Goshen News, Goshen, IN

December 11, 2013

NAPPANEE BOARD OF WORKS: Hardship requests heard

By DENISE FEDOROW Correspondent
Goshen News

---- — The Nappanee Board of Works approved several annual agreements and reviewed resident hardship requests at Monday afternoon’s meeting.

The board approved renewing the agreement with Brian Hoffer, partner with Kindig & Sloat for legal services for 2014. Hoffer has been the city’s attorney since 1984. The city pays the law firm $4,800 for the attorney attending four meetings each month. In addition, the agreement compensates the law firm on an hourly rate for additional work done.

The annual agreement to support the Boys and Girls Club was approved in the amount of $95,000, as in the past. Also renewed was the 2014 annual agreement to support Family Christian Development Center with the sum of $10,000 to be used to repair and rehabilitate existing low and moderate income housing and for the construction of new housing.

The board also approved renewing the contract with Kosciusko County Animal Welfare League for animal control and animal shelter services at a cost of $587.08 per month.

The board approved renewing the independent contract agreement with Kitson Development Corporation AKA Jeff Kitson as executive director of the Redevelopment Commission and the Chamber of Commerce. The cost of the contract is $84,190 and includes the cost of workmen’s compensation, insurance and labor costs for the commission and chamber employees.

Hardship Requests

Resident James Allen, 260 S. Summit, came to the board seeking additional relief from excess wastewater charges as a result of a water leak between his house and the water meter. Allen explained to the board that the issue began in April and he called the water utility requesting a sewer adjustment because of the leak. He was told nothing could be done until the leak was fixed. Allen said he left a voicemail message with Water/Wastewater Superintendent Gale Gerber trying to determine whose responsibility the leak was and never received a return call. Allen said he then contacted a plumber who “Didn’t do much” but acknowledge that there was a leak.

In June, Allen contacted another plumber who said he couldn’t find the leak and quoted a cost of $6,744. Allen said he didn’t have the funds to contract that work. In November, he said he spent 20 hours working on the issue, discovered and repaired the leak himself and informed the utility.

He then said he received a form letter advising he could receive two months of credit. Allen told the board he felt he paid for services not used and created a spreadsheet with what he considered reasonable fees. He reported he received another letter from the utility saying he could get a credit of $150.10 for November and $142.20 for December. Allen felt he paid an excess of approximately $680 in fees. He also received a shut off notice demanding payment of $359.14 by Dec. 9. He called to see if he could make a partial payment and was told he couldn’t until the issue was resolved by the board of works.

Gerber responded that his department hand delivers red card notices to residents when they notice high water usage informing the resident that there may be a leak. Gerber also pointed out that four of the months (July-October) were on “summer rate” discount and would not be eligible for any adjustment. All residential customers get summer rate wastewater adjustments to account for additional water used for watering lawns, etc. Gerber said it has been the policy of the board of works that the credit request must be for two months back to back (which would be Nov. and Dec.) the bills have to be paid prior to the adjustment, and they need a signed form requesting the adjustment before it can be brought to the board.

Mayor Larry Thompson suggested giving Allen more time to pay the bill because of the holiday season and asked if there was anything that could be done. Clerk-Treasurer Kim Ingle said they have never changed the policy and have never deviated from it so to do so would be setting a precedent. City attorney Brian Hoffer said the board didn’t have much flexibility but could take action subject to receiving request.

After much discussion, the board took action pending payment of the bill and receipt of the adjustment request to approve the two months credit so Allen could get the credit sooner. Thompson and board members expressed sympathy for the situation but said they wished it had been handled sooner.

The board approved five other sewer rate adjustments in smaller amounts.

The board also reviewed an ambulance billing hardship request. With a new billing service these requests are handled on a case-by-case basis. The patient was requesting full removal of the debt. Emergency Medical Services Chief Jim Sumpter Jr. said in the past the city has taken minimal monthly payment amounts as small as $5 a month in good faith and since the person in this case was working and not on a fixed income, that was what he suggested. The board denied the request and approved working out a payment plan with the billing service.

In Other Business:

• Approved the resignation of Elder Haus Senior Center Director Connie Fink effective the end of the year. The board praised the work that Fink has done at the center.

• Approved a partial release of funds to Phend and Brown for the Nappanee Runway Project in the amount of $13,595.19. Gerber reported there is still $6,125 work to do and the grant will allow carrying it over to 2014.

• Heard an update on the NSP-3 Neighborhood Stabilization project. The house on West Market passed final inspection and is up for sale. Only one house at 257 N. Rosenberger is not completed. They are also working on quotes to put a new house at 407 S. Main Street.

• The board will meet in special session on Dec. 30 to award bids for trash collection. (Bids will be received Dec. 23)