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Scenes from Monday’s West Lafayette City Council meeting: Microplastics in the wash, a drive-thru in Menard’s out lot and … a visit from the 1974 movie props department.
Thanks, also, today to sponsor Tippecanoe Chamber Music Society, which opens its season Sept. 17 with its Teachers and Mentors concert. The concert will be 4 p.m. Sept. 17 at St. John’s Episcopal Church at Sixth and Ferry streets in Lafayette. For tickets for that concert and for the rest of the season, go to tippecanoechambermusic.org.
Scenes from Monday’s West Lafayette City Council meeting …
MICROPLASTICS AND WEST LAFAYETTE: West Lafayette’s Go Greener Commission will be asked to help come up with a campaign to cut down on the amount of microplastics that end up at the city’s wastewater plant. The follows a city report, unveiled Monday, that outlined research into sources of microplastic contamination in waterways.
A 17-page report, ordered by the council in June and pulled together by Halee Griffey, the West Lafayette climate resiliency and sustainability officer, looked at the effects of “polyvinyl alcohol pollution in wastewater as a result of laundry pod and sheet use, but also microplastics as a complex, but imperative, area of study in the context of legacy pollution within West Lafayette and beyond.”
The upshot, via the report: Research into microplastics in relatively new, “with notable knowledge gaps and limited information.”
The report, though, identified microplastics – plastic particles between 5 millimeters and 1 micrometer, “which can be smaller than the average grain of sand” – as material that can “enter the aquatic environment and their residues may remain for months, or hundreds or thousands of years.” Griffey told the council that the threat of microplastics was relevant now and to future generations.
Among the report’s recommendations were consideration of wastewater treatment plant equipment to keep microplastics from being released into waterways. That included membrane bioreactors, which the report said were shown to reduce microplastic releases by 99.9 percent. Griffey said the city’s wastewater department was already looking into the technology.
The report also said that a primary microplastic contamination source for wastewater plants was microfibers from consumer textiles. Among the recommendations, the report discouraged “the consumption of plastic-rich textiles” by limiting shopping for fast-fashion clothing and choosing clothes with natural fibers, including cotton.
From the report: “Fast fashion relies on the quick production of clothing to meet current trends and style demands, which often leads to overconsumption, particularly of unsustainable materials, that negatively affects not only the municipal wastewater quality in the cities where the clothing items are washed, but, at a larger scale, in the host cities of the manufacturing facilities that the clothing items are being processed.”
The report also recommended limiting the number of washes for those types of clothes to limit the release of fibers during a cycle, and to wash clothes in colder temperatures.
“This was everything I was hoping it would be,” said David Sanders, a city council member who initially asked for a study of how well the city’s wastewater treatment plant was designed to handle laundry detergent pods.
Peter Bunder, council president, asked Griffey and the city’s Go Greener Commission to come up with educational materials to spread the key points. He also encourage the Go Greener Commission to continue to lobby for wastewater treatment equipment mentioned in the report.
“That’s how we got a climate resiliency and sustainability officer,” Bunder said.
Here’s a look at the full report:
LEVEE PROJECT STREET SWAPS ON HOLD: A major project that will put as many as 1,350 beds and 21,700 square feet of retail in two, seven-story buildings in West Lafayette’s Levee area got the city council’s approval in July. For a project that was designed to rework streets in that part of the Levee, developer Landmark Properties still needs to vacate and swap some rights-of-way with the city before breaking ground. Landmark officials asked the city council to hold off Monday on a resolution that would line that up, until it could work through some of the details, city attorney Eric Burns said. Burns said the work Landmark was doing wouldn’t change the project, which includes a footprint that covers several existing businesses, including Bruno’s, Campus Inn, Rubia Flowers, Hacienda, China One and the former Puccini’s. The project is expected to be done by fall 2026, according to plans discussed with the council over the summer. For more on the Landmark project, here’s a story, maps, street layouts and more, via July’s coverage: “Levee development gets OK from West Lafayette, breaking ground in 2024.”
WABASH TOWNSHIP REQUEST OF PUBLIC SAFETY TAX OFF THE TABLE: The West Lafayette City Council withdrew a proposal that would have endorsed a way to share some of a countywide public safety income tax in place since 2020 with Wabash Township. Wabash Township Trustee Angel Valentin recently floated the idea to help the township’s fire department raise money to update radios.
On Monday, city council member James Blanco, who sponsored a resolution to back that idea, withdrew the measure before it was discussed. (The resolution had been tabled in August, as well.) Blanco said deadlines were too tight to address the matter for the coming year. He said it’s possible that the idea could come up again.
To change the distribution of the tax or the tax rate, Wabash Township would need to persuade at least 50% of the Tippecanoe County Income Tax Council – made up of officials from Tippecanoe County, Lafayette, West Lafayette and the towns of Battle Ground, Clarks Hill, Dayton, Otterbein and Shadeland. Each of those gets a weighted vote on local income tax questions. Essentially, it would take the blessing of two of the biggest three – Lafayette, West Lafayette and Tippecanoe County – to get past that 50% threshold. Lafayette and Tippecanoe County officials have been cool to the idea. And West Lafayette never got around to debating whether it would go along.
Of the $9 million in the public safety income tax expected in 2023, $4.2 million will go to the county, $3.5 million will go to Lafayette and $1 million will go to West Lafayette, according to county auditor figures. The rest will go to the other towns on the income tax council.
The Wabash Township proposal – laid out in the tabled West Lafayette resolution – was to increase the local income tax from 0.18% to 0.2%. That would equal an additional $10 a year for someone making $50,000. Overall, it would raise roughly an additional $1 million on top of the $9 million expected in 2023, according to figures from the Tippecanoe County auditor’s office.
REZONING OPENS WAY FOR NEW COFFEE DRIVE-THRU: 7 Brew Coffee, a national company with locations throughout the Midwest and South, is looking to build a third Greater Lafayette location in an out lot near the Menard’s and Meijer stores on Sagamore Parkway in West Lafayette. To accommodate drive-thru service, the out lot needed to be rezoned from neighborhood business to general business. (NB zoning doesn’t allow drive-thru windows, according to an Area Plan Commission report.) The city council voted unanimously to rezone the property.
THE PROPS DEPARTMENT: Council member David Sanders used some time near the end of Monday night’s meeting to call out Indiana Economic Development Corp. plans to pump millions of gallons of water from Wabash River aquifer in Tippecanoe County to feed the 9,000-acre LEAP District development near Lebanon. Sanders, who attended Monday’s meeting with a gauze bandage across his nose, referenced “Chinatown,” a 1974 Roman Polanski film that revolved around southern California water rights during the early-20th century development of Los Angeles. Sanders’ point echoed a prevailing point across Greater Lafayette in the past year: Trusting an IEDC study into whether there’s enough water for IEDC plans to pump out up to 100 million gallons a day is suspect and should be fought. (Among the latest takes: “IEDC says Initial well tests 'very good' for water pipeline, as state eyes Wabash aquifer.”) In conversations with a few of us in media after the meeting, the question turned to whether Sanders was OK, given the bandage. He was mystified that we didn’t know: This was his best Jack Nicholson, who spent the movie with his nose taped up after being cut for being a nosey fella. “It’s a prop?” one of us asked. Sanders – who has used props before, including chain link fencing around his seat in 2019 to protest the treatment of child migrants held in facilities in Texas – said he thought it was obvious. “You haven’t seen ‘Chinatown?’” he said. If you have to explain the gag …
Thanks, again, to the Tippecanoe Chamber Music Society, which opens its season Sept. 17 with its Teachers and Mentors concert. For tickets and a look at the rest of the season, go to tippecanoechambermusic.org.
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