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Palmyra exploring volunteer agreement with Meals on Wheels

By Mike Arnold, Contributing Writer

Palmyra may establish an agreement with Meals on Wheels which could formalize a current practice where town employees sometimes deliver meals to residents, as part of a volunteer program, during the work day and using company vehicles, the town council confirmed at its meeting Thursday evening.

Town employees have been performing the charitable service for the senior nutrition program for some time; however, the practice has come under recent scrutiny.

Town attorney Adam Burkhardt has been analyzing the matter and will be discussing it with the Indiana State Board of Accounts to gain additional clarity. Burkhardt said towns can only do specific things they are authorized to do, adding a contract may be a way to define services undertaken by the town.

“I think there is a way potentially this can be done,” Burkhardt added. “We might need a basic contract in place.”

An example provided by the council of when a delivery might occur is when an employee is en route to check the sewer substation and drops off a meal on the way. After contacting the SBA, Burkhardt will draft a contract for the council to review at its next meeting, which will be Monday, Dec. 30, at 7 p.m. at the town hall.

“I think it’s good PR for the town to help our individuals,” town council president Virginia (Jenny) Kirkham said.

In an unrelated matter, the council heard a presentation from Chelsea Crump, of River Hills, who is working with the town as administrator for a Community Crossings grant it received from the Indiana Dept. of Transportation.

Total project costs specified in the grant award were $330,960.50, Crump said, with 75% provided by INDOT ($248,220.36) and the remaining 25% ($82,740.14) to be put up by the town in local matching funds. The grant agreement is due to INDOT by Dec. 24 and requires Kirkham’s signature as board president.

Crump also said the construction contract must be awarded and submitted to INDOT before Feb. 24. Requests for proposals must be advertised in the newspaper twice, and Crump recommended the town send invitations to bid to any contractors they wish and added that she could send the invitations on the town’s behalf. She provided a template of bid specifications used for similar grant applications by Corydon and New Amsterdam and said, once construction begins, the town would submit claims to INDOT to draw funds.

“I can help with everything,” Crump added.

In her report, Town Clerk-Treasurer Debra Jones briefed the town council on a proposal to create a new appropriation to split office expenses for water and sewer. She said that, while splitting the items to create a second line was not required, a resolution would be necessary to make the change, which she recommended.

“It would just be a better way of tracking what’s happening,” Jones said.

Kirkham and council member Christall Ingle voted to establish the new appropriation.

Jones also provided an update about training she attended regarding water auditing and said another free class is available on Feb. 20. An internal audit is necessary each year and a full audit every other year, Jones added.

Jones has the option to complete additional training to be certified to perform audits; however, there would be a cost for that and she would not be able to audit her own utility. In that situation, she could trade auditing services with another local utility, such as Greenville.

In addition to the audits, Jones said it was recommended through her training course that the water utility establish a water loss committee.

Ingle recommended someone from the board also attend the Feb. 20 training, along with Jones, as the town’s score on water loss could have bearing on future loans and bonding, as well as impact to future grants. In addition, she said the town needed to explore its legal rights related to purchase of water from Ramsey Water Co.

Burkhardt will also research the details related to Ramsey Water and report back to the council.

“It’s definitely going to be a lot more than what was anticipated,” Jones said. “We can take the free one as many times as we need to.”

The council also discussed its 2020 salary ordinance. A draft was created using the 2019 model; however, any action on it was tabled for discussion at the Dec. 30 meeting.

“I need additional time to review them,” Ingle said.

Ingle suggested in an effort to be more fiscally responsible, the town link job descriptions and responsibilities, including those for council members and the clerk-treasurer.

Burkhardt said there is broad authority for terms to hire employees and he will research.

Also, Ingle mentioned the town may want to look into developing an orientation program for onboarding new employees and council members.

“I feel like that is something we can and should do,” she added.

In other business, the council:

  • Reviewed a request to return resident Debra Ray’s $110 damage deposit for rental of the Palmyra Community Center. The deposit was withheld, according to the council, after damage was discovered to a door at the center during a post-use inspection following Ray’s rental. After discussion by council members, town employees and a resident who appeared on Ray’s behalf, the council elected not to return the deposit citing existence of the damage.
  • Agreed to grant Ingle access to the town hall for use on nights and weekends to review the town’s processes and procedures and employee handbook. Also agreed to authorize Ingle to become a keyholder for the community center.
  • Heard from reserve officer Joy Bruner, who delivered the Marshal Dennis Lemmel’s report in his absence. Bruner said the department responded to 200 calls thus far in 2019. She also recommended the town take on reserve officer Jonathan Vest, which the council approved.
  • Discussed establishing a “drop-dead” date for employees to submit requests to rollover of vacation time.
  • Listened to details of three separate water-related issues expressed by Edward L. Pruitt, owner of several rental properties that use the Palmyra Water Utility. Ingle encouraged Pruitt to leave information at the town hall and the council would research while also putting him on the Dec. 30 agenda. “We’ll be happy to investigate,” Ingle told Pruitt.
  • Tabled action regarding additional pay for two town employees; one a certified pesticide applicator who performs mosquito spraying duties and the other a utility worker. These items will be discussed at the Dec. 30 meeting as well.
  • Advised water superintendent Randy Trett to submit a proposal detailing his rates and a new conflict statement and assured Trett he would be heard at the first January 2020 meeting. Trett mentioned he was considering changing his rates after discussions with other contractors.