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

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

City council, Monday Aug 25 2014

The Rensselaer Police Department has a couple broken windows. A few days ago a gentleman decided to throw bricks through them. He was arrested.
(It is usually difficult to find pictures to illustrate City Council meetings, so I could not resist taking the picture above after I left the meeting.)

At the meeting, the airport manager gave a brief summary of what has been happening at the airport during the citizens' comment part of the meeting. His best story was about a call he got at 2:00 in the morning. A medevac helicopter had stopped at the airport to refuel and the credit card that the pilot had was not working. After trying to help over the telephone, the airport manager drove to the airport and used another way to get the copter fueled. It then flew to Jasper County Hospital, picked up its patient, and took off for Indianapolis. Its tank was almost empty when it landed at the airport--it would not have been able to complete the run if it could not get fuel.

The Council approved the first reading of an ordinance granting city employees a 3% pay raise. Then they suspended the rules and voted to approve the second and third reading.

A financial consultant updated the council on funding for the proposed firehouse. USDA funding turns out not to be an option--the program that the city thought might be the source of funds has been cut back and now funds much smaller projects. Rensselaer could sell general obligation bonds and fund them with taxes on citizens. The consultant said it had a better option--sell bonds and use the revenues from the TIF districts (mostly or entirely Drexel Park) to pay back the bonds. In this way the citizens would not have to face a tax increase. The TIF district generates about $400K a year, but $165K of that is needed to pay on bonds that will mature in 2020. The consultant said that there was enough left to fund about $4.5 million in bonds.

An objection to this idea that there was free money was quickly raised by Councilman Cover. He pointed out that if the TIF funds were used to help finance the fire station, they could not be used for other projects, such as a new water well or the extension of water lines to the Interstate. After a bit of discussion, the council agreed that using the TIF funds for the fire station was their best use. Before more details on financing can be developed, plans and costs must be known much better. The Council voted to move to the design stage of the project.

There was about five minutes of discussion about a request that the city fund the continuing education for an employee of the power plant. He needs one course each semester to finish his degree in electrical engineering. As is standard when the city funds continuing education of employees, the employee would have to agree to work for three years for the city or else pay back the grant. The discussion was about how difficult it was to enforce that agreement. The council agreed to grant a bit more than a thousand dollars a semester to allow the employee to take the class at Purdue.

The council voted to approve about $5000 to clean the exterior of the Drexel water tower and another $2000 to fix the roof on city hall so water would not pour into the building when the rain was heavy. (I wonder if they had any problems this afternoon. We got another inch and a half in two heavy downpours.)

The gas department representative announced that work had begun on the gas line extension along John Deere Road. It begins just past the Madison subdivision. You can see the pipe that has been fitted below what appears to be a drainage tile.
It will extend about mile east. The pipe is plastic. I am not sure how the joints are sealed. For some of the route a trencher is used to bury the pipe, but a directional drilling machine will be used to get it below Melville and several driveways.
 This morning I briefly stopped in the County Council Meeting to see what their budget discussion would look like. They got a late start because they could not get the computer to display on the screen (the computer had two screens, and the second screen was what was being projected). In ordinary meetings the members of the council face the audience, In this meeting they shifted to the other side of the table so they could watch the spreadsheet.
I had too many things on my agenda to stay and watch very long. While I was there they were deciding that they wanted to give a pay increase big enough so it would cover the increased cost of insurance. That way the employees would not see their pay checks shrink. (The cost of health insurance is almost certain to rise significantly.)

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