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

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Planning for the future at the City Council meeting, 3-28-2016

The City Council meeting Monday evening was unusually long (75 minutes) and almost entirely focused on the future.

The first big item on the agenda was a public hearing was the OCRA Water Project. The city will be filing for an OCRA (Indiana Office of Community and Rural Affairs) grant for $550,000 to finance connecting the new water well to the city water system. KIRPC will be helping with the grant and a person from that agency spoke for a minute or two. The main presentation was from a representative of Commonwealth Engineers. He said the plan was for a 12 inch water line going along Sparling to Milroy, Milroy to College, and then along College to to the water treatment plant. The total cost of the project is estimated at $1,115,000 and over $900,000 would be for the water main. The water quality from the new well tests as good with low sulphur. In answer to questions, the Mayor said that the City would go ahead with the project even if the grant is not funded because the City will need it in five to seven years. The last two times the City applied for OCRA grants they were rejected because the City did not meet the low-income requirements but this time it is using Census data that does meet the requirements. There was a question about replacing the walkway along Sparling with something that people would actually use and this may happen if there is enough money.

The next big item on the agenda was a presentation from an advisor to the gas department from Utility Safety and Design Incorporated, a company that has been advising the gas utility for fifty years. At present all city gas comes to Rensselaer through a six inch main from the south, where it connects to a trunkline. There are some branches off that main as it comes to the city, and at McDonalds there is a regulator station that reduces the pressure. The trunk line heads to Pleasant Ridge from the City tap site on US 231 and the proposal the consultant suggests is to tap into the trunk line to the north and east of the present tap. It would result in a shorter feed and thus less pressure loss, and would also have the advantage of a duplicate feed should something disrupt the pipeline coming from  the south. It would tie into the city line somewhere around Saint Joseph's College.

At present when we have very cold winter weather and many homes are using furnaces, there is not enough pressure and volume for the city to generate electricity. Two winters ago the pipeline prohibited the city from generating, which it can do by the contract. The City generates when it is asked to do so by its electric power provider, IMPA. There are not yet cost estimates for this proposal and there is much uncertainty what the trunkline would charge for the tap. The advantages of the additional line would be better pressure, more volume, and a back up route in case anything happens to the one and only current route. The Council approved proceeding with the planning.

Next on the agenda was John Julien, the City's financial consultant with three presentations. First was his look at the gas pipeline proposal. Assuming a cost of about $2 million, he said that the city should borrow and the financing costs would be about $140,000 per year. To pay that, the cost of gas would rise by three cents per hundred cubic feet. That increase is not large compared to the month-to-month changes in the gas tracker.

His second presentation was about a study of trash fees. Currently the money from trash stickers does not fully cover the costs of trash pickup. Many communities are going in the direction of having the user fee cover all costs of trash pickup. The study would find what the fee would have to be to fully cover the costs of the service. Councilman Odle said that he had doubted the need for a study but in trying to find the numbers needed to learn the cost, he came to the conclusion that a study was needed. There was also mention of the possibility that the city could get out of the business and have a private company provide trash-pickup service and mention that the city trucks were getting old. The Council approved the study.

Julien's final report was short, noting that the city had authorized more borrowing than it needed for the water main to the Interstate and that that authority could be used for borrowing for the Sparling Well project. This summer the financing needs will be better known.

The next big item was what the Mayor termed the Brad and Kristen Show, a presentation of the proposal to develop the Monnett area land as the Jasper Foundation Park. Much of what they said was reported in an earlier post. Mrs Ziese said that in reaching out to potential donors, she found interest in funding soccer fields, benches, the concession stand, and the plaza. There will be a special Park Board meeting next Monday (April 4) at the Carnegie Center at 7:00 requesting public input about the plans. If you are interested in the Parks, be there.

And one final item about the future. Construction of the fire station is nearing completion and thoughts are being given to what should be done with the current fire station. The Police Department is interested in the space, primarily because they need to store the many abandoned and found items that they accumulate. The Chief of Police asked for $3500 to have Titan Builders provide a floor plan of how the space could be used by the Department. The request was granted.

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