The North Vernon City Council held its first meeting of the New Year on Monday, January 10 at the Carnegie Building.

First things first, the Council president was nominated, and Brian Hatfield was voted to continue his role as president. Hatfield tentatively agreed to the nomination, however he wanted it on record that he will not be able to fulfill the role for the entire year; he later told the press that he has built a new home which is located outside the city limits and therefore he will have to relinquish his place on the City Council in the next few months. When that time comes, a caucus will be held to fill his position.

Councilman Jack Kelley was nominated as vice-president.

Next on the agenda was the confirmation of appointments to the 911 board, the Area Planning Commission, Utility Service board and North Vernon Redevelopment Commission. These positions, in addition to the mayor’s appointment to the Parks and Recreation board, were tabled until next meeting due to an ordinance issue and due to Mayor Mike Ochs’s absence.

North Vernon resident Jean Gilbert’s request was next on the agenda. She asked that a handicap parking space be placed in front of her house on South Elm Street, as she has no driveway and she claims that she has limited street parking due to her neighbor having multiple cars.

The Council motioned to have Tim Hunt with HWC Engineering work with the Street Department to prepare an ordinance proposal for installing a handicap space on South Elm Street.

Marie Shepherd with Area Planning Commission (APC) addressed the Council with a rezone request at 25 Lincoln Avenue to be zoned as residential, which the board approved. Shepherd also presented a Certificate of Appreciation to Councilman Hatfield for serving on the APC board since 2016.

“I just want to thank you for all the time and effort you put in,” Shepherd told Hatfield.

Finally, Shepherd mentioned that APC is filing suit against Joshua Carlton, owner of the Scoop of the Loop ice-cream parlor on Madison Avenue for a zoning ordinance violation. APC feels that the drag shows that have been hosted at the parlor are sexual in nature and violate the business permit that Carlton originally filed for. In order for the shows to continue, the building would need to be rezoned to a sexual oriented business. However, Shepherd added that that is not a possibility because that category of business cannot be within 1000 feet of a daycare, and the building is within 528 feet, of which Shepherd claimed that APC has made Carlton aware and that the business owner intends to fight the charges.

Jeff Walker next addressed the board regarding applying for the Bicycle and Pedestrian Planning grant from the Indiana Department of Health, which will provide $20,000 funds with one-to-one matching funds to communities to hire a consulting firm to layout a master bike and pedestrian plan. The money does not cover the cost of construction, just the planning process. Walker intends to use the plans to work towards installing more walking and biking paths in North Vernon. He asked that the City Council pledge $5000 to the cause, and asked the same amount of the County Council on Tuesday. Both Councils agreed to each pledge $5000. The remaining $10,000 will come from the county’s Parks and Recreation budget.

The final item on the agenda was the first reading of Ordinance #1006 regarding the USB Electronic Meeting Participation, which will allow for council members to meet electronically. A second reading and adoption of the ordinance is scheduled for the next meeting.