the 60 percent super-majority needed for passage.

“Tuesday is a very important day. The outcome of the bond issue could be the difference in getting the lake back or not,” said Steve Leonard, president of the Lake Delhi Combined Recreational Facility and Water Quality District, the lake area’s official governing body.

That bond money constitutes the local match for the $5 million in state aid sought by Lake Delhi residents, he said.

The overwhelming support for transferring dam ownership “is an incredible vote of confidence in your leaders,” Larry Murphy, a lobbyist working to secure state and county financial support for the rebuild effort, told more than 100 people gathered at the Delhi Legion Hall for an informational meeting.

State, county and federal officials have told Lake Delhi leaders that they need to transfer ownership of the dam to a public entity in order qualify for financial assistance.

In conversations with legislators and state officials, Murphy said he frequently encountered assertions that Lake Delhi is not a public resource. Sunday’s vote, he said, will “let the state know it is a public lake.”

Attendees at Sunday’s meeting were also told that the dam will be rebuilt to “moderate hazard” specifications at a cost of about $10 million.

Although the Department of Natural Resources has not signed off on the “moderate hazard” standard, a state-funded engineering study by Stanley Consultants of Muscatine, using DNR criteria, has reached that conclusion, said dam expert Pat Colgan, a volunteer liaison with Stanley.

Another Lake Delhi volunteer, Brian Hughes, told attendees that the removal of large items of flood debris from the lake bed and common bank areas has been completed. Once all small items are picked up in the spring, the lake bed will be ready for the water to come back, he said.

Polls will be open from noon to 8 p.m. Tuesday at the Delhi Community Center for the 832 owners of property in the taxing district who are eligible to vote on the bond proposal.

The amount of the proposed bond is the maximum allowable under a law that limits general obligation bonds to 5 percent of the borrowing entity’s assessed value, according to Larry Burger of Speer Financial, the Waterloo firm hired to help the taxing district secure the bonds.

The current assessed value of property in the taxing district is $121.8 million. As a result of the dewatered lake, the assessed value will shrink by 38 percent to $75.5 million in the next fiscal year, meaning the debt limit will be reduced to $3.7 million.

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