Batesville Herald Tribune, Batesville, Indiana

January 18, 2013

Council discusses use of surplus utilities funds

Debbie Blank
The Herald-Tribune

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.



OTHER TOPICS

• City officials started working on recent Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 compliance efforts in May 2011, said Tim Macyauski, Batesville operations director for street and building departments and ADA coordinator. The most important task has been establishing a grievance process for accessibility issues. After a pedestrian map is completed by engineers, a public meeting will be held to gain input.

Chaffee asked, “How many complaints a year do we get?” Macyauski replied, “A couple annually.” Last year complaints were about sidewalks and a railing. Fledderman said, “We try to be very sensitive ... and as pro-active as possible while trying to remain within the budget.”

• The council voted to allot Belterra riverboat revenue-sharing funds for two projects: $4,176 for a new aluminum pool diving board from Spear Corp., Roachdale. Last summer the “quite old” board was shut down due to an unsafe surface; $1,000 to help fund prize money and provide tech services and equipment for “Batesville’s Got Talent,” a Feb. 24 2 p.m. show presented by the Mayor’s Youth Council. President Nick Wanamaker noted proceeds are spent on “projects … that will benefit the community.” After making past donations for pool furniture, a stone park entrance, ball complex flagpole and the food pantry, this year’s profits are earmarked for downtown planters.

• Next month the council will discuss two issues, according to Fledderman. He will present a redistricting ordinance based on the last U.S. Census. “I don’t think these districts have been looked at this closely” in a long time. Each must be within 10 percent of others in population, but currently they are not: District 1 2,154; District 2, 1,454; District 3, 1,462; and District 4, 1,449. Citizens can view a proposed map in the Memorial Building’s first floor conference room. A U.S. Department of Agriculture stormwater loan will be mulled, too. “We’ve been working on this for three years.”