NEW WHITELAND TOWN COUNCIL
December 9, 2008
President Perrin called the Special Meeting to order at 7:00 p.m. Council members Perrin, Alspach, Noonan, Spencer and Harris were present. Also present were Attorney Lee Robbins, Clerk-Treasurer Alspach, PW Supt. Lasiter and Fire Chief Hedrick.
Also present were Jeff Birk, Ray Rodgers, Charles Howard and Joe Pete a reporter with the Daily Journal.
Jeff Birk with Birk, Gross, Bell & Coulter reminds the council that under our current contract we have a deadline to notify Indiana American if we want to make any changes to or end our contract. That deadline has been extended until January 29, 2009. Birk outlines the following options:
1. Council can agree to take no action and the existing contract automatically renews for 50 years.
2. May give written notice of our desire to end the contract and explore options to drill our own wells and produce our own water supply.
3. May give written notice of our desire to end the contract and explore options to purchase water from another supplier.
4. Could pursue sale of the water utility.
With either option #2 or #3 we would be obligated to continue our existing contract for 5 years. During that 5 year period we would need to explore any available options to be able to provide a source of water when the contract ends.
Birk advises the council that New Whiteland’s current water rates are lower than both Indiana American’s rates and most other municipalities with less than 10,000 customers. Birk needs to do a financial analysis of the utility and the council will need to raise rates in 2009. Our expenses exceeded our revenues again this year. The surplus revenues taken in as connection fees have been used to bridge the gap for the last few years and are slowly being depleted. With no new subdivision building planned those revenues will not be replaced. The current bonds for the water utility will pay off in 2012 which will reduce the expense side if there are no major repair, maintenance or equipment expenses. We cannot automatically assume the bond principal and interest money will be surplus funding for the utility.
After much discussion it is determined that the cost to drill a well field due to the distance between the plant and the potential aquifer is unrealistic for a utility our size. Bargersville has expressed an interest in providing water to the town but that would require installation of approximately a mile of water line to connect to their line at Tracy Road and 135. Lines are already in place for service from Indiana American with no additional expense to our residents. Indiana American is so much larger than Bargersville that their rates may be cheaper due to volume discounting. Council discusses level of service our customers are accustomed to and other responsibilities that current employees would be able to assume if the water utility were sold. There is also some discussion on how the proceeds of any sale would be invested or used. If the utility were sold it would generate property tax revenues for New Whiteland and others.
Council authorizes Jeff Birk to notify Indiana American that we are interested in pursuing the sale of the water utility or in continuing to purchase water from them if a sale price can not be agreed upon. We need to convey to them that we will pursue other options if they are not interested in negotiating with us in good faith. We would like to renegotiate some sections of the existing contract if Indiana American does not purchase the water utility. One area that needs to be addressed is the term length of the contract. We also would request that the January 29th deadline be extended to 30 days after the receipt of any purchase offer.
December 9, 2008
Lee’s Country RV
Councilman Harris says the buildings and property have lots of potential. He does not know how we would be able to finance the purchase.
Councilman Alspach notes that the utility costs are higher at this property than in our current buildings. Lee’s RV paid $45,000 in property taxes this year. Those taxes would be lost if the town purchased the property.
PW Supt. Lasiter believes the property would make a great location for both Police and Fire but does not believe it would be a good location for the utility offices. Cost of necessary renovations is unknown. Lasiter agrees with Marshal Stephenson’s recommendation to get an architect to look at the buildings and put together a proposal for renovating the building to suit our needs.
Fire Chief Hedrick says that he and his staff want something that works for everyone. The Fire Department’s main need is a training room. That can be added to their existing building with grant money.
Councilman Spencer is concerned about safety as people try to leave the property and enter or cross US 31. Even with the undeveloped land on this site he would be opposed to adding a community center as he would not want children having to cross 31 to get to it.
Clerk-Treasurer Alspach states that the girls in the offices here are happy to stay put. She would like to eventually be able to address some electrical wiring and energy efficiency issues in this building. She would not want our older residents having to negotiate traffic on 31 to pay their utility bills. She is also concerned about any additional cost to residents when so many people are concerned about their jobs, or losing their homes, or just feeding their families. The new building project for CPCSC could have a tax impact on these residents and she would hate to add to that if it isn’t necessary.
Everyone agrees the building and property are wonderful and that the price is very reasonable, however it would not allow us to consolidate all of our departments as we had hoped. The purchase of any property, buildings or the construction of a community center would probably require the sale of the water utility.
Council directs Clerk-Treasurer Alspach to notify Roger Lee of their decision not to pursue either leasing or purchasing the property.
Being no other business the meeting was adjourned at 9:00 p.m.
Maribeth Alspach, Clerk- Treasurer
John Perrin, President