Batesville Herald Tribune, Batesville, Indiana

December 13, 2013

Water rates will rise in March

Debbie Blank The Herald-Tribune
The Batesville Herald-Tribune

---- — Batesville customers soon will be paying more for one of life’s necessities – water.

During the past two Batesville City Council meetings, Batesville Utility Service Board members discussed raising water rates over three years. The mayor asked council members Dec. 9 if they received any feedback, but no one had. Water utility manager Steve Wintz said neither he nor BUSB had heard from citizens about the hikes.

The council approved increases that will amount to 40 percent in 2014 and 10 percent during each of 2015 and 2016. The current $14.99 rate for a typical Batesville household that uses 4,000 gallons monthly will climb to $20.97 the first year, $23.08 the second and $25.40 the third.

Customers will first notice the rate increase on their March 1 bills, said Batesville Water & Gas Utility comptroller Doug Browne.

Bill Weatherston, Batesville Youth Baseball and Softball vice president, requested $14,956 from the Belterra riverboat revenue-sharing fund so that Indiana Wire Products, Greensburg, can install a chain link fence with 100 feet of privacy slats to replace a temporary 4-foot-tall fence around the Melvin Cutter pond to keep people attending games at The Plex from accessing it.

Parks Commissioner Mike Baumer said the 7-foot-tall fence would have twisted tops instead of barbed wire to make it “a little more appealing to look at.” The tops will discourage kids from climbing it. He noted as practice fields are added, a swale and trees requested by the family may be installed.

According to council President Gene Lambert, the Cutters “find this proposal acceptable. We are concerned with the liability as the baseball park expands.” Member Kevin Chaffee questioned, “Are we locked into the 7-foot fence? A 6-foot fence should be sufficient.” Weatherston said the Cutters are compromising. The original design called for an 8- to 10-foot-high fence. The council OK’d the request.

Two other meaty topics stalled as the council sought more information.

Batesville bridge replacement

Drivers of over 12,000 vehicles who travel daily on State Road 229 (Walnut Street) just south of State Road 46 will be delayed, but later than they thought. Originally, the letting date for the Indiana Department of Transportation project to install a new precast box culvert bridge on the road in the middle of the Hillcrest golf course was April 2, 2014, according to Harry Maginity, INDOT Seymour District public information director.

Now Mayor Rick Fledderman said the time frame is later. Prework will start in late fall 2014 with the bridge replacement in late winter and early spring 2015. Maginity said the project, which most likely would close that section of State Road 229, could take three months and result in detours. The mayor reported, “There have been a lot of discussions to try and keep Hillcrest from being financially impacted.”

The city will pay for a sewer line to be moved. “We’re reasonably certain this will all be reimbursed” by INDOT, he said.

Looking at an HWC Engineering, Indianapolis, spreadsheet about estimated sewer line relocation costs, Chaffee said construction costs would total $145,000 and engineering expenses $64,500. “That’s almost half the construction cost. Engineering fees are usually 10-15 percent of construction.”

Fledderman itemized the $64,500: bid package and other services, $37,000; design, $13,500; INDOT coordination, $6,000; permitting, $4,500; surveying, $2,000; and easement descriptions, $1,500.

Chaffee contended, “I don’t think this amount of engineers’ fees is a wise expenditure for taxpayers.” Fledderman said, “We can go back and tell them we think the costs are too high.” Lambert suggested, “Why don’t we table this (contract signing) and have more discussion with them?” and other members agreed.

Parks and sports fields fees

Fledderman, who just reviewed 2014 city budgets, said those for the parks and pool “are pretty slim… we have got to find ways to offset” declining dollars available to maintain and improve recreational areas. He presented Ordinance 13-2013, which increases many recreational facilities and use fees, to the council for a first reading.

Batesville Parks and Recreation Board President Bob Fitzpatrick reported, “People tend to stand in line to get the facilities at the (Liberty) Park. We spent all of our time discussing (increasing) the rental fees” at the park and sports complexes. “We’ll address the pool (fees) in the next month or so.”

According to BPRB member Don Karbowski, “We haven’t had a raise (of parks fees) in over 13 years.”

Lambert observed, “There have been a lot of improvements to parks facilities … As our budgets continue to get scrutinized … by our government, we have to find other creative ways to maintain the quality of the facilities that we have. Do you know what the utilization is on the pavilion?” Fitzpatrick answered, “The schedule is saturated every year. Right now we probably have 70” requests for 2014.

He explained, “The reason we charge is taxpayers pay for our parks… when someone wants to reserve ... (a space) and take it out of the public realm … you are limited from using what you’ve paid for.”

Chaffee wondered, “Have we compared the new rates with what Greensburg … charges? … These look pretty inexpensive to me, even with the increases.” Fitzpatrick responded, “I’m very proud of our parks. I wouldn’t want to compare them in condition and quality. They are a hallmark of Batesville.”

Fitzpatrick said the use of alcohol at park pavilion wedding receptions is not addressed. “In the past, we’ve required insurance and whatever the state licensing board has required … bartenders.” City attorney Lynn Fledderman recommended the ordinance should state certain conditions in the rental agreement have to be met.

Council member Darrick Cox said doubling the softball fee from $100 to $200 per team per season “will be a concern for me.” Fitzpatrick reported other communities charge $65 per participant.

According to council member Bob “Tuba” Narwold, “I played softball for 30 some years. They did this (raised fees) in Greensburg and several teams backed out.” If fees do go up here, “I don’t think we’re going to have men’s softball anymore … I would really hate to see that.”

Karbowski asked, “Would it break the bank if ... (teams) charged participants $10” per season?

The attorney said council members were reading an ordinance draft that has since been altered. The ordinance was tabled for revisions.

Lambert said in the past Belterra dollars supported BPRB projects. The mayor said even if the fee hikes are instituted, “the need to come to council for Belterra funds is going to continue to exist.” Clerk-treasurer Ron Weigel suggested BPRB look at parks expenses annually and weigh whether fees should be raised. “Good suggestion,” agreed the president.

Debbie Blank can be contacted at debbie.blank@batesvilleheraldtribune.com or 812-934-4343, Ext. 113.

• Ordinance 14-2013 was passed under suspension of the rules, which require a month between two readings, to establish a nonreverting Coalition for a Drug-Free Batesville Grant Fund. The fund is needed for a $30,755 Indiana Family and Social Services Administration grant that will be used to implement a noncredit, mandatory alcohol course for Batesville High School and Oldenburg Academy students. The funding covers students in all four grades taking the online course called AlcoholEdu® for High School, created by EverFi, Washington, D.C., this year and freshmen during the next three years. CDFB coordinator Kim Linkel noted, "Both schools have 1:1 initiatives, so it will be easy to implement." • The Batesville Board of Works approved the fourth and fifth pay requests of $75,173 and 57,741, respectively, to contractor Maxwell Construction, Greendale, for the city's façade program. • Ordinances 12-2012 and 6-2013, which will spell out the exact economic development coordinator's annual stipend earned by the mayor instead of a maximum amount, were amended by the council.