With a new year, a new mayor and a new Council, there is a new meeting schedule set for the Austin Board of Works and Public Safety.
Now, the Board of Works meets at 5 p.m. on the second Monday of each month. Consequently, the board met prior to the start of the Austin City Council, which is scheduled on the same night at 6 p.m.
To begin the 5 p.m. meeting, City engineer Dave Eberenz talked to Board of Works members Mayor Dillo Bush, City Council President Don Campbell and former councilman Nathan Campbell.
For months, the board has been trying to find an answer to the failure of one of two clarifiers used at the Austin sewage treatment plant. Going back to the manufacturer of the system has had mixed results, noted the city engineer. “If you remember, we got the first one replaced and paid for it because we'd fixed it ourselves before with an 'unauthorized' part. Then when it failed again, the manufacturer replaced it. The third time, the manufacturer has sent representatives down here trying to figure out why it keeps failing,” Eberenz related for the new board.
The engineer presented the board with several quotes he obtained, not only from the original company which installed the clarifier but also from other firms which deal in such systems. A clarifier looks likes a large, round tank sunk into the ground. Liquid waste and water “settle” in it continuously until all solids are eliminated.
Solids then go on to the plant's sludge belt press, while the water is treated, then released.
“From what I've learned, I'm not sure if Lakeside (Equipment Corporation) can help us. This is still an on-going process. Our decision is if we think Lakeside is really going to help us,” Eberenz told the board, adding, “we're trying to be fiscally responsible to the city, but where's the fiscal responsibility if we just throw away money on this system?”
From quotes Eberenz obtained, Lakeside will replace the failed equipment for $23,800. To replace the whole system as suggested by a couple of companies could cost as much as $91,000.
Mayor Bush was unhappy. “I don't understand how, six months to a year later that company can't discover what the problem is. It's almost like a misalignment, like they're missing something obvious,” he commented.
Eberenz and the board discussed directions they could take, from allowing Lakeside to replace the equipment to tearing out the system and going with a newer set-up. Eberenz said, “I am personally disappointed with Lakeside's response. I've been involved with ten projects using Lakeside equipment, and I've never had an experience like this. When I've asked other companies, I don't get a whole lot of comments except that we're using old technology. Makes you want to scratch your head.”
Noting that Lakeside had only partially answered a list of some ten questions Eberenz had emailed the firm, Campbell suggested that the city engineer ask them to fully reply to his inquiry. Mayor Bush agreed with this response. “You get all the answers you need and present them to us and then we'll make a decision at our March 14 meeting,” Bush told him.
The board agreed to let Eberenz do some smoke testing and pump testing in the locale of lift station No. 1 to check for leaks. That action will be taken in response to overflows.
Additionally, Eberenz said new limits on phosphorus levels have gone into effect. He said the Austin plant's design allows the city to address the issue, but, within a year's time, some modifications will be needed to meet the limit allowed by the Indiana Department of Environmental Management (IDEM).
Eberenz said he has met with officials of Morgan Foods Inc. regarding the hook-up of the plant to the city's sewer system. A gravity line is scheduled to be installed.
Half of the light poles which had shown signs of wear on East Main Street are down and being re-coated, Eberenz reported. He also said work is under way on the new walking path at Austin Community Park being financed by the Austin Redevelopment Commission (ARC).
That work has unearthed what Eberenz estimated were a couple hundred old tires dumped on the property bought by ARC. “Every time I look at it, the pile keeps getting bigger,” he noted.
Mayor Bush said he would talk to Sanitation and Streets Superintendent Shane Terry about the tires and their possible disposal.
In the City Council meeting, claims were passed on a 4-1 vote, Council President Campbell voting against them, apparently because of a question about payments made by ARC on its projects being sent through River Valley Bank. The ARC's economic development director, Bill Sears, was to be asked to attend the next City Council meeting to explain the arrangement.
A lawyer with Frost Brown Todd of Louisville, Ky., was present to complete the necessary paperwork on refinancing the city's debt on its last sewer improvement project. With the lower interest rate offered, the city will be saving from $15,000 to $20,000 a year.
Under old business, the following topics were addressed:
•Possible revisions to the city's Animal Ordinance. The definition of livestock should be broadened, advised the council's attorney, Josh Stigdon. That issue will be on the Council's March agenda.
•The city's Unsafe Building Ordinance. The city has already adopted state statutes in regard to unsafe buildings, said Stigdon. A proposed agreement to schedule inspections of rental properties before they are rented was never voted upon. Stigdon suggested the city allow several of its employees to become certified in building inspection.
•Councilwoman Staci Mullins said she will make a presentation at the March 14 meeting about possible grants.
•Zoning Ordinance updates: Any updates which the City Council wants to include in its present ordinance must be first approved by the Austin Area Plan Commission, which forwards the approved changes on to the City Council for its action, explained Stigdon.
•City representative on the Public Safety Board: Councilman Campbell said he would contact Austin officer Lonnie Noble about continuing to serve as the community's representative on this board. Campbell also said he was aware that the city has not yet paid all of its 2015 bill for law enforcement dispatching. Stigdon said there may be a way for the city to save some money on this cost. Campbell asked the attorney to keep him posted.
•Councilman Johnny White asked about the number of city employees who have CDL licenses. Mayor Bush said the city has two, but one retires at the end of February. He said the city has offered to pay for the cost of getting employees certified. A CDL is required before an employee may drive heavy duty trucks and the city's trash packer.
•Councilman White asked about the cost of picking up and disposing of trash. Mayor Bush said the city pays about $65,000 per year or $250 per trip to the compactor/transfer station in Scottsburg. Building a licensed compactor for Austin's use was discussed.
•A citizen's complaint about the $10 trash fee charged per household per month was discussed. The citizen thought the fee allowed for large items, such as furniture, to be picked up free. This is not true.
•Annexation of the old American Can Company property was discussed.
•Councilman White commended Chief Robert Gudgel and officers for the job they are doing.
•The police department's 1999 Crown Victoria was declared excess. The declaration will allow the department to sell the car. Chief Gudgel said the department's 2016 cruiser arrived. That patrol unit was purchased by the ARC.