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Meat-and-potatoes edition: Of water towers, sewer rates and Fairfield Twp. tension
A little of this, a little of that, heavy on the meat-and-potatoes of public meetings
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A little of this, a little of that, heavy on the meat-and-potatoes of public meetings, starting with something of a preview rather than a full account (for now) …
MORE TENSE MOMENTS FOR FAIRFIELD TOWNSHIP: Time was tight Tuesday night after the Fairfield Township Board met with Trustee Taletha Coles. But count this as a quick recap of the action …
I’ll have more details in Thursday’s edition.
AMERICAN RESCUE PLAN AND THE WEA RIDGE WATER TOWER: Lafayette plans to use the nearly $8 million the city received in 2021 from the federal American Rescue Plan Act to pay for water improvements, including a new water tower the city has been planning for years, according to a plan approved Monday by the Lafayette City Council.
The money is the first of two installments adding up to $16.7 million Lafayette expects from the federal American Rescue Plan Act. The other part is expected to come in 2022, city officials said.
Mayor Tony Roswarski told city council members that he and other city staffers gathered ideas about how to use the money, aimed at infrastructure improvements. He said the decision, based on the city’s long-range plans already in the works, was pretty easy.
Tuesday morning, the Lafayette board of works accepted a $5.6 million bid from Caldwell Tanks LLC of Louisville, Kentucky, to build the 2 million-gallon water tower near Wea Ridge Elementary School on County Road 430 South. Steve Moore, Lafayette Water Works superintendent, said the project would improve water pressure in the area, particularly if needed to fight a fire, and provide service as the city grows to the south.
Moore said construction would start this year, with the tank in service by mid-2023.
Last fall, Tippecanoe School Corp. made arrangements to transfer land for the water tower project to the city.
Other parts of the federal money will include mechanical improvements in the city’s Glick Water Field, Moore told city council members Monday.
WEST LAFAYETTE SEWER RATE OK’D: Speaking of American Rescue Plan Act money and local infrastructure projects … In January, the West Lafayette City Council agreed to put $7 million of the $11.4 million West Lafayette received in the 2021 American Rescue Plan package toward the Dehart Combined Sewer Overflow Project. The project, including a 15-by-15-foot tunnel under River Road between Dehart Street and Happy Hollow Road, is designed to collect and store 1.7 million gallons of stormwater during heavy rains to give the city’s wastewater treatment plant time to process sewage instead of having it overflow directly into the Wabash River.
To pay for the rest of the $13.9 million, the city plans to issue 20-year bonds backed by a sewer rate increase the city council finalized Monday night. The city’s sewer rates would go up $8.13 a month – that’s 20% – for a typical household between now and 2026, according to a rate increase schedule given initial approval by the city council Tuesday night.
Here’s a look at what bills for households using 5,000 gallons a month would do: From $40.47 to $44.50 in 2022. That would be followed by increases of 3% or 2% each year until that same 5,000-gallon bill would be $48.60, according to city records. (Household customer bills now include $6.13 per 1,000 gallons, plus $9.82 for a combined-sewer overflow surcharge.)
STILL IN PLAY, SEWER RATE PROPOSAL JUST OUTSIDE WL: American Suburban Utilities, which serves the outskirts of West Lafayette, in November 2021 filed for a sewer rate increase that would raise a flat monthly residential rate from $59.08 to $99.66. That’s a proposed 68%. That also was enough to have residential customers running to make online petitions in protest and to start collecting letters for the Indiana Office of Utility Consumer Counselor. The Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission asked the Office of Utility Consumer Counselor to testify on the proposal April 5. The office is collecting comments through March 30. For more about the rate increase request and to comment on it, here’s a page set up by the Office of Utility Consumer Counselor.
PRIMARY CANDIDATES … FIRST QUESTION …: Several subscribers sent notes to say they had problems opening the final Tippecanoe County candidate list I included in Tuesday’s editions. Funny, it opened for me. Yet, for others here in the house, it was a total error message dead end. Let’s try it again here. If it doesn’t work for you this time, drop me a note. We’ll try to figure out why. If it DOES work, check it out. That’s going to be one crowded ballot.
WEST LAFAYETTE PROTESTS HB1002: The West Lafayette City Council pushed back Monday night on part of a tax cut package working its way through the Indiana General Assembly, saying it will cost the city millions dollars. Part of House Bill 1002, a larger tax cut measure sponsored by state Rep. Tim Brown, a Crawfordsville Republican, includes cuts in business personal property tax, essentially eliminating a 30% floor on depreciation on large pieces of equipment. An Indianapolis Star analysis of the state’s fiscal report with the bill estimated that in 2025, companies would pay $285.8 million in business personal property taxes. A West Lafayette resolution estimated the move would include $6.7 million in Tippecanoe County, or 19% of the county’s property tax revenue. West Lafayette estimates its share of that at $900,000. The resolution called on state lawmakers to reconsider, saying the city opposes legislation to eliminate “any portion of the personal property tax without permanent full replacement guaranteed by the state.” The resolution passed unanimously.
CITY HALL PERSONNEL UPDATE: City Attorney Jacque Chosnek will move to Lafayette city offices and become in-house counsel as soon as March, according to a plan laid out by the city council Monday. Chosnek currently has a private practice, largely devoted to the city’s legal needs. Ed Chosnek, Jacque Chosnek’s father and the previous city attorney, handled the position in the same way. Roswarski said things would be more efficient to have the city attorney on staff, rather than as a contractor. He said the arrangement didn’t mean spending more money as much as it meant moving legal budgets from assorted city departments into a dedicated legal department. The city council will consider a second vote on the matter on March 7. The ordinance lists Chosnek’s salary at just over $120,000 a year.
IT’S PRONOUNCED ‘WE-buh-SHAY’: The Ouibache Roots Music Festival will expand to two nights this summer in downtown Lafayette’s upper Main block. The city’s board of works on Tuesday approved Aug. 26-27 as dates for the fifth edition of the music festival, featuring a mix of local, regional and national acts. Organizer Scott Freeman said the festival would have two stages along Main Street, between Ninth and 11th streets, on those Friday and Saturday evenings. He told city board members that the heat during a daylong festival got to be too much in 2021. For more on the festival, here’s the Ouibache site. (Hint: It’s pronounced WE-buh-SHAY.)
THE REMEMBERING ABBY AND LIBBY FOOD DRIVE: Consider a drive to Delphi or a stop to a food pantry or animal shelter closer to home this weekend, as families of Abby Williams and Libby German have invited people to mark the fifth anniversary of their deaths through the Remembering Abby and Libby Food Drive. The food drive will be 8 a.m.-8 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 12, and Sunday, Feb. 13, at the Delphi United Methodist Church, 1796 U.S. 421. (That’s about a quarter-mile from the Hoosier Heartland Highway.) The families of the girls suggest bringing nonperishable food and pet food items to the church. The donations will be taken to local food pantries and animal shelters. The girls’ murders while walking the Monon High Bridge Trail near Delphi remain unsolved.
FOR MORE ON THE INVESTIGATION: The Indiana State Police maintains a site with composite sketches, audio and video files, along with reward information, in the 2017 murders of Abby Williams and Libby German. Go to: https://www.in.gov/isp/delphi.htm
TIPS: Anyone with information about the case is encouraged to send tips to: email@example.com.
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