Handicapped Services construction approved, despite water worries

By: 
Adam Rollins
Staff Writer

A new service facility for people with developmental disabilities has been approved for construction at the corner of Highway 47 and Dry Fork Road.

Warren County Handicapped Services, a nonprofit that provides skill building, recreation and personal services, is planning to build a 4,900-square-foot facility at the site. The new building will provide more than double the program space compared to the retrofitted home the agency currently operates in at 703 First St. in Warrenton.

But before construction of the new facility can begin, Handicapped Services needed its site plan approved by the Warrenton city government. That gave neighbors a chance to air their concerns about water drainage from the uphill property which threatens to damage their homes.

Neighbor John Fahrni, who lives just to the west, said drainage running across the back of his property is already washing away soil. He worried that turning sod into blacktop will worsen that problem.

William James, another neighbor, said water issues have begun to affect his home’s foundation. He said any more water could damage homes and property values.

In response to those concerns, project engineer Eric Kirchner, with Cochran Engineering, said the facility’s stormwater drainage plans had been upgraded. He said a line of stormwater intakes and a new holding basin should actually decrease the amount of runoff from the property.

“All this water ... that currently runs into the back of these lots, we’re intercepting,” Kirchner commented.

Warrenton aldermen were satisfied that the construction plan would prevent or improve future flooding concerns. They voted 5-0 to approve the project, with Alderman Gary Auch abstaining due to previous affiliation as a Handicapped Services board member.

City Planning and Development Director Neil Fick said he also received 23 letters in support of the project.

Community benefit

The new Handicapped Services facility will allow the nonprofit to serve over 60 clients at its daily programs. The current facility can only seat 25, and has to put clients on a waiting list, said Executive Director Kelli Clodfelter.

The new facility will better accommodate clients with mobility challenges, and has been better designed for providing engaging educational and recreational activities, Clodfelter said. She was relieved to be through the hurdle of getting building approval, and thankful to the community members and agencies that have made the project happen.

“We’re excited to get going. It’s been a long process,” Clodfelter commented. “Our engineers worked very closely with the city to make sure our rerouting of water would be beneficial to the neighborhood. We want the neighbors to be happy.”

Clodfelter anticipates ground will break on the facility in September after a contractor has been selected. Handicapped Services’ new building will likely open in late summer next year, she said.

The biggest remaining hurdle now is financing for the project. Construction is being paid for in part by a $500,000 community development block grant from the Department of Housing and Urban Development.

However, Clodfelter said about half of the building cost is being covered by tax credits that Handicapped Services needs to sell to raise funds. When a business purchases tax credits, it can recover 70 percent of the purchase price as a reduction in future taxes, Clodfelter explained.

“We have lots of tax credits to sell, but with COVID and everything that’s hit, businesses that want to purchase tax credits are not as many as they usually are,” she commented.

If the nonprofit isn’t able to sell the credits by later this year, it will have to get a bank loan to cover construction while selling the remainder of the credits, Clodfelter added.

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