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Water rates, new town hall focus at Georgetown

August 28, 2013
There was noticeable tension between the members of the Georgetown Town Council as they met Monday, Aug. 19. A new town hall facility and road/sidewalk repairs were all contested during the meeting that lasted until almost 9 p.m.

Up first, though, were more concerns about the town's water rates. Community members have increasingly been inquiring about utility bill relief after being blindsided by large bills.

One couple, Pamela and Dennis Johnson, who recently moved to Zachary Trail, were astounded to find their first full-month's bill was $581.51.

"I don't have a swimming pool inside or outside and our lawn is not green," Dennis Johnson said. "We had (a town official) out and didn't have anything conclusive to say that there was anything wrong with the meter. … We aren't exactly sure what happened."

After going through the proper channels of calling the town and having the meter inspected and the home checked for leaks, they have not received answers for their bill and were at the meeting to request any help the council could give them.

"I don't think we used 21,000 gallons of water," Dennis Johnson said.

Jim Reynolds, public works director, agreed to have the meter removed and tested by a third party to verify that it is in working order.

After much deliberation, Councilmember Jerry Brock made a motion to extend a credit to the Johnsons of $122.46 using the wholesale rate and the amount calculated by Reynolds. Councilmember Patti Denison seconded the motion, and it was approved unanimously.

This is the second time in three months that someone has come to the board with a request for remittance of their utility bill.

Utility bills took a back seat when town attorney Mike Summers outlined the negotiations he's been taking part in with Marty and Pat Miller.

The Millers own a building and property at 9111 S.R. 64, where the town hall, which has been temporarily housed in Copperfield Commons, would likely be relocated if all goes accordingly.

Summers has negotiated an agreement for a purchase price of $147,000, made in two payments, with an additional payment of $3,000 for equipment and personal services.

The town has the right to have the building inspected, and Summers suggested a 40-year title search to make certain there are no roadblocks to the town's purchase of the property.

"We need to see if there are any liens or outstanding taxes that need to be taken care of," he said. "If there are problems found in the inspection or the title search, the Millers will have a reasonable time to correct any defects."

If the agreement is accepted by the council, the town will take ownership of the building on a Jan. 11, 2014, closing date.

"Time is of the essence," Summer said.

Several members of the council, however, were not in favor of voting on the proposed agreement that night.

"I just got this contract tonight," Councilmember Kathy Haller said. "I want to take some time to read over it."

Summers clarified that the process could not be completed, even if voted on, due to the absence of clerk-treasurer Doug Cook, as well as the Millers.

"I'm not going to vote to spend $150,000 if I haven't read the contract," Councilmember Jim Tripure said.

The council opted to table the discussion until the contract could be reviewed by all of its members.

Community members had questions, and Don Farnsley presented an aerial view of the property and brought up the question of a permanent easement.

"If there is not a permanent easement given and the present owner of the Donut Shop decides to put up a fence, you couldn't get a full-size vehicle in there," he said.

Summers addressed the concern, saying that it is part of the contract and a permanent joint-use easement would be in place at the time of purchase.

Both Farnsley and Dean Hammersmith said the council should think "long and hard" before making the purchase.

Sidewalk repair was also a concern at the August session. The sidewalk at 9225 S.R. 64 has buckled and become a possible hazard, Haller said.

The town has looked into fixing the sidewalk, and Reynolds estimates it will take around $1,500 to repair, but the repairs cannot be completed until the question of ownership has been answered.

Bob Woosley, the town's engineer, said part of the town's concern is the state's drawings would lead one to believe the sidewalk is owned by the state.

"The state's records are very lacking," he said. "It is not an easy answer."

Both Denison and Haller advocated for the repair of the sidewalk, but president Mike Mills said things need to be done legally. If the town is responsible for it, then it will fix it, but, if the Indiana Department of Transportation is responsible, then the town has to know, he said.

"I have to have someone with the state so that they don't come back on me and say, 'You don't own that. Why did you put a sidewalk there?' " Woosley said. "… I don't think the state will ever state ownership of it."

"We are the town board, we are responsible for the people," Haller said. "Let's fix it. We are responsible for this."

The board agreed that a title search was in order to find out who owns the sidewalk. Denison made a motion to authorize an abstract and Haller seconded; it was approved by all.

Community member Everett Pullen asked about the Frank Ott Road and Brookstone stormwater projects. He expressed his concern about the budget and if there are going to be sufficient funds for other projects this year.

The council said there would not be if the building was purchased for the town hall.

In other news:

•Gordon Meyer from the Alliance of Indiana Rural Water presented Chad Smith with a plaque from the Water University for Utility Management Certification.

•Dennis Kunkel gave an update on the National Night Out numbers. More than 100 community members turned out for the event. Also, LTAP has loaned the town two radar control speed signs for six months. They are currently being utilized in the Copperfield Drive area.

•Denison made a motion to approve life insurance for the council and, after discussion, it was approved by all.

•There are now 24 teams playing at the Georgetown Ball Park this fall.

•Woosley reported that Brookstone lift station No. 2 was completed as was the Georgetown-Lanesville water line repair. The Rainelle Woods manhole rehabilitation will start soon.

He also recommended Richland and Canal streets for resurfacing. Haller made a motion to approve the resurfacing in the amount of $26,350 by Libs. Denison seconded and it was approved by all.

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