By Andrea McCann
Washington Times Herald
WASHINGTON — At a public hearing prior to Monday night’s Washington City Council meeting, several people spoke in favor of a grant project that would allow the City of Washington to make improvements to its water system.
The roughly six-month construction project would close E. VanTrees Street one block at a time as new pipe is laid to replace deteriorating main line and service lines that are more than a century old and keep breaking. The street will be repaved and curbs replaced as part of the project.
Water Works Superintendent Charlie Kane said the line has broken four times in the past two years. Though the only way in and out of Bryan and Maria Sergesketter’s driveway is on E. VanTrees Street, Maria said they would be happy to see the work done to avoid more water outages. Councilman Allen Brown works at Daviess Community Hospital, and he said the breaks create problems at the hospital: Water has to be brought in for drinking and other uses, and toilets sometimes can’t be flushed.
The dialysis center also is impacted.
Other issues caused by line breaks have included flooding at the jail, inconvenience to residents through outages and/or decreased water pressure, the waste water treatment facility is overwhelmed, streets and sidewalks are damaged, and emergency response times may be hindered. In addition, there’s a cost to the city in overtime when repairs must be made.
“It takes about 12 hours to fix each time it breaks,” Kane said.
Washington Fire Chief David Rhoads said the larger lines and additional, new hydrants that would be installed with the proposed project would benefit the fire department.
He said similar work done on the west side has made a big difference.
Rex Knight, project coordinator for the Southern Indiana Development Commission, who was conducting the public hearing, said the Community Development Block Grants are competitive and there’s only one round now, so it’s hard to determine what the city’s chances of receiving a grant might be. Wellman said the city is seeking a $500,000 matching grant for the $1.1-million project. A previous attempt to secure one of the grants was unsuccessful.
“You did not get a grant the first time,” Knight said.”You did not score well. The city has done things to improve the score. I think you have a much, much better chance this time. There are always a lot of infrastructure grants to go in, so that makes it hard to say. I think you have a better than 50-50 chance this time.”
He said city officials should hear by the end of August whether an award is made. After that, the city has 18 months to get the project done. Old lines would stay in place and working until new line is working so there as few outages as possible while the work is being done.
At the city council meeting following the hearing, Mayor Joe Wellman said annexation on the east side was complete as of Wednesday. The next step is submitting an application to the Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission for permission to allow Washington Municipal Utilities to take over one section of that annexed area. In addition, Wellman said the city is looking at the timing for provision of services to that area.
“There will be letters going out to the newly annexed citizens, probably later this week,” he said.
Wellman also told council members a bond issue was refinanced with actual savings at more than $549,000.
In addition, he said land use planning meetings are continuing and that INDOT is installing lights at the U.S. 50/I-69 interchange after a number of comments about how dark and hard to see it is there.
Wellman pointed out that the building commissioner and code enforcement officer had submitted reports and that they’ve been very busy.
City attorney Tim Dant said the redistricting ordinance will be ready for approval at the next council meeting.
Councilman Blake Chambers questioned a claim for Gator’s Critters, and Wellman explained the expense was for a joint project with the Daviess County Economic Development Corp. to eradicate the city’s pigeon problem.
Following the council meeting, the Board of Public Works and Safety met and approved amendment No. 3 of an agreement with Bernardin Lochmueller and Associates on the E. National Highway Relocation Project.
Also, Dant opened bids for leasing of two cropland tracts, totaling 40 acres, owned by the city. Wellman said one tract is owned by the Water Department and the other is owned by the Waste Water Department. Richard L Robinson Jr. bid $104.40 per acre for both tracts; Jared Smith bid $110 per acre for both tracts; Brandt Schuckman bid $70 per acre on one tract and $151 per acre on the other one; and Armes Boys Farms bid $137 per acre on each tract. The bids were referred to the department heads to review.
“Two weeks from tonight we’ll have the recommendation from the department heads and we’ll award those bids,” the mayor said.
The board approved a contract with Umbaugh and Associates for operational consulting. The company will review financial procedures in the city’s three utilities and make suggestions for streamlining those. Any process improvements should be able to be implemented immediately, and Umbaugh will provide training workshops for the people doing the procedures.
The board approved a salary/position change in the Police Department. Swing shift dispatcher Sarah Williams will move to third shift.
A crosswalk and additional signage to slow traffic and forewarn of a crosswalk were approved for North Elementary School. Councilman Mike Singleton pointed out there are two ADA-compliant ramps there already, and Street Commissioner Ernie Evans added that people cross there now anyway and the change will merely forewarn drivers there’s a crossing there.