The Monday evening meeting of the North Vernon City Council commenced this week with another long list of items on the agenda, the first of which was the recommendation and approval of bids for the Walnut Street reconstruction project.

Walnut Street Bids

Tim Hunt with HWC Engineering brought three bids to the Council regarding the Walnut Street water, sewer and stormwater reconstruction project that is believed to start sometime next year.

Bids opened on Tuesday, Oct. 19, and the three receiving bids included Milestone Contractors at $12.6 million, MAC Construction & Excavating at $9.5 million, and Dave O’Mara Contractors Inc. at $8.4 million. Hunt recommended the O’Mara bid, which was unanimously approved by the Council.

“We’re really excited,” said Hunt; they had originally applied the project to INDOT at the cost of $12.4 million, with the City being responsible for $10.4 million. Therefore, the O’Mara bid of $8.4 million is happily under budget.

Scheduling has yet to be discussed — the start of construction is still pending — but once the project commences, HWC Engineering will provide biweekly updates for the Council and the public.

Utilities Ordinances

The Council did a second reading of, and approved, the amendment to Ordinance No. 846 regarding trash collection. The fee for waste disposal will be raised from $5 to $7.50 per residential unit per month and will be invoiced on the unit’s wastewater treatment bill.

The Council also did a first reading of Ordinance #1004- Water Rate Ordinance, Ordinance, #1005- Sewer Rate Ordinance and Ordinance #1006- Stormwater Rate Ordinance. The purpose of the reading is because the City of North Vernon Municipal Water, Sewer and Stormwater Utilities, through the Utilities Services Board, intends to increase the monthly rates for water, sewer and stormwater over a span of five years.

The increase in prices was described as “a necessary evil” by President of the Utility Service Board Terry Thompson. “We’re not doing this to pay for projects, we’re not doing it to pay salaries or buy equipment.” Thompson says the primary reason they requested the pay increase is, according to the people who write and review grants, the City’s rates are below the level they deem necessary to repay their grants.

“We just missed out on two grants because of this reason,” said Thompson. The most devastating, according to the board president, is the State Water Infrastructure Fund.

Over $100 million in project costs were funded to other municipalities with this program, which includes over $50 million dollars in grant funding from the State Revolving Fund Loan Program.

Project funding was prioritized for communities with:

  • An estimated user rate above:
  • $100.00 for wastewater only (the City’s is currently $30.98)
  • $70.00 for drinking water only (the City’s is currently $19.26)
  • $15.00 for stormwater only (the City’s is currently $3.75)
  • A low-to-moderate median household income
  • A moderate-to-high level of co-funding
  • Projects that address regional needs

A year was spent collecting information and research to apply for this grant, and the low rates is the only aspect that the board can identify as detrimental to their efforts.

The funding was going to be used to remedy the drainage problem on Lincoln Avenue and flooding on Crestwood Drive.

“I think the point should be made that the city doesn’t want to have to do an increase,” said Clerk-Treasurer Shawn Gerkin, “but it’s a necessary evil at times. I, for one, empathize with anyone that will feel the financial burden of this increase.”

For further information and details on price, see Page A2.

The Council will do a second reading and vote to adopt the amendments at their next meeting.

Additional Items

The Council adopted Juneteenth as part of their list of federal holidays in which the City will be closed on June 19 starting in 2022. The Council also approved a donation request of $1000 to the Senior Housing for their annual Christmas dinner.

In addition to the Senior Housing request, the Council discussed the request of Ryon Wheeler of the Boys & Girls Club for a financial partnership with the City to allow them to expand their program in Jennings County. They agreed to fund the group with an initial sum of $10,000.