Thursday, July 31, 2014

Mayor won approval for $1.4M

Posted on March 19, 2013 at 1:00 a.m.

Council spent nearly two hours questioning and deciding on Moore’s capital expenditure requests.

Dan Spalding

dspalding@etruth.com

ELKHART — Mayor Dick Moore got all of his $1.4 million in capital expenditures, but it didn’t come easy.

Despite favorable recommendations from the finance committee a week earlier on almost all of his seven requests, on Monday, March 18, the city council critiqued details of numerous requests.

The council spent close to two hours on the requests and many of the votes in support of the measures fell along party lines with Democrats pushing the plans through.

Republican councilman Brian Dickerson sought to cut out specific items, including a $30,000 wood furnace for the central garage and $28,000 for a Bobcat, but his attempts to pass amendments fell short.

Dickerson and Republican colleague David Henke led much of the questioning, but the proposal eventually passed 5-3.

Those supporting the measures included Democrats Dave Osborne, Brent Curry, Tonda Hines, Rod Roberson and Ron Troyer. Those opposing many of the plans were Republicans Brian Thomas, Henke and Dickerson. Republican Mary Olson was absent.

Dickerson questioned the cost of switching to a wood-burning system when a new oil burning system would cost much less.

Matt Maskell, interim manager at the central garage, said many of the oils they have are too thick for oil-burning furnaces and said he has been told the city has plenty of wood to provide for a wood-burning operation.

Maskell said the two oil-burning furnaces no longer work and that they have had to use natural gas, which is more expensive.

He said the city could pay off the cost of the wood-burning furnace within three years through reselling oils and through money that will be saved by not using natural gas.

The votes were cast in front of a large crowd of people, many of whom were there to voice concern over the residential and commercial compact policies governing sewer service to customers outside of the city.

One of those was David Schemenauer, a businessman upset with his belief that the city was approving new purchases of equipment under tight financial constraints while asking businesses to pick up a huge tab for sewer service.

His emotions spilled over in a loud rant to the council with some of his anger directed at Mayor Dick Moore.

“Shame on you for not having any budgetary constraints,” Schemenauer told the council in an angry voice.

Schemenauer later spoke against the expansion of the compact policy to all commercial customers outside of the city.

Moore and the city council are considering revamping the controversial policy that was approved last year.

Under compact policy, companies would pay a fee based on assessed property value plus a charge for usage. Under the old sewer service agreement, companies have been charged three times what they would pay if located inside the city.

The shift is an attempt to level the playing field, but many business owners say they feel they’re being unfairly gouged.

Schemenauer said he’s been paying the compact fee for seven years. His monthly fee is about $1,266, which works out to $15,000 per year.

He operates Marshall Home and Garden off of C.R. 6.

In the future, the compact arrangement would make it very difficult for him to sell his property, he told the council.

“When you go home tonight and flush your toilets, understand that it costs me $15,000 a year extra to flush mine,” Schemenauer said. “If you think that’s fair, let me know.”

Numerous businesses and council members are pressing the mayor to change the policy and make it based on usage and not assessed value.

Council also gave final approval to Crown Audio’s request for a seven-year tax abatement that will result in 44 new jobs.

Henke said he found it difficult to support such a request in light of the compact fee controversy in which companies are being asked to pay more, even though some have never asked for tax abatement.