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

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Time to stock up?

The Rensselaer City Council met in a long session--about 100 minutes--on Monday night. The main item on the agenda was a trash study by the City’s financial advisor, John Julien. The City currently is not raising enough money from trash fees to cover the cost of the service. His company estimated that the cost in the next few years would be about $540,000 and that the city would need about $58,000 each year to cover equipment replacement. It gets income from recycling, environmental fees, dumpster fees, and trash stickers, but the income will be short by about $130,000 each year and that $130K must be met from the City’s general fund. His recommendation was to increase the cost of trash stickers from $2.00 to $3.00, the cost of small dumpsters from $12 to $18, and the cost of big dumpsters from $38 to $57. There was a question of whether the dumpster cost was competitive with what commercial haulers charged and he did not know. Several people with some experience in the matter suggested the City’s rates were low but that the City did not provide dumpsters and the commercial haulers did. The Council agreed to write an ordinance based on the recommendations of Mr Julien. It will not take effect for a while and there was concern that people would rush out and stock up on the stickers to beat the price increase (which of course is the rational thing to do. Another way of beating the price increase is to recycle more--it is a free way to get rid of unwanted cardboard, paper, some plastic and glass, and cans.) If you put out a can per week, the present cost of trash pick up is about $100 per year. That cost will soon be $150.

Mr Julien also updated the Council on several other projects. The second tap into the gas pipeline (the City currently taps into the pipeline about six miles south of the City and wants a second tap in the Pleasant Ridge area) and the pipeline into Rensselaer will cost about $2 million. The estimate is that this will increase gas costs to customers about seven or eight cents per hundred cubic feet. Construction could start before the end of this year. A hold-up right now is that the gas trunkline wants prepayment for the tap but by law the city can only pay for services after they are rendered. A work around may be an escrow account.

His company is also doing a study of the electricity rate structure and are about 45 days away from a recommendation. One item that will affect it is a proposed new substation on the corner of Bunkum Road and CR 850W. This was discussed in more detail later in the meeting. Currently the I-65 area has only one feed from the City. The proposed substation would tap into a NIPSCO line and provide a second feed, giving the area more protection from service interruptions. The cost will be in the $1.6 to $2 million range. The Council approved moving forward with this project.

A final item in Mr Julien’s report was remodeling the old fire station for use by the police department. A rough estimate for this project is $1 million and he said that the City would not need to borrow but could cover it with money from LOIT and the Drexel TIF revenues.

In other items, the City approved closing the street in front of City Hall on September 24 for Oktoberfest. It passed an ordinance for Internal Control Standards, something that the State Board of Accounts requires. It will be followed by a written policy detailing how money is to be handled. Current practice has checks on handling money, but they are not written as policy. The gas tracker for August is a 2.5 cent decrease per hundred cubic feet.

The electric utility received permission to update its arc flash study. This is needed for OSHA compliance and specifies what kind of equipment and clothing are required in certain areas. There was discussion of a committee report about which vehicles employees should use when traveling out of town on City business. The end result was a motion to purchase a truck for the electrical utility manager and use the car he is currently using for out-of-town travel.

The City has received an environmental study for the abandoned INDOT property in the northeast section of town and it does not look good. The City will try to get another study through KIRPSE if INDOT will allow access to the site. The Mayor noted that the buildings date back to 1932 and all kinds oils and chemicals may have been dumped there. If the site is not clean, the City will not take it. If it remains in State hands, it will likely just sit there with no clean up.

The Police Chief asked about the leak survey that the gas department will be doing. It will start Monday and he expects to get calls about strange people poking around in people’s yards. The City will be considering submitting a planning grant for improving downtown sidewalks and lights. Finally, it was noted that on Monday the high rate treatment plant had a big concrete pour resulting in a 3.5 foot base in the second pit. Below is a picture of the equipment used.

I would guess that about 60 truckloads of concrete were delivered to the site. It seemed that every five to ten minutes another truck arrived and they were pouring from mid morning to mid afternoon. Here is a picture of the result.

The City Council will meet at 4:00 on August 10 in a special session to discuss 2017 salaries.

In other news, Benton County recently dedicated more wind turbines, these sponsored by Amazon. Here is a link and here is an article about it.

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