After a few preliminaries, the city council paused its regular meeting and opened a public hearing on the proposed sewer rate hike. The hike will add about $5 per month to the average sewage bill (which is based on water used, so the sewer and water bills could be considered one package) starting January 2014, then increases that another $5 in 2015 and another $5 in 2016. So in 2016 the average household will be paying about $180 more per year for water/sewage. The purpose of this rate increase is to fund a new plant that will process overflow during very heavy rains. Currently when the city gets very heavy rains, some sewage is dumped into the river because most of Rensselaer's storm sewers are combined with the regular sewer lines. If it were left up to the city council, the city would not be building this plant. It is an unfunded mandate from IDEM, the Indiana Department of Environmental Management, our state version of the Environmental Protection Agency.
There were only a few questions from the crowd. Most of the people in attendance were surprised that there were not more people at the meeting with questions or statements. The mayor spent some time explaining the situation, saying that construction is scheduled to start in 2015 and that if we do not do this, the city will be fined. The city hopes it can finance the project with a loan from the USDA, otherwise it may have to issue bonds. The proposed plant will not store water. It will process the incoming water to remove solids and immediately discharge the water into the river. Someone asked if there were other plants like the proposed plant in operation, and there is one somewhere else Indiana but no one knew how well it worked.
In summary, the city is required to build a $7.5 million dollar plant to process storm overflow that happens on average once or twice a year. The proposed plant is a new design and no one knows how well it will work. IDEM's goal is to make the river swimable, but it is unclear if they realize that even if Rensselaer dumps no sewage into the river, the river still will be unfit for swimming because of runoff of chemicals used in agriculture.
The public hearing portion of the meeting ended and the motion to pass the new sewage rates passed.
A few things caught my attention in the remainder of the meeting. Because of higher coasts of buying natural gas and electricity, city residents will have higher gas and electric bills early in 2014. The results of the x-raying of the firehouse floor showed that the voids under the floor were not deep but were more widespread than expected. The city wants to purchase five acres west of Kirby Risk for a new firehouse to be built sometime in the future. There will be a ribbon cutting at the renovated water treatment plant in Iroquois Park with an open house from 10 am until 2:00 pm on Thursday.
The meeting ended and I headed over to eMbers. I would not have gone to this concert if I had not won a free ticket by attending the eMbers Christmas Party concert. I had noticed that fans were already in the building when I passed by on the way to the city council meeting even though the music was not scheduled to start for an hour. Most of the fans seemed to be young girls, many of them pre-adolescent. I felt very old as I surveyed the crowd.
The main attraction was a group called Heffron Drive, which featured Kendall Schmidt of Nickelodeons Big Time Rush. However, they had two opening bands with them on the tour. The first was Ariana and the Rose.
Eric Dash and his keyboard man set up.
While the set up for Heffron Drive was underway, the fans could buy CDs and clothing with logos of the bands. I enjoyed watching the fans. A tall security guard, a student from SJC who guarded the door to the back of the building, was besieged by packs of little girls who wanted him to autograph their pictures of Kendall Schmidt and Dustin Belt. He was happy to oblige.
short clip below.
We had groupies in Rensselaer! Some of them were recording the entire event on their cell phones and iPads. I learned that some had come from a considerable distance--Ball State, Terre Haute, and even Iowa. I am sure they enjoyed seeing the bands in this intimate setting. Rensselaer is by far the smallest city on their tour--the next smallest was Raleigh, NC.
I enjoyed the experience and the limited amount of conversation I could have with other adults. But I am clearly not the target audience for pop concerts and I doubt if I would have gone if I were not doing this blog.
Here are a few more pictures from Facebook. And here.