(OOLITIC) - The Oolitic Town Council will not be raising water rates - for now.
The council discussed raising water rates after they were notified the town would face a 32 percent increase after Bedford raised their rates.
Oolitic purchases water from Bedford.
Town Clerk-Treasurer Jim Staley told the council that after some research he believes the town could afford the increase without raising the rates.
"At this time I just do not think it is appropriate that we raise the rates," Staley says. "After a review of our finances, there are numerous things improving...and with changing out the meters we will have more accurate readings. I think we should wait six months.. giving us a chance to review were we are."
Council President Delvin Nikirk agreed saying the town is replacing 300 water meters after IDEM recommended replacing 10 percent of the town's water meters a year, in a move to accurately regulate water usage. Staley says workers have replaced about 80 meters so far.
"I don't want to raise the rates if we don't have to," Nikirk says. "We will try to get the rest of the meters in as soon as we can."
Staley agreed to provide the council with monthly updates.
In other business:
* Town councilman Bill Kendall requested that town superintendent Rick Hawkins look into Kenny Hawkins putting commercial trash in with residential trash for pickup. Kendall told the council he had received complaints and also requested Staley check to see if Hawkins was paying for commercial trash pickup.
* The Oolitic Festival Committee will host a holiday bazaar on December 8 at the Oolitic Community Center. Anyone interested in having a booth or volunteering is asked to call Sue Holmes or Glen Gross.
* Town Attorney Greg Pittman provided the council with a draft of a contract between the Oolitic Volunteer Fire Department and the town for their approval.
Pittman added wording that the fire department would provide medical assistant to residents "at any and all calls."
However Chief Jason Lewis didn't like the wording because the department is staffed with volunteers and they are not always available to assist, but would if they were able.
Town Deputy Marshal Bill Allen told the board that the town needs the clause so that firefighters will assist with "little calls", like lifting a person who falls.
Allen says firefighters should not be able to pick and choice which calls they want to respond to, because the town pays the department "a good chunk of money" and they should be available to help.
Pittman will change the wording to state that if the town marshals request assistance the department will respond. He will then present the new contract to the council and Lewis for review.
* Kendall requested the council pass a policy stating that any questions from the public be answered by the next meeting. The council agreed, as long as it was possible.
"Some questions may take longer to answer," says Nikirk. "But we will answer any questions as soon as possible."
* Kendall asked Town Marshal Jon Jefferies about the cleanup efforts at property in the 1000 block of Walnut Street. Jefferies says the property owner has begun work, but the property was still not cleaned up.
* Kendall asked Pittman if he had looked into an old ordinance that Bob Szemsack discovered about zoning. Pittman says the ordinance did exist and states that lots on Hoosier Avenue east and west and on Main Street north and south are zoned commercial and all other are zoned residential.
Pittman added because a portion of Walsh Avenue is against Main Street it could be and because it is considered "right of way" it could be zoned commercial.
"It is all in how you interpret the wording in the ordinance," Pittman says. "It would be something the council would have to look into when the court makes their decision."
Szemsack is involved in a law suit the town has filed to determine ownership of the property at the dead end of Walsh Avenue. Currently the town believes they own the land, but the Szemsacks believe they own the property.
If the town owns the property, businessman, Jack Kellams would like to purchase it, to put up a billboard that would face Ind. 37 from both the north and south sides to advertise his Antique Mall on Main Street in Oolitic.
* Because the December council meeting falls on New Year's Eve the council agreed to reschedule the meeting. The meeting will be December 27 at 6:30 p.m.
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