HAMILTON COUNTY, Ind. — A 42-mile utility district is coming to northern Hamilton County.

Wednesday’s groundbreaking comes as the county moves toward approving its 2024 budget. Officials said they hope the project brings big opportunities for economic development.

Phase one of this utility expansion will cost $45 million, but one commissioner said it has the potential to reshape northern Hamilton County.

“If this was something that was simple to do, it would have already been done,” Commissioner Mark Heirbrandt said.

Heirbrandt called Wednesday’s groundbreaking a “monumental accomplishment.” The expansion will bring water and sewer services to Baker’s Corner, and county officials hope it’ll spur growth up U.S. 31 to Kokomo.

“I don’t think anyone realizes how large this district is,” he said. “It actually encompasses 42 square miles of territory. To put that into perspective, for purposes of comparison, Carmel is 49 square miles.”

Wessler Engineering CEO Marty Wessler agrees, saying it’s exciting how quickly they were able to get to work. He added it usually takes up to a decade for a new utility district project to be undertaken.

“With the amount of funds invested in this area and in this project, we’re at less than 2 ½ years from concept to beginning, and completion will be at the end of next year,” Wessler said.

Heirbrandt said it was made possible in large part by American Rescue Plan Act funds, which came with strings attached.

“You couldn’t use it at the time for anything with bricks and mortar or road projects,” Heirbrandt said. “So this gave us an opportunity to address some septic systems and things like that.”

When it’s finished, they’re hoping to see a combination of residential, commercial and mixed-use developments go up along the Highway 31 corridor. Heirbrandt said the district will also bring water and sewer services to a new National Guard armory facility.

“We’re looking for high-earning jobs to be created as well as the buildings and so forth to be aesthetically pleasing from U.S. 31,” he said.

The second phase will cost $20 million, funded entirely through ARPA.

A public hearing on the 2024 budget is being held Wednesday night. Adoption of the budget is scheduled for Monday, Oct. 16.