(ORLEANS) - Orleans Town Council met in regular session last Thursday night at Orleans Town Hall. Mark Downey of Commonwealth Engineers was present to give an updated progress summary on the town's extensive sewer project, which is estimated to be near 45% complete to date.
Downey also submitted the monthly pay claims for both the contractors & engineer as well as a number of project change orders for the council's approval.
Lisa Gehlhausen of Indiana 15 Regional Planning Commission appeared before the council to submit a needed change order relating to the removal of the old White Castle building and to begin the process of completing and filing the necessary paperwork for the town to be able apply for an upcoming Community Focus Fund Grant through the state's Office of Community Rural Affairs (OCRA) to construct a badly needed new building to house the town's fire and emergency services on the site formerly occupied by White Castle.
A special public hearing was set for March 14 beginning at 6 p.m. to gauge community support for the local fire department and its housing needs.
Greg Guerrettaz of Financial Solutions Group (FSG) who serves as the town's financial consultant presented the town's most recent water utility rate study and financials. Guerrettaz noted that town officials had been able to put off implementing any type of water increase for the past three years, being sensitive to the fact of a real potential hardship it could have on citizens with the recent sizeable increase in wastewater costs. The increase on the sewer side of the town's utilities was in direct response to the major and extensive overhaul underway of the town's failing 80 year old collection system and aging wastewater treatment plant.
Guerrettaz relayed that the town in the last couple of years been able to pay off the old 1974 Water Bond ahead of schedule in an effort to remove that debt from the books and in a sense delaying an increase in water for a bit longer. However Guerrettaz said that the town's overall water operations cannot wait any longer and to build up capital monies that will be needed to aide in part in future needed improvements an increase will be necessary sooner than any later.
Council members reviewed and discussed in length the draft amended water rate ordinance prepared by Town Attorney John-Paul Isom last month agreeing to further study the rate consultant's report and recommendations for the needed rate increase. A public hearing was set for the next regular meeting on March 21st.
Orleans Town Clerk Robert F. Henderson updated the council on the fundraising efforts for one of the town's Bicentennial project, the restoration of the original and rare 1926 Peter Pirsch Fire Engine, which amounts to $8.500 to date.
Henderson noted Infrastructure Systems Inc. has also recently made a large donation towards the project.
Donations in any amount to help save the fire truck are being accepted through the town offices.
Henderson also reported that through the efforts of both is office and Attorney Isom the town had recently received $12,413.66 for the water works from a nationwide settlement of two class action suits involving atrazine, the most widely used herbicide in the United States.
Orleans was among over a thousand other community water systems with detectable levels of Atrazine submitting claims for remediation costs. There was evidence of atrazine in the town's water supply dating back to the mid-1990s when the town operated its own municipal wells.
"We had traces, but not a real high concentration of it," said Henderson.
When the town offices received a notice of the lawsuit last fall for cities and towns who had the herbicide in its water supply, Henderson contacted Isom asking him to pursue whatever needed procedures required to include the town as part of the settlement. The money, which has been deposited in the town's water department fund, can be used for basic water related operations.
Permission was granted to the Orleans Chamber of Commerce once again for use of various town facilities for this year's Dogwood Festival.
A brief discussion was held concerning recent changes of oversight made to the Orleans Summer League and council members agreed to meet with the summer league board members to further discuss those items and this year's recreational program for area youth.
Henderson relayed that his office was still looking at a number of possible vendors to provide for credit/debit cards to be accepted for town unities payments and would be interested in hearing from residents if that was truly something they would like to see made available and if so would they still be willing to use their credit and/or debit card for payment if there was a service charge or added fee involved.
Council President Fields related that he had received a number of complaints from residents concerning on-going speeding from vehicles on South Roosevelt Road as well as a request for a three way stop sign to be placed at the corner of Roosevelt & South Streets. Attorney Isom was asked to prepare a draft ordinance for the council to review at its March meeting.
Henderson reported that the town's overall 2013 Budget had been formally improved by the state with most of the submitted estimated budget amounts left intact with the expectation of both the cum capital improvements and cemetery funds having to be reduced somewhat for the new year.
Michael Lantis was hired as a full time member of the street department effective March 1 with Councilman Steve Lantis abstaining from the vote. Lantis had previously been working as a laborer on a part time and seasonal basis.
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