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Miami County Denies Responsibility For Major Dam Repairs

Repairing six dams in a lakefront neighborhood could cost up to $1.5 million.

Hidden Hills Dam

Photo: Bill Shaw

A dam in Hidden Hills is one of six that need major structural repairs.

Miami County Commissioners’ attorney is denying the county has any responsibility for six high-hazard dams in a subdivision just outside of Peru.

The state discovered the dams in Hidden Hills this fall and found they had major structural issues.

The Miami County Commissioners’ Attorney Pat Roberts issued a written opinion this week stating the county should not accept responsibility for the inspection, repair and maintenance of the dams.

When the neighborhood developer built the community, he asked the county to maintain the roads built over the dams, but did not ask it to do the same for the dams.

“All the documents that I’ve reviewed are absolutely silent as to dams,” Roberts says.

But Miami County Commissioner and Hidden Hills resident Larry West says a steering committee representing the neighborhood disagrees with Roberts’ opinion and is seeking outside legal counsel.

“If there’s not agreement, then I would assume that there could potentially be a lawsuit involved between the owners in that area and the county,” West says.

He says the steering committee met with an engineering firm earlier this month. That firm estimates the cost to inspect, repair and maintain just one of the dams could be as much as $250,000.

That means the total cost to inspect and repair all six dams could equal $1.5 million.

“With 43 homes out there, if each one of the homes was assessed, we’re looking at $35,000 per resident, which would not be affordable for most of the residents,” West says.

The neighborhood residents are still considering forming a special taxing district called a conservancy district to help pay for the dam maintenance, but West says that could be unfair for residents who do not live close to one of the dams.

“Maybe they live in the housing edition, but they do not live on water,” he says. “So, how much is their benefit from those lakes?”

Roberts says the next step in determining who is responsible for the dams is to research the laws that were in place when the dams were constructed.

West says he has asked the Department of Natural Resources to present the state statute that would confirm the  residents’ responsibility for the dam, and so far, the DNR has not done so.

The Hidden Hills steering committee plans to meet with another engineering firm next week.

Taylor Killough

Taylor Killough is a graduate of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and has studied anthropology and digital journalism. She has professional experience in education and communications and is excited to be a part of the award-winning team at WFIU/WTIU.

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