ELKHART — The city council’s finance committee on the whole spent three hours reviewing Mayor Dick Moore’s request for $2.3 million in capital expenditures Wednesday night, and it appears 99 percent of the plan has solid support.
The council provided unanimous votes for all but one of a series of resolutions for spending plans for equipment and a bridge project, but ran into some heated opposition to a proposal to spend $20,000 for equipment and plans needed to start selling colored wood chips at the city's organic recycling station.
While all the other resolutions received a “do pass” recommendation, the resolution that included the wood chipper was sent on with no recommendation.
The entire request will likely be considered for final determination at a council meeting next month.
The colored wood chip program is part of an organic recycling program the city began to establish last fall, but plans to buy equipment to make and sell colored wood chips ran into strong opposition from Republicans David Henke and Brian Dickerson.
Henke opposes the idea because it moves beyond providing core services to the public and would compete with the private sector.
Henke said he thinks details are too sketchy and that it appears to be labor intensive.
“I think it’s an over-reach,” Henke said. “I say let the private sector have total free access to our mulch. Let them create private jobs coloring and selling it to the community. We should not be in this business.”
Mike Lightner, director of buildings and grounds, said the city has tried to work with companies to use the materials, but it hasn’t worked in the past.
Dickerson said he’s been trying to get specific details about the plan for at least three weeks but has received very little response from the Moore administration.
He said he did receive a packet of info shortly before Wednesday’s meeting, but said it answered few questions.
Dickerson asked Lightner about the possible return on investment, the business plan and other details. Lightner offered to provide those details soon.
Dickerson had more questions, but council president Ron Troyer cut him off, which angered Dickerson because he had already been waiting for weeks to get answers.
Henke and Dickerson momentarily sought to delete the $21,000 request, but soon rescinded that motion and agreed to hear more details when the council meets again.
Some of the materials would be used for city property, Lightener said.
Much of the $2.3 million request involves police cars, detective cars, a fire truck and an ambulance.
While the council questioned all of the requests, ultimately, there was little opposition voiced to Moore’s requests.
Repairs to a vehicular bridge in American Park are necessary in part because of problems on the west end of the bridge. The estimated cost of repairs is expected to be around $250,000.