This blog reports events and interesting tidbits from Rensselaer, Indiana and the surrounding area.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Monday's meetings

I counted five meetings of government entities that were open to the public on Monday. The first was the monthly Commissioners' meeting in the courthouse. There always lots of items discussed at these meetings, most of them of little public interest. A discussion of how the new drainage project at the airport would affect the highway department land and the land the county rents to a farmer took a bit of time.

The Commissioners agreed to try a water conditioning method that had been pitched at last month's meeting. They will have it installed in the jail and the highway department building and see if it works. The sheriff, who came after the presentation said that several other sheriff departments had installed the system but had not used it long enough to tell if it works.

Bids were opened on some remodeling of the Sheriff's Annex near DeMotte to provide space for the county coroner. A low bit from Hollandale Builders was accepted, but the design of the work is still in flux.

The Sheriff had a financial adviser from Morgan Stanley who explained a plan sponsored by the Indiana Sheriffs Association that would allow employees of the Sheriffs Department to contribute to a 457b plan. The key feature that separates this plan from other deferred compensation plans is that the IRS says that people can start withdrawing without penalty at retirement rather than waiting until they are 59 1/2. There would be no cost to the county or the Sheriffs Department.

The most interesting item in the meeting was a discussion of the damage caused by a lightning strike when we had a storm pass through with our warm-up a couple weeks ago. Somehow the electrical discharge got into the court house building and damaged telephones and some computer equipment. The total damage has not been tabulated, but it might run in the neighborhood of $100,000. Insurance should cover most of it. The pile of damaged equipment was on display on the first floor.
After lunch the county Drainage Board met. The drainage plans for the proposed Taco Bell were discussed, though they had been approved by the City of Rensselaer. The building will be immediately to the west of the Family Express gas station and the owners want to start construction as soon as the snow and frost permit. The Board approved their drainage plan. Then the MaCallister Machinery proposal was back again. The planners had had to modify their plans to meet FAA objections. Now the building will be 100 feet further east. (The proposed building will be on the north side of SR 114 east of Airport Road.) The Board had no objections to their slightly revised drainage plans.

At 5:30 the Rensselaer Board of Public Works met for fifteen minutes. I caught the tail end of that meeting. At 6:00 the City Council met. The most interesting thing in this meeting was a request by a citizen who has a couple small rental units somewhere in the city. During the cold snap she had a water line freeze and burst on her side of the water meter. As a result, she got a $3000 water bill because she did not catch the break quickly enough. Her insurance company would help her with the damage that had been done but would not pay any of the water bill. She went to the mayor who agreed to eliminate the sewer charge from the bill since the water had not gone into the sewer, but told her it was up to the Council to deal with the water charge. One member made the motion to charge her only her normal monthly usage, but that motion never got a second. Instead several council members said that in the past they had not forgiven charges of this sort, though none seemed to have been as large as $3,000, and they were not sure they wanted to set a precedent. So the Council did nothing.

My question to reader: Should the City have a policy to deal with situations like this where a water leak that occurs through no fault of the customer results in a massive bill, and if it should have a policy, what should it be?

A first approval was given to a water rate increase of $2.82, though I do not know exactly how that will be implemented. Since this ordinance must go through another vote or two plus a public hearing, the details should become clear. There was also some good utility news--the gas tracker change will be a six cent decrease for each 100 cubic feet.

The Council representative on the Jasper County Historical Preservation Board asked the Council for support for an upcoming event, the Movable Feast to celebrate the architecture of Frank Fisher. It will be held on August 2. Last week the Rensselaer Republican had some details about the event.

The City got an award of architectural excellence for the City water treatment plant--a picture and an explanation will probably appear in the Rensselaer Republican this week. Work continues on the 69K project, with new tall poles being installed in the substation next to the power plant. I took a picture of that work this morning, though I did not know at the time what was happening.
Several people before and after the meeting said that the potholes on Grace Street were awful. They also mentioned that repairs on Grace Street are made by the state since it is also SR 114.

A fifth meeting for the day, which I missed because it overlapped the City Council meeting, was the meeting of the Jasper County Library Board.

(People are obviously excited with the warmer weather. I saw kids in shorts and tee shirts out and about today.)

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

"Should the City have a policy to deal with situations like this where a water leak that occurs through no fault of the customer results in a massive bill, and if it should have a policy, what should it be?"

Was the customer really not at fault? The weather forecasts were quite accurate for the ultra cold snap in January. Should the taxpayers foot the bill for negligent maintenance and inspections? What if this was a private home owner instead of a landlord?

Would a landlord be compensated for a hose spigot left on during the summer months by a tenant? Should taxpayers cover the bill?

No. If any precedent should be set, it should be that property owners are responsible for their properties. Sorry for the huge water bill. Chalk it up as a hard life lesson.