August 11, 2008

 

 

 

 

The Ellettsville, Indiana, Town Council met in a Special Session on Monday, August 11, 2008, at the Fire Department Training and Conference Room.  The meeting lasted from 4 until 7:10 p.m.  Town Council members present were Dan Swafford, President; Dianna Bastin, Vice-President; David Drake, Scott Oldham and Phillip Smith.   Supervisors present were Jim Ragle, Street Commissioner; Jim Davis, Fire Chief; Tony Bowlen, Town Marshal and Frank Nierzwicki, Director of Planning Services.  Sandra Hash, Clerk-Treasurer was also present.

 

Year 2009 Budgets

 

The Council and Supervisors reviewed and discussed the budgets. 

 

 

 

The Ellettsville, Indiana, Town Council met in Regular Session on Monday, August 11, 2008, at the Fire Department Training and Conference Room.  Dan Swafford called the meeting to order at 7:30 p.m.  David Drake led the Pledge of Allegiance and Phillip Smith led in prayer. 

 

Roll Call:  Members present were Dan Swafford, President; Dianna Bastin, Vice-President, David Drake, Scott Oldham and Phillip Smith.  Sandra Hash, Clerk-Treasurer; Mike Spencer, Attorney and Rick Coppock, Town Engineer were also present.    

 

Supervisors Present:  Mike Cornman, Jim Ragle, Mike Farmer and Jeff Farmer were present.  

 

Approval of the Minutes

 

Dan Swafford entertained a motion to approve the minutes of the regular meeting July 28 and the Budget meetings August 4th and August 6, 2008.  Dianna Bastin made the motion.  Phillip Smith seconded.  Motion carried.

 

Action to Pay Accounts Payable Vouchers

 

David Drake made a motion we pay the Accounts Payable Vouchers.  Dianna Bastin seconded.  Motion carried. 

 

Ordinances on First Reading

 

Ordinance 08-07 to amend Chapter 51 of the ETC concerning Water Rates and Charges

 

Sandra Hash explained Umbaugh presented a rate analysis which explained the need for the increases.  This ordinance outlines the monthly metered usage, minimum charges, municipal hydrants charges and sprinkler charges.  The rates listed in the table are subject to approval and adjustment by the Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission.  The rates, as adjusted by the IURC, shall become effective upon final approval by the IURC without further action by the Town Council unless Commission’s decision is timely appealed. 

 

Phillip Smith asked the standard house meter size.    It was answered 5/8.  Sandra clarified the first 3,000 gallons would be $3.93 per 1,000 gallon and the next 5,000 gallons would be $3.47 per 1,000 gallon.

 

Ordinances on Second Reading

 

Ordinance 08-06 to rezone 101 Poplar Drive from R-1 to C-2

 

Sandra Hash presented the ordinance and explained the property is between Indiana Drive and Poplar Drive and consists of four lots.  The property currently has a house and garage.  The property owners would like to change the zoning from Residential R-1 to “light” Commercial C-2.  The Plan Commission recommended this property for approval. 

 

Charlie Ooley and his wife inherited the property and they do not have any plans at this time.  There will be no gas station or alcohol sold on this property.  Dan Swafford stated this property goes along with the Town’s current redevelopment plan.

 

David Drake made a motion we adopt Ordinance 08-06.  Scott Oldham seconded.  Roll call vote:  Dan Swafford – yes; Dianna Bastin – yes; David Drake – yes; Scott Oldham – yes; Phillip Smith – yes.  Motion carried 5-0.

 

Old Business

 

Question and Answer Session concerning water rate increase

 

Jeff Farmer, Ellettsville Utilities gave a brief summary of why the rate increase is needed.  The last water rate increase was in 1998.  The Umbaugh report shows the revenues are less than the expenses.  There is maintenance work needed on the McNeely Street and Louden Road tanks.  There is a million dollars worth of repair and replacements needed in the next ten years on the water lines.  The newest vehicle was purchased in 2003.  Since 1998, the wages, pension and benefits have increased.  Jeff opened the floor to any questions.

 

David Drake asked what the average user increase would be?  Christina, from Umbaugh, stated a minimum user’s rate would increase $2.55 and an average user would have a $3.30 increase.  If the Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission approves the 27.5% increase, the increase could be less.  David Drake stated no one likes to pay more and the Council members will have to pay the increases also.  He reiterated there has not been an increase in ten years and they have professional accountants informing them the increases are necessary to stay solvent.  Ellettsville’s water rate will be considerably lower than other town’s of our size. 

 

Dianna Bastin stated there have been numerous meetings and the Utilities’ Managers did not come up with the rate increase, they had some input.  This has been a long process.  Dan Swafford added that the Utilities’ Department has been expending more than they are bringing in.  Christina researched 2003 – 2007 and found expenses have exceeded the revenues for that period of time.  Little increases dwindle away revenues.  David Drake has had people ask why the Utilities Department waited ten years to have an increase.  The Utilities Department has been able to “get by” with what they had.  Christina stated all the utilities, they work for, will not raise rates until they are operating in the negative.  No one likes increases but it is necessary. 

 

Charlie Ooley asked how much money is kept in a reserve for operating.  Dan stated the State sets the amount needed to be in reserve.  Christina explained the Town has outstanding debt from 1998 bonds and are required to have a Debt Service Reserve Fund of $127,105.  It is recommended to have two months of Operation and Maintenance expenses set aside.  Each month a sixth or a twelfth of Principal and Interest payment needs to be transferred for the next processing period.  Umbaugh is projecting the Town needs to set aside $463,000.  Christina clarified the amounts are regulated by the Town Bond Ordinances which are typical practices of Utility Management. 

 

Bill Schneider asked at the last meeting why the water rates are in the lower thirds compared to other Municipalities but the sewer rates are in the upper twenty-five percent.   Jeff Farmer explained, in the early 1990’s, the Town had an old waste water treatment plant that was failing causing the State and EPA to get involved.  The Town was prompted to build a new waste water treatment plant, with a thirty inch main, costing ten million dollars.  This caused a fifteen dollar increase to the customers.  Mr. Schneider pointed out seven years has passed, there have been more developments and more people hooking onto the sewer; why hasn’t the price gone down?  Jeff stated the loan is for twenty years and the prices will stay as they are until the plant is paid off.  Jeff then answered another question from the last meeting regarding the $100,000 difference in the water cash from 2006; a water booster station was put in for the Woodgate and Meadow Wood customers, Town Hall was remodeled to accommodate office space and a project was completed on Sale Street.  In the last ten years, thirteen miles of new water pipe has been put in and several fire hydrants.  Jeff commented on Special Meters; they were done away with because it was a “nightmare” for the office staff.   A “water only’ meter can be installed for $240 and water only will be billed.  Mr. Schneider stated new lawns require extra water to protect soil erosion and they should not be punished by having to pay the extra cost of the meter or unused sewer.  Mike Farmer explained some new subdivisions, like Autumn Ridge, used

water meters attached to the fire hydrants.  The Utilities Department work with developers on provisions with construction meters.  The Utilities Department knows there are people who put in new yards and they know there is a problem with that but they do not know what the answer is.  Mike stated the real reason, besides the unmanageable part of having special meters, is the Utilities Department has been engaged in replacing all the meters in the system.  The AWWA (American Water Works Association) standards regulate how municipalities run municipal water systems.  They dictate, every ten years, water meters should be replaced to insure all water being used is paid for.  When the Utilities Department started replacing out the meters, they found most of them were twenty to thirty years old.  Their desire was to switch to automated meter reading system which did not accommodate the special meters.  The Utilities Department invested $250,000 for the automated water meter reading system which has enabled the town to employ one person to real all the meters in a three week cycle.  The Town has grown from 3,200 metered customers to 4,700 (27%) in the past ten years; the upgrades to automated meter reading has made it possible to have only one meter reader.  Dan asked about discounts for pool filling.  Mike explained when people have questions or concerns about running up water bills filling pools; they will call the office to ask what to do.  The Utilities Office has a “Customer Action” report system; customers fill out requests for sewer credit, attach pool purchase receipt and dimensions.  The Utilities Office will figure the credit for them.  The Utilities Department can adjust for water leaks that did not go through the sewer system.  They do what they can to give credit when they use water that does not go through the sewer system but there is a limit to that; they have logged over 8,000 responses to “Customer Action” reports. 

 

Bill Schneider asked, for clarification, if a hydrant meter could be checked out for new construction.  It was answered “yes”.  He clarified a previous comment regarding the hydrant meter in Autumn Ridge; he took the hydrant meter off the hydrant in the fall and stored it in his garage.  He gave the meter to Jason Walls in the early spring.  Mr. Schneider does not have a hydrant meter. 

 

Jeff Farmer pointed out a 46% increase of the water tracking from City of Bloomington is not included in the figures.  The increase will be on the purchased water only and not on the entire Operating and Maintenance budget. 

 

Lori Moore, fifteen year resident of Ellettsville stated the sewer bills have always been 75% of the water bill.  The Town needed a new sewer treatment plant.  She reviewed the rate increase numbers and feels it is “outlandish”.  Is there an alternative plan or compromise?  Some households may not be able to handle the increase.   Dan Swafford interrupted Ms. Moore to say the “water rate increase” is being discussed and not the sewer rates.  Ms. Moore asked if the Town is looking into other water sources.  She then asked about the check presented by Vi Simpson when the new sewer plant was being built.  Sandra Hash clarified Vi Simpson assisted the Town in securing a SRF (State Revolving Fund) loan.  Vi presented a check to show the amount the Town saved in interest by using the SRF instead of a bond.  There was no additional money deposited into any account.    Ms. Moore asked if there was a way to “tap into” rivers that have an over flow as a water source.  Mike Farmer explained most of Monroe County is served by the City of Bloomington Utilities.  They get their water from Lake Monroe that is well treated.  We pay a fraction of a cent per gallon of water.  To find another source would be less desirable than the surface water at Lake Monroe and would be more expensive.  Mike explained Ellettsville used to have wells, they could no longer keep up with the demand and that is when they started getting water from Bloomington.

 

Lori Moore asked why everyone is not paying the same sewer rates.  Mike Farmer explained Ellettsville is a residential community and does not have large commercial businesses or big users of water to spread the cost around to be absorbed and produce revenue.  It costs more for Ellettsville to duplicate the same services as the City of Bloomington.  Dan suggested Ms. Moore keep attending Town meetings as we start to get into the sewer discussions and maybe some of her questions will be answered.  There will be no decisions made on sewer rates tonight.

 

Bill Schneider wants clarification; tonight is regarding the water rate increase only and sewer will be later.  When he pays his water bill he feels he is being charged sewer based on water consumption.   Mike Farmer explained the sewer bill would go up if the usage of the water goes up.  The sewer bill is based on the flow of the water through the meter.  The sewer bill of each customer is based on the water meter reading and not based on the water rates.  Ellettsville’s sewer system is made up of three entities:  Ellettsville Sewer Utility, Eastern Richland Sewer Corporation and Northern Richland Sewer Corporation.  They all have a rate structure based on rates they produce themselves to support their operations.  The rate is based on the usage and not the dollar.  Mr. Schneider would like for Ellettsville to consider duplicating Bloomington Utilities services.  The sewer rate, in the summer, is based upon an average of the water usage three months prior.  Mike Farmer has looked into this because there have been requests for it numerous times.  Ellettsville is a residential community and doing this “across the board” for all the customers would make it a necessity for a rate increase, even more.  The Town does not have the industrial commercial base or large number of metered customers, like Bloomington, to produce revenue to do things like this.  Not everyone in Town would need this and the loss in revenue would create a rate hike on its own.  If the Town could provide this type of service, they would.  Mike is willing to sit down with anyone to “crunch some numbers”.  The Utilities Department is not able to give daily guided tours but if anyone is really concerned or interested and have questions, they would be glad to show them around the sewer plant and operations. 

 

Supervisors Comments

 

Mike Farmer, Ellettsville Utilities has an employee, Brandon Correll, they would like to increase his pay to $14.50 an hour based on the fact he successfully obtained a CDL (Commercial Driver’s License) which allows him to drive all the vehicles in the fleet.  He is not a full-time permanent employee, does not receive benefits, hired in at the low pay and does not have paid days off.  Employees with a CDL are paid $14.50 an hour.  Brandon Correll is well trained and very valuable.  Mike Farmer is asking for Council’s approval.

 

Dan Swafford entertained a motion to raise Brandon from $12 to $14.50.  Dianna Bastin made the motion.  David Drake seconded.  Roll call vote:  Dan Swafford – yes; Dianna Bastin – yes; David Drake – yes; Scott Oldham – yes; Phillip Smith – yes.  Motion carried 5-0. 

The following discussion took place before the vote

 

David Drake asked if Brandon would have started at $14.50 if he had the CDL to begin with.  Mike Farmer said yes and added they do not pay the top of the position without the CDL.  This is a Temporary (9 month) Full-Time 40 hour a week position.  He will be laid off right after the holidays.  This position is unique to the Utilities Department; they have a vacant full-time position which allows them to save money in the winter time.  This is how the Utilities Department supplements the work force without burdening the budget. 

 

Sandra Hash, representing the Monroe County Fall Festival, asked for permission to close public streets September 18, 19 and 20 for the Fall Festival.  The streets would be closed from noon on Thursday until midnight Saturday.  The streets involved would be Park Street from State Road 46 around to Ritter.  Dianna Bastin asked for any police officer input.  David Drake stated this closure is customary. 

 

Dan Swafford entertained a motion and asked Mike Cornman for clarification.  Mike Cornman, Deputy Chief of the Fire Department clarified as part of the permit process from the State to have the Fall Festival, the roads needed to be closed.  The ideal street closures would be from Campbell’s Park Drive including the intersection of Turtleback and up to Ritter for the times Sandra mentioned. 

 

Dianna Bastin made the motion.  David Drake seconded.  Roll call vote:  Dan Swafford – yes; Dianna Bastin – yes; David Drake – yes; Scott Oldham – yes; Phillip Smith – yes.  Motion carried 5-0. 

 

Privilege of the Floor

 

Richard Sanders, representing Northern Richland Sewer Corporation is one of three entities using the treatment plant that was completed in 1998.   The construction and operating costs were paid, proportionally, by all three entities.  Northern Richland is the smallest user of the three.  Northern Richland is being disproportionally charged for the Construction Cost Debt Service.  They recently received two packets of information; one from Umbaugh dated July 1 and another dated July 28.  The Umbaugh cover sheets have schedules of information, financial information and rate studies.  The July 1st packet was based on usage (flow into the plant).  The July 28th packet had a change to the Debt Services Charges and labeled those “usage of the plant”.  This change makes Northern Richland percentage of use 21% instead of 7%.  The Debt Service Charges can not be anything related to the use of the plant; it is unfair and unacceptable.  Mr. Sanders is requesting a meeting with the Town Council and their Board of Directors to resolve these differences and disproportionate charges.  These are contractual differences.  The fact that the Town is proposing new charges will change the contractual relationship, if they are implemented.  A request is being made publicly to meet to resolve differences.  Mike Spencer stated the Town is in litigation with Northern and these questions relate to the issue of litigations.  There are two sides to every story.  He suggested the Council to receive the comments but nothing needs to be said at this time.  The Town Council is being represented by counsel and Mike Spencer can not respond.  Mr. Sanders thought the primary point of the litigation was about territory and not the proposed Umbaugh reports on usage.  He does not understand why the July 28th report shows the Debt Service figures as use and usage.  Dan Swafford will speak with Mike Spencer regarding this and get back to Mr. Sanders.  Mr. Sanders has been trying to schedule a meeting since November 2007 and they still want to meet. 

 

Bill Schneider, resident of Autumn Ridge asked how many people drove through the subdivision since the last meeting.  The residents attended this evenings meeting because Frank Nierzwicki was scheduled to address the Council with Autumn Ridge updates.  Frank was called away.  Mr. Schneider does not feel it would be appropriate to give an update without Frank being present.  Dan Swafford asked Rick Coppock to give a brief summary on what he saw in Autumn Ridge. 

 

Rick Coppock talked with the developer and items they agreed to do:

  • Build a sedimentation pond at the end of the roadway stub to the south to stop erosion run-off
  • Stabilize the “pit”
  • Issues behind units 5018 and 5042; erosion areas needed to be repaired
  • Clean up debris from one of the storms
  • Maintain silt fence and clean behind them
  • The portable-john is to be removed

 

David Drake asked if there is anything in Town Code that gives us a basis for making them fill in the “pit”, make it into a lot or can we just make them stabilize it so it isn’t an erosion problem.  Rick Coppock explained under the Town’s Erosion Control Ordinance we can make them stabilize it and prevent it from washing sediment off the site.  A single unit was not on the original plan but added later to the location where the “pit” is now located.  Rick can only make them stabilize what is currently out there. 

 

Bill Schneider asked if the area with the “pit” is a buildable lot with the drainage situation.  Rick answered there are ways to build on any lot; depending on how much you want to spend.  Dan Swafford suggested Autumn Ridge be put on the agenda for the next Town Council meeting.  Bill Schneider gave Frank a list of items that need to be taken care of; all the homes, the “pit” and erosion situation by unit.  He submitted a copy of the detail list for the members of the Town Council. 

 

Scott Oldham asked Rick Coppock and Mike Spencer to find out what the Town’s ability is to make them fill in the pit.  Was there a building permit issued for that lot?  Rick does not know.  Phillip Smith stated he met with Frank and they had not heard back from the County about whether there was a building permit also they were looking to see if two of the lots were on the original plat.  Rick questioned and had clarified there are 47 units originally proposed.   The developer since changed one of the duplex units to a single and added a unit on the “pit” lot; the number of original units has not changed.  Dan Swafford asked Sandra to make sure this is on the August 25th agenda under Old Business.  Scott Oldham reiterated the Town needs to find out what their ability is. 

 

Lynn Winders, lives on Lot 39 (the hole) and was happy to see there was work being done on the land behind her.  Her concern is safety.  She takes care of her grandson, an outpatient from Riley, who is drawn to the hole and also a rocky cliff to the left of her.  She would like to know who is liable.  When she purchased her lot, Jason Walls told her that her lot extended halfway into the hole and was told no one would build next to her.  Ms. Winders asked for a fence and Mr. Walls put up a construction fence.  Mr. Walls also told her when the hole was fixed; her property would be extended at least eight feet.  Mike Spencer advised her to consult with an attorney for advice.  Ms. Winders feels Mr. Walls is violating a safety ordinance of some kind.  Phillip Smith will look into it.  Ms. Winders has lived there for three years and has felt she has been misled and would like someone to step up to help them out. 

 

Max Dixon, resident of Autumn Ridge spoke about the Plan Commission meeting.  Mr. Dixon stated “Frank ‘repeatly’ said the extra lot had preliminary approval but would never admit that it had final approval by anybody”.  If it did not get final approval, it should never have been excavated.  Mr. Dixon does not see where anything was accomplished this week; a fifteen foot cliff is still at the back of the lot.  It is a public nuisance and public danger. 

 

Adjournment

 

Dianna Bastin made a motion we adjourn.  David Drake seconded.  Motion carried.  Dan Swafford adjourned the meeting at 8:57 p.m.