Error discovered in sewer rate proposal
By Stephanie Taylor Ferriell, Senior Staff Writer, [email protected]
A zero might be assumed to be nothing, but in some cases it’s a very big something.
An extra zero resulted in the English Town Council doing the opposite of what it intended in August when the board voted to increase water and sewer rates. The rate change that was advertised stated that sewer rates were based on a usage of 10,000 gallons instead of the intended 1,000.
“That actually decreases the sewer rate,” town manager Mike Huddleston told the council at its Sept. 20 meeting.
The mistake, attributed to human error, was discovered by the programmer when the rates were submitted for change.
The council will advertise the correct rate and have another public hearing before adopting the sewer rates at the intended rate.
Water and sewer rates are being raised in response to a rate hike from Patoka Lake Water Co., which supplies the town with water.
Wayne Carothers, who advises the town on financial matters, reported happy news due to another error. There was an error in the state’s Gateway system on a previous year’s budget that was just recently discovered. It means the town will receive more federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security funding than originally anticipated. English will receive an additional $9,000 (approximate) in the second round for a total of $135,000 in all.
Carothers displayed the several-inch thick binder explaining guidelines for spending the federal funds.
“They’re pretty broad guidelines,” he said. “It’s anything pandemic-related.”
That could mean loss of revenue, infrastructure, emergency services, even grants to local businesses and individuals.
The town must document exactly how the money is spent and has two years to use the funds. The council has not yet decided how to best utilize the CARES funding.
Carothers reported the town’s 2022 budget is very similar to this year’s. The budget adoption is scheduled for next month.
The council also discussed property the town owns, primarily in the western portion, for which it has no use. Some of the land is from when the town moved “up the hill,” some it has come to own after it was abandoned.
The idea was to form a non-profit corporation and develop a plan for the land. However, Councilman Mike Benham said the town attorney has advised it would cost about $10,000 to do that.
A young man spoke with the council regarding one property, explaining he would like to place or build a home on it. The council asked him to return with a proposal at next month’s meeting.
Before then, Benham and Huddleston will meet with the attorney to see if there’s a way to move the properties into a plan for private ownership if they will be improved.
“Those lots are a millstone around our necks,” said president David Sillings. “They have to be mowed and kept up; it’s quite a bit of expense over the course of a year.”
Benham said he recently learned the Indiana Department of Transportation plans to close S.R. 64 at the cloverleaf to replace a culvert on the east side. He said there is not a good alternate route and expressed concern about emergency services being able to respond to the area and noted it would be a big inconvenience to residents as well.
The culvert dates to the late 1950s and must be replaced because it is causing issues with the road.
The town would like to see the state use a traffic signal as was done in recent bridge decking projects in the county. Benham noted there is ample room for traffic flow.
Huddleston told the council the computer at the water plant must be replaced. The equipment dates to 2008 and runs 24 hours a day. A recent glitch resulted in some areas of the town experiencing no water pressure and required a manual override to correct.
He reported a new circuit board was installed in the generator at the sewer plant due to issues with the old one. Huddleston discussed the town hall generator, explaining it has to be turned on manually in the event of a power outage because on the automatic setting it runs constantly. The generator is going to be examined for possible repair.
The council approved bills related to sewer plant repairs and paving presented by Huddleston and totaling $3,297.70.
The council voted 4-0-1, with Martha King abstaining, to waive the building permit fee for English Wesleyan Church. The church recently completed a project for its food pantry. King abstained because she is a member of the church and volunteers at the pantry.
Also during the meeting, English Town Marshal Kyle Wiseman’s resignation was accepted. Wiseman, who submitted his resignation Sept 10, effective Sept. 11, served as marshal for eight years and was praised by council members for his performance.
When Mike Benham asked if the council wanted to accept the resignation, member Laurel Parke-Kirby replied, “I don’t want to, but I support him in what he’s doing so I’ll make the motion. I wish you lots of luck. I’m glad the kids will have you there. You’re a good role model.”
The vote passed 3-2 with King and Sillings abstaining.
Wiseman started this year at Crawford County Community School Corp. as a full-time school resource officer. That meant he had two employers, a situation that could make it difficult at times to determine when Wiseman was working in which role.
Saying he hates the situation the council finds itself in, Benham said, “In my eyes, it comes down to good business practice. That’s the side I have to go with. I appreciate anything you can do going forward, and I appreciate what you’ve done in the past. I think you’ve done a good job.”
Wiseman told the council he will help out in any way he’s able.
After receiving Wiseman’s resignation, the council contacted the Crawford County Sheriff’s Department to request additional patrols of the town until they can fill the position.
The town has a deputy marshal, Paul Reyling, who has worked on an unpaid basis. At the September meeting, the council voted to appoint him as interim marshal. Reyling, who may be interested in becoming the next marshal, will work 30 hours a week on an annual rate of $16,000.
The council’s next meeting is scheduled for Monday, Oct. 18, at 7 p.m. at the town hall.