Batesville Herald Tribune, Batesville, Indiana

Local News

January 18, 2013

Council discusses use of surplus utilities funds

BATESVILLE — So that surplus funds from city utilities could be used for other projects, the Batesville City Council recreated a cash reserve fund Dec. 10, 2012.

Former Batesville Water and Gas Utility manager Mike Vonderheide said at the Jan. 14 meeting, “To me, this is ... like dipping your hand in the cookie jar and taking out whatever you wish.”

City council member Kevin Chaffee said, “It’s my understanding those funds can only be deemed excess if the (Batesville Utilities Service) Board says they are” and city attorney Lynn Fledderman agreed.

According to Mayor Rick Fledderman, the gas utility has accumulated $4.5 million. Of that, $1 million will be paid to Ivy Tech Community College ($250,000 annually over the next four years) to fulfill the city’s commitment to help with the university’s Batesville expansion.

He observed the surplus dollars are “going to help educate the community and it’s going to save the taxpayers a lot of money ....  We don’t have to float a bond. We don’t have to raise taxes.”

Council President Gene Lambert reported  BUSB and the council had “extensive discussions on five- and 10-year” utilities capital projects. “We didn’t want to jeopardize those” by spending too much now. Both panels decided unanimously to allot $1 million for the college.

Water utility manager Steve Wintz detailed two capital projects beginning this year. Over the next four years, Mollenkramer Reservoir hydraulic dredging work is estimated to cost $825,000. The intent is to increase the water capacity from 24 to 40 million gallons and improve water quality by removing 80,000 cubic yards of sediment, 20,000 annually. About $225,000 is budgeted for this year. “We will look at the project each year and see what funds are available.”

When Chaffee served on a volunteer committee about dredging Versailles Reservoir years ago, he said members realized if measures were not taken to eliminate silt runoff, it would happen again. He asked if water utility employees are trying to prevent future sediment accumulation at the reservoir. Wintz promised to talk to nearby farmers and explore ways to capture and remove silt easily.

The second project, projected to cost $500,000, will pump Little Laughery Creek water before it gets to the wastewater treatment plant through a 12-inch main that will follow existing easements through Brum Woods to an area near Mulberry and Legion streets. The goal is to catch all water in the 5,300-acre drainage area, which will help with the long-term supply. He said, “We will try to do a lot of the work ourselves to keep costs down.”

The manager reported that in early January, Bischoff Reservoir, the city’s largest water source, was down 28 inches after last year’s near drought. Since then, “the city has received 1.78 inches of rain.” Now Bischoff Reservoir is down 10 inches, Osier Reservoir is down 8 and the rest of the public reservoirs are full.

The mayor said cross arms and lights are being installed by Central Railroad of Indiana at four crossings – South Park Avenue, Delaware and Coonhunters roads and Winding Way. “Fortunately, three of those were funded because of a grant through the federal government” and Indiana Department of Transportation. The South Park Avenue crossing was not covered because it already had lights, so earlier the Batesville Board of Works decided to spend $15,240.

The Coonhunters crossing should be done this week and Park Avenue next week, weather permitting. Soon all crossings within city limits will have arms and lights with the exception of John Street. He said, “That actually is not a public street,” but for street department access, although soccer families may use it as well.

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