Markle water, wastewater rates closer to increase

Water and wastewater ordinances were formally introduced in their first reading during the Markle Town Council meeting Wednesday, Nov. 15, bringing rates one month closer to being raised after several years.

The water utility would raise customers’ rates by 20 percent, from $19.25 to $23.10 for the minimum 5,000 gallons monthly charge. The rates would go up again after one year from $23.10 to $26, reflecting a 35 percent increase advised by consultants at H.J. Umbaugh & Associates in order to pay for maintenance of the water towers and other expected utility costs.

“That will still keep us fairly significantly under the state average,” said Council President Jeff Humbarger. “The state average for water is $31.76.”

The second ordinance, reflecting a 20 percent increase in wastewater rates, bringing them from $34.65 to $42.35 for 5,000 gallons of usage in 2018 and from $42.35 to $48.74 for the beginning of 2019, which reflects the 38 percent increase advised by Umbaugh. The amount is slightly higher than the state average of $45.29.

The town’s water rates have not been raised since 2009 and wastewater rates haven’t been raised since 1992, Humbarger said.

A public hearing will be held at the council’s Jan. 17 meeting, with a vote to adopt the ordinance to follow. Clerk-Treasurer Carolyn Hamilton said copies of the ordinances and Umbaugh’s rate studies will be available in the Clerk-Treasurer’s office.

On another matter, Jonathan Dorsey, community development planner at Region 3A, along with Mandy Woods, executive director of Huntington Countywide Department of Community Development, addressed the council during a public hearing on updating the Huntington County Comprehensive Plan.

Dorsey asked what the council would like to see in the way of amenities and features to improve the county’s parks, local economy/business and transportation.

“We’re trying to get public input in a good direction on where to head,” he said.

Suggestions included more sidewalks and access, more open trails that connect together and exercise equipment for parks.

“You see a lot of that anymore, especially in larger cities that have more funding,” added Town Superintendent Rick Asher.

Suggestions for local economy included more restaurants, a small grocery store and a place to build single family occupant homes.

Transportation suggestions raised a question mark as to whether there is demand for additional modes of transportation, such as a small bus route or bike rentals.

Dorsey said the public is welcome to contact him with comments at Region 3A, at 347-4714 or jdorsey@region3a.org.
In a similar issue, sidewalks along Ind.-116 may be in Markle’s future, after the Indiana Department of Transportation expressed interest in including a sidewalk in its road improvement program set for 2020.

Asher said he spoke with a representative at INDOT who told him they are willing to purchase the right of way necessary to build a curb-faced sidewalk from the county line, connecting with Tracy Street. INDOT would also pay for the installation of the embankment that the sidewalk would be built upon, which would make for two large cost savings for Markle.

Asher said the town would be responsible for paying for the sidewalk, which he estimated could cost between $50,000 and $100,000.

The council gave Asher the go-ahead to draft a letter to INDOT giving the nod to the tie-in proposal.

“I think it would be a really nice addition to the town,” Humbarger said, adding the town should start setting aside money now and look into additional options on how to pay for it.

In other business:

• Council awarded the solid waste and recycling contract award to Waste Management of Indiana, which submitted the lowest bid. The three-year contract includes fees of $11.15 per residential unit for 2018; $11.49/unit for 2019 and $11.84/unit for 2020.

• A state street sweeping contract renewal for the next four years was approved, in which the town will clean portions of Ind.-3, Ind.-116 and U.S.-224 a minimum of two times per year. The town will be paid $936 per year for the service.

• An agreement for large water meter evaluation, testing and calibration was approved by consensus, authorizing Water Superintendent Stephen Jeffers to have M.E. Simpson Co. do the work. Jeffers said some of the meters are close to 20 years old and have never been tested. He said the meter located in the town’s water plant needs to be tested every four or five years.

The cost would be about $2,360 per day for testing. The water plant meter alone would cost a minimum of $1,000, Jeffers said.

“If they aren’t good, then we’re losing a whole lot of money on them, as far as revenue coming into the town,” he added.

• A payroll ordinance for the town’s employees was approved 3-0 in its first reading. The ordinance includes an across-the-board 2 percent salary increase for all employees.

• Jody Gates of Norwell Middle School received permission to put wreaths up at Veterans Park, as part of a nationwide effort by the Junior National Honor Society called Wreaths Across America.

The honor society is honoring veterans on Dec. 16 by placing live wreaths on veterans’ graves at the National Cemetery at Marion, Gates explained, adding that about 1,200 wreaths have already been purchased. The eighth-grade Junior Honor Society students at Norwell Middle School are raising funds to pay for 25 wreaths for the ceremonies.

“I want to remind my veterans that come to our program – we had about 100 this year – that they will not be forgotten. I think that’s so important,” she added. “It’s a way for us to acknowledge their service and also to thank those who are currently serving.”

The group is planning three programs, at Ossian, Markle and Bluffton, with honor guards planned at each location. Seven ceremonial wreaths will be placed at each location on Dec. 16, one for each branch of service, including Coast Guard, Merchant Marines and POW/MIAs. A red bow and flags will decorate each wreath, Gates said.