In a special meeting on Friday, Sept. 3, and again during a regular meeting on Monday, Sept. 13, the Andrews Town Council discussed two pricy projects that have been on the docket for quite some time – the construction of a new water treatment plant and the purchase of a new fire truck.
During the Sept. 3 special meeting, Council President John Harshbarger introduced a resolution that would allow the town of Andrews to use American Rescue Plan (ARPA) funds for their water project. A motion was made to pass the resolution and the resolution passed.
ARPA funding is just one of several different avenues that the town has researched and gone after in order to get the proper funding for the water project. The town is also attempting to gain funding from the Office of Community and Rural Affairs (OCRA) and SRF funding as well.
These different funding options, though, will only be necessary if the town does not receive the funding they requested from the State Water Infrastructure Fund (SWIF) – grand total of $5 million, which is the estimated cost of the project.
“There are so many different parts to this 5 million,” said councilwoman Laura Dillon. “And if the state would give us the 5 million, we wouldn’t have to think about all of these other pieces to the puzzle.”
The SWIF grant, which was open for applications in the early summer months, allocated a total of $50 million for the entire state of Indiana. The town of Andrews applied for $5 million, which was the highest amount that an entity could request. The announcement of SWIF funding has been delayed, though, due to the high volume of funding requests that the state received.
The most recent date that the state pushed the announcement to was Monday, Sept. 13, but during the regular Andrews Town Council meeting that evening, Mike Kleinpeter, of Kleinpeter Consulting Group LLC, stated that the funding announcement had yet to be made.
Kleinpeter was also present to share a rough timeline for the project as a whole, as well as requirements for OCRA grant applications. He explained that OCRA wants public feedback to be displayed in the grant applications. To gain public feedback, he encouraged residents of Andrews to submit letters explaining how their lives had been affected by the water contamination, to fill out surveys and to attend the upcoming public hearings the town has scheduled for the water project.
“OCRA wants residents to attend public hearings, they want residents to write letters of support, talking about issues they’re facing like, how has this water problem impacted them?” Kleinpeter said. “They want to see hand-written letters, e-mails, just (residents) communicating to OCRA what issues they’re experiencing.”
Kleinpeter passed out physical copies of a short survey to those present at the Sept. 13 meeting. Questions about water color, water pressure, whether or not residents drink town tap water, how much they spend on bottled water and whether clothes ever become discolored when washing are in a “multiple choice” section and there is one question that is open ended so that residents may communicate their thoughts to the OCRA scoring committee about their water issues.
At the bottom of the survey, there is an option for whoever filled out the survey to write their address. While this is not a required part of the survey, Kleinpeter said he likes to create a map of residents’ homes that have filled out a survey, which gives the scoring committee a visual representation of how widely the issue affects the town he is working with.
The full application for OCRA funding is not due until December, but Kleinpeter stated that the sooner he gets citizen feedback, the sooner he can get a full application to OCRA. Proposals are due in mid-October, so he hopes to receive resident feedback by the end of September.
In unrelated business, the second rather pricy project that the town is currently taking more steps towards completing is the purchase of a new fire truck. During the Friday, Sept. 3, meeting, Harshbarger explained that a clarification was in order regarding funding.
“Apparently there are online rumors that the water funds could be used to buy a firetruck,” Harshbarger said. “I guarantee you, that cannot happen, it will not happen.”
The funding for these two projects come from entirely different categories. According to Harshbarger, water funds and sewage funds are in a category all their own and are self-funding. They do not go to any other projects.
Clerk-Treasurer Laury Powell stated that two local banks, First Federal State Bank and Bippus State Bank, had given the town information for loan options. As of the Sept. 3, meeting, the town was waiting to hear back from the Indiana Bond Bank to see if they had any better options.
By the Monday, Sept. 13, meeting, the council had received information from the Indiana Bond Bank. With the two local banks offering loans for 10 years, compared to the Indiana Bond Bank offering one for six at a lower interest rate, it was decided that the Indiana Bond Bank would be the best option for the loan.
The town will take out a $100,000 loan, which will be used in addition to the Andrews Volunteer Fire Department’s budget of $25,000. One of the department’s current trucks will also be sold, which will help pay off the loan quicker. Fire department representatives believe that the firetruck being sold will be worth about $20,000.