By Andrea McCann
Washington Times Herald
WASHINGTON — The City of Washington has begun work on a land-use plan for the I-69/U.S. 50 interchange.
Washington Mayor Joe Wellman introduced Jan Schuler-Hicks, who has volunteered her time to help the city develop its land-use plan for the area near the interchange. Schuler-Hicks explained she had worked with an engineering firm that did similar work in the Chicago area.
She said there was never a coordinated plan among local entities with a stake in the development at the interchange. Wellman and Schuler-Hicks interviewed firms and selected American Structurepoint Inc., which has done considerable land-use and city planning throughout the state, and “brought them to the table” with affected landowners. The discussion included what businesses everyone would like to see come to the city, what ones would make a good first impression on visitors, and how to get people off the interstate and into the city.
Wellman asked the board to approve contracts with American Structurepoint to help put together a plan and to assist with the latest Stellar Communities application.
“Nothing has ever been put together to take to prospective businesses,” the mayor said.
His request was approved.
Fleck new president
The city council elected Joe Fleck as their president for 2013. Councilman Eric Bassler made the nomination, thanking 2012 President Allen Brown for his service and for running the council in a bipartisan manner.
Fleck said this is the first time he can recall a Democrat president and a Republican administration or vice versa.
“I consider it an honor and a privilege,” he said, accepting the council’s vote of confidence. “You guys are open-minded.”
Actions were then taken by the council to transfer funds related to the wastewater utility.
“As you know, back in November I became a little concerned about the cash balances of the wastewater utility,” the mayor said.
He said despite rate increases in the past two years designed to help pay for the Combined Sewer Overflow project, the utility’s cash balance had steadily dropped. In November, it was at only $400,000. Wellman said he met with a representative of London Witte, the accountant group that had conducted a study related to financing the CSO project.
“Some assumptions made in the 2011 study proved to be erroneous,” Wellman said. “That is the reason the cash balances have gone down.”
He said they began to look for ways to deal with the issue without having to increase rates again. Excess funds were found from two bonds issued for the CSO project, he said. According to state statute, those excess funds can only be used for capital expenses of a similar nature to what the bond was originally issued for, or for making principal and interest payments.
By using the approximate $1.2 million to pay principal and interest, Wellman said it will relieve pressure on the operating fund. In addition, statute allows the city to reimburse the operating fund for those payments retroactive to 18 months.
“We’re required to do a rate study every two years anyway,” Wellman said. “This will get us to that point.”
Clerk/Treasurer Karen Brown certified that the surplus funds were not anticipated, and city attorney Tim Dant read a resolution that addresses the excess funds from the outstanding bond issues.
Two ordinances were introduced at the meeting, and rules were suspended to have the second reading at the meeting so action can be taken immediately. The first ordinance moves the code enforcement officer’s position from the Police Department to the Office of the Building Commissioner. The second ordinance amends the salary ordinance related to that position.
The council approved a plan by Judy Clements to develop a cul de sac and plat three lots on 3 acres she owns at 21st Street and E. National Highway. The plan already had been approved by planning and zoning boards
“It’s a business plat,” Clements explained. “It’s zoned C4.”
She said the street she’ll have built to serve the lots will be dedicated to the city. Work will begin in the spring, weather permitting, she said.
In other business:
* Wellman reappointed Ralph Brummett and Bassler to the Board of Public Works and Safety, and Anita Ash to the county’s Economic Development Commission.
* The clerk/treasurer read 2012 encumbrances. Items remaining to be paid out of the 2012 budget include $131,954.38 from the General Fund; $136,054.50 from the Motor Vehicle Highway Fund; $38,000 from the Local Roads and Streets Fund; $8,368.05 from the Parks Fund; $5,519.32 from the Transit Fund; and $45,000 from the CCD Fund, for a total of $364,896.25.
* Uniform Conflict of Interest Disclosure statements were presented for Wellman, who’s retired from German American Bank, with which the city does business; and Bassler, because the city often deals with bond issues, and he is a financial advisor.
Board of Public Works and Safety
At the Board of Public Works and Safety meeting following the council meeting, the board approved a handicap parking space in front of 409 N.E. First St. for Marilyn Queen, whose daughter goes to Red Door. She explained the van that picks her up often has to stop in the middle of the street because neighbors park in front of Queen’s house. She was concerned for her daughter’s safety. Police Chief Mike Healy and Street Commissioner Ernie Evans had looked into the issue and approved of putting in the space, with the stipulation that the handicap spot would be removed if Queen moves.
Utility write-offs were discussed, with Washington Municipal Utilities office manager Anita Ash asking the board for feedback on how far back to go. She said currently there are uncollectable accounts going back to 2006.
“I don’t see any reason to keep them on the books,” Dant said. “I really don’t. It doesn’t keep us from collecting.”
The board voted to write off 2006 and 2007, and to update the policy on the frequency of write-offs.
Salary and position changes were made in the Police and Wastewater departments. Healy said dispatcher Don Williams will leave his position to replace Judy Taylor in the Building Commissioner’s Office, effective March 1, and a new dispatcher will be hired. In the Wastewater Department, Superintendent Scott Rainey said he let an operator go a month ago and Robert Hamm moved from swing shift to day shift, so a new swing shift operator will need to be hired.