Elkhart council scrambling to meet Wednesday on sewer proposals
Posted: 06/25/2013 at 7:00 pm
By: Dan Spalding
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Elkhart Mayor Richard “Dick” Moore (Photo Supplied)
David Henke (Truth Photo By J. Tyler Klassen)
Ron Troyer (Photo Supplied)
Moore sought the meeting and plans to have an attorney familiar with annexation issues on hand to help answer questions about efforts to begin annexing some commercial property outside of the city that receives sewer service.
The Wednesday meeting at council chambers will start at 5:30 p.m.
The apparent sense of urgency, though, in scheduling the meeting left at least two council members — a Democrat and a Republican — somewhat frustrated.
Moore’s meeting comes at the same time council president Ron Troyer was trying to schedule at least one committee meeting on the issue, but he was having little luck finding council members who could meet at a common time.
Part of the difficulty in finding a good time stems from vacation plans and other commitments council members are facing.
Plans for Wednesday’s meeting were being finalized Monday afternoon — jut hours before a deadline to meet the required 48-hour public notice needed before the meeting.
Moore told council members he wanted the Wednesday meeting because it accommodated the attorney who would be attending.
For Moore, it’s the first time details of his plan will be discussed since he announced it nearly three weeks ago.
Moore told council members late last week that he wanted to call the meeting.
On Monday, he told council members via email that a majority of the council informed him they would be able to attend.
Republican David Henke expressed concerns that the meeting was being scheduled when at least two Republicans would be unavailable. Two others, he said, might not be able to stay for the entire meeting.
Henke on Monday afternoon sought a clarification to determine if council could take action on anything sewer-related. He turned to city attorney Vlado Vranjes, who said he believed any action during a “special call” meeting involving ordinances that have been assigned to committee would require a two-thirds majority.
Two ordinances involving the sewer dispute are currently sitting in committee.
Henke afterward said he was more confident after talking to Vranjes that a short-handed council won’t be able to take any action on the sewer proposals.
Henke said he thought the mayor should be trying to schedule meetings that accommodate Republican council members whose support Moore could use.
Troyer expressed “disappointment” over the lack of coordination between the council and mayor’s office in finding a date that works for everybody.
Troyer said he learned about the mayor’s plans for a special meeting “third hand.”
Troyer, a Democrat, said he believes Moore knew several people would not be able to attend.
“I know I won’t be able to be there,” Troyer said.
Of the two proposals that have been sent to committee, one is the mayor’s plan, which would change the assessed value formula and significantly reduce the impact on businesses outside of the city. The other plan, authored by Henke, would seek a 15 percent fee on both commercial and residential customers outside of the city.
Moore’s plan does not involve the residential compact policy.
Both proposals would reduce the amount of revenues that would come into the city from sewer fees and both seek to begin annexing — where it is possible — commercial property that receives city sewer service.
While Wednesday’s meeting appears to be simply informational, future council action looms.
Among the possibilities, the council — acting as a committee of the whole — could choose to recommend one of the two proposals for passage or could send one or both out of committee and back to council without a recommendation.
At a later point, the council will meet again and could choose to support or amend one of the plans sent out of committee.
The council has regularly scheduled meetings coming up on July 1 and July 15.
Meanwhile, the council will also meet Tuesday night as it finishes up an annual review of tax abatement agreements between companies and the city of Elkhart.
The council is reviewing nearly two dozen agreements and will look at a few remaining agreements when it meets at 6 p.m. Tuesday.