Markle wastewater, water rates to increase by 20 percent

Gary Girvin (right), of Fishers and formerly of Huntington County, signs the papers donating the Draper Cabin owned by his family over to the Town of Markle, as Markle Town Council President Jeff Humbarger looks on. The cabin is expected to be ready for tours next year.
Gary Girvin (right), of Fishers and formerly of Huntington County, signs the papers donating the Draper Cabin owned by his family over to the Town of Markle, as Markle Town Council President Jeff Humbarger looks on. The cabin is expected to be ready for tours next year. Photo by Rebecca Sandlin.

It could have gone higher, but the Markle Town Council preliminarily decided at its meeting Wednesday, Oct. 18, to hold increases on wastewater and water rates to 20 percent, over the objections of the town’s clerk-treasurer.

Councilmen based their decision on the completed water and wastewater utility studies performed by H.J. Umbaugh & Associates, which note that Markle currently has the second-lowest rates among 18 Hoosier towns surveyed of similar size.

“The last time we raised wastewater rates was 1991. The last time we raised water rates was 2009,” said Council President Jeff Humbarger. “In that time frame we’ve added a second water tower that will obviously need painted from time to time and maintenance done to it as well.”

The state average on wastewater rates is $45.29. Markle is currently at $34.65, Humbarger said, adding that in order to cover the projections in costs recommended in the Umbaugh study the town would need to raise the rate to $47.85, an increase of about 38 percent.

The water study shows Markle’s water rate, at $19.25, is well below the state average of $31.76 per 5,000 gallons. The study’s proposed rate of what the town needs for the next five years is $26, about a 30 percent increase.

“I think it’s appropriate to look at some rate increases, just because of the sheer time that’s been since we’ve done anything, and costs obviously go up every year,” Humbarger said.

“The water, if you took it all the way up, is only $6 a month; roughly, that’s not a big number, but the wastewater is almost $14 a month, which is obviously the bigger number and a part of that bill.”

Councilman Mark Ha-milton agreed the proposed increase in wastewater rates would make a hike in customers’ bills.

“I think that Umbaugh has projected requests that cover what we’re paying in upkeep. That’s a big jump all at once, but then, if they’d (council) advertised that over the 15 years that they haven’t had an increase, then it’s not that much.”

The 20 percent increase in both wastewater and water would result in a total increase of roughly $10 per month per household, Humbarger said.

Clerk-Treasurer Carolyn Hamilton agreed with the wastewater rate but she said raising the water rate below what the study suggests could backfire on the town in the long run.

“I would hate to see you get into a place where you would have to borrow money to maintain,” she said. “I’m just a person that doesn’t like to go into debt, and this is stuff that you have to keep up in pristine condition.”

However, the council held steady at only a 20 percent increase and directed Hamilton to prepare an amendment to the water and wastewater ordinance, which will have its first reading at the next council meeting on Nov. 15. A public hearing will also be called to allow the townspeople to weigh in on the proposed increases.

Another item on the council’s agenda involved the receipt of the log cabin, owned by Gary Girvin and his family, that currently sits on Mill Park property.

“It’s our pleasure to make this donation on behalf of the Girvin family, who settled in Markle in the 1920s,” he said.

Girvin noted that his mother’s family came to Union Township in the 1840s as one of its first settlers and Markle was its center of commerce.

“Our family has a long history here in Markle, and my father boasted that you do have a lot of pride in Markle,” he said.

The house, which has become known as the Draper Cabin, was rescued a year ago from demolition after the outer siding was removed, revealing the log structure beneath.

It is believed to be the home of Albert Draper, the first white man to come to this area in 1832. Through a grass roots effort including the Markle Historical Society and Indiana Landmarks, the cabin was moved from Draper Street to Mill Park, where it will be displayed as a historic landmark.

Lisa Street of the Markle Historical Society said pillars and the foundation for the cabin are expected to be poured in November and the house then moved onto the pillars. A grant awarded for $10,500 will pay for the work.

“We’re making it our mission, since now the cabin is on the public property of Mill Park, we will still continue to be seeking out grants, public funding to finish the renovations of the cabin,” Street said.

Another property in town will get a new lease on life, after it went to a tax sale. The house at 235 Wilt St., formerly owned by Seth Tracy, was purchased Sept. 28 by Dawn and David Harvey, of Good Faith Happenings LLC, of Huntington. The council tabled last month’s item concerning numerous property violations to see if it would be purchased in the tax sale.

Dawn Harvey appeared before the council and outlined a plan to fix up the house and then sell it. She said buying “broken” houses is the couple’s hobby.

“It looked to be in pretty good shape, actually, according to the things we normally deal with,” she said. “We bought the lot next to it as well to give it a bigger yard size and a more enticing home for a family.”

The Harveys bought a home on Logan Street in Markle about four years ago, fixed it up and sold it to a family, she added.

The Harveys cannot do any work for a year after purchasing the Wilt Street home; however, they will pay taxes and mow the yard while they wait arrival of the tax deed in November 2018.

Hearing her plans, the council unanimously voted to suspend the order of enforcement on the property.

In other business:

• The council unanimously adopted the town’s $1,658,881 2018 budget in its second reading.

The adopted tax levy is $431,435 and the adopted tax rate is 1.4260.

The detailed budget submitted to the Indiana Department of Local Government Finance can be found on the state’s Gateway site, budgetno tices.in.gov/unit_lookup.aspx?ct=35000.

• A building on the property at 275 Clark St. which also had several violations is “on the ground,” reported Marla Stambazze of the Huntington Countywide Department of Community Development. She said the owner of the property took the building down and asks for more time to clean up the debris.

“She’s going to reconstruct a new garage, but that can’t happen until spring,” Stambazze said. “If she’s got it down, that’s the eyesore we needed down.”

Stambazze said her department would not release the order until the property is all cleaned up.

• Council opened and read four garbage contract bids. Bids were submitted by Red River Waste Solutions, Advance Disposal Services, Republic Services and Waste Management, the last having the current contract to collect the town’s garbage. A contract could be awarded as early as the council’s next meeting on Nov. 15.

• The council again took up the issue of having chickens inside the town limits and listened to information presented by Jeremy and Brandy Dornseif, who asked the council to amend the town’s policy and allow them to keep their pet chickens at home.

The couple presented a petition from town residents in favor of allowing chickens and said they talked to several municipalities, including Bluffton, Evansville and South Bend, about their chicken ordinances and punishment for violations.

At its last meeting, councilmen mulled over allowing the Dornseifs an exception to the ordinance on a temporary basis. However, Humbarger said, after conferring with the town attorney, he could not make exceptions to the current ordinance.

“As soon as we allow chickens, someone will come to a council meeting with a goat or a sheep or a pig or another farm animal,” he said. “I just don’t know where it will stop.”

Humbarger noted that larger cities have dedicated animal control officers while Markle does not. The council turned down an offer by the couple to volunteer to serve as control officers citing insurance concerns.

But the council left the door open to possibly allowing chickens to be kept in town in the future if there is a specific ordinance in place. They tabled the issue until the next meeting for further discussion.

• By consensus, the council directed Town Supervisor Rick Asher to reshape ditches and an easement in the Skyline Addition in an effort to control flooding. Asher estimated the cost to be $2,500.