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

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Cover covers for Wood

There was a surprise at Monday night's City Council meeting. Mayor Wood was absent and in his place George Cover presided. He is President of the City Council. He announced that he was keeping his vote. (The mayor does not vote unless, perhaps, there is a tie.) With one member of the council absent, it was a smallish group in front.

The Council approved adding an item to the agenda that had been omitted, a report from its financial advisor on the wet water treatment plant that will be build on Lincoln Street. The first order of business was public comments and the head of the Park Board, Michael Manis, invited the public to a public forum at 7:00 on Monday, December 7 at the library to discuss plans for the parks.

After a transfer of funds, the financial advisor, John Julien, addressed the council. The bids for the wet water treatment plant, mandated by the State of Indiana, had come in higher by $1.9 million than the engineering estimates. As a result, additional financing had to be arranged. Searches for more grant money had come up empty, but the Rural Development agency of the Department of Agriculture had agreed to refinance the existing $5 million plus debt of the city with a new loan at 2%. The existing debt carries interest rates of 3.25% to 5.25%. That offer is equivalent to a grant of about a third of the $1.9 million. The state financing people that the City must work with had agreed, but the deal must be made by the end of this year to guarantee the 2% rate. To do this, the bond ordinance passed in a previous meeting had to be revised and it had to be done at this meeting because there was a 20 day comment period after notice was published in the newspaper. With a series of votes, that was done. The good news is that additional water and sewer rate hikes beyond those already approved will probably not be necessary.

In other business, the City accepted supply bids from Ceres Solutions for unleaded gasoline and diesel fuel and from CTS Tire for tire services. The Council approved the purchase of a police squad car from Thomas Dodge for $24944 less trade in. It should be available in the second week of December.

There were no administrative comments and few superintendents' reports. The Park Department and the Cemetery Department were picking up new trucks on Tuesday. The Fire Chief announced that a bid for new 30 air bottles and the breathing apparatus that goes with them had come back at $170,000. The old equipment will be out of date at the end of 2016 and into 2017. Half the cost will be picked up the the Marion Township Trustee. Nothing has to be done immediately.

As I was going to the meeting, I noticed that the Christmas street decorations had been put up earlier that day.

At 7:00 the county Board of Zoning Appeals met to discuss and approve a request for a variance for frontage. The petitioner wanted to build a house away from the road and needed  only a small frontage on the county road for his lane.

After the BZA adjourned, the Jasper County Plan Commission met to discuss a draft of a revised Unified Development Ordinance (UDO). The draft had been prepared by a consultant who had worked on the original document and the revision had incorporated concerns of local officials. Since I did not have a copy of the document they were discussing, it was difficult to follow most of the discussion. A member of the BZA who was not on the Plan Commission was sitting near me and I could see on his copy of the document a lot of red type, which indicated changes. Concerns were raised about septic tanks, drainage, and frontage requirements. The opinion of the consultant seemed to be that when in doubt, err on the side of a more restrictive regulation rather than a less restrictive regulation. The BZA exists to grant variances and exceptions on a case-by-case basis, so if the regulation is too strict in a particular situation, it can be bypassed. I am not sure all members of the Planning Commission agreed and certainly the one member of the public who spoke did not.

Nothing was passed. There will be a public meeting in the future for public input, though unless the document is made available, I do not see how the public can know enough to comment.

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