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Palmyra continues shoring up water utility staff

Palmyra continues shoring up water utility staff Palmyra continues shoring up water utility staff
Mike Arnold, Contributing Writer

The Palmyra Town Council, doubling as town utility board, acted on hiring, contracting and inventory management issues for its water utility during regular bi-monthly meetings for both bodies Thursday evening at the town hall.

The water utility was impacted by departures of several long-time employees in August. As a result, the council has been working to maintain interim coverage for water utility maintenance and testing while also rebuilding the staff. In keeping with that aim, the council voted unanimously on the emergency hire of Timothy Combs as a new water utility associate. Combs will be paid $18.50 per hour and was slated to begin work the next day.

Following the aforementioned staff exits, the town faced being without a certified water operator. As a result, in late August, the council struck an agreement with Steven Schmitt to provide contracted water system maintenance and certified operator services (such as testing, leak repair and other duties). The terms of the deal specify Schmitt will work 20 hours per week at a rate of $800. In addition, the council opted to place Schmitt and another contractor on the town’s automobile insurance policy so they can use town vehicles, making them easily recognizable to residents. Schmitt will also be listed with the state of Indiana as the town’s certified water operator.

The council likewise discussed adding language to include water sampling and meter maintenance to Schmitt’s contract. Town attorney Adam Burkhardt said there was no issue with adding specific items to the contract, which was agreeable to Schmitt who was in attendance.

“In the meantime, I don’t see any problem with Mr. Schmitt being paid to provide those services,” Burkhardt added.

Schmitt addressed the council regarding what he believes to be a lack of replacement pipe and other repair parts in the water utility’s inventory.

Councilwoman Christall Ingle said the council discussed lack of inventory in the past.

Schmitt cited a recent example involving a leak he repaired where proper replacement parts were not immediately on hand when needed.

“I could have gotten that leak fixed an hour sooner had I had better bands,” Schmitt said.

The council authorized Schmitt to begin compiling a list of parts and supplies he believes are necessary and submit a purchase order for them to be obtained. Some of the items Schmitt suggested the utility may wish to keep on hand were hymax pipe couplings and repair bands of various sizes. One of the utility’s pumps is also in need of service, which Schmitt will also address. Schmitt said he would also stock the town trucks as needed.

In another utility matter, the council discussed recent Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission rulings related to water shut-offs and late fees during the COVID-19 pandemic. The IURC extended its moratorium on shut-offs and late fees through Oct. 12.

The town discussed options based on the IURC’s guidance and agreed late fees will resume Dec. 1 and shut-offs for delinquent bills will return as of Jan. 1. To ensure water utility customers are aware of those dates, a letter will be sent along with advertising and a notice placed on bills.

“We’ve given people very much the benefit,” Ingle said.

Town Marshal Dennis Lemmel, as part of his report, gave the council an update on research into obtaining a new police vehicle. Lemmel said John Jones at Salem had four Ford Explorer police models on hand; however, he did not have prices but will obtain and bring back to the council. Lemmel further mentioned he evaluated a 2008 Ford Crown Victoria being sold by the Paoli Police Dept. The vehicle has 137,000 miles and is outfitted with the required police light package and radio. While the lights are serviceable, Lemmel had doubts about the condition of the car’s radio. Otherwise, he found the vehicle to be sound. The asking price for the car is $3,500.

“For the year and such, the car appeared to be in good shape,” Lemmel added.

Lemmel also provided quotes for electronic speed-marking stop signs, which can be had for prices ranging from $2,999 to $3,300. Lemmel did not recommend purchasing either model.

“I want to do a little more research on them” he said.

Lemmel also provided details related to ongoing complaints related to violations of the town’s noise ordinance. He said the ordinance has been reviewed again and officers are taking steps to enforce it when possible. Recent complaints have mentioned excessive noise at later hours.

“At night, sound really carries,” he added.

In other business, the council and utility board:

• Announced its final budget hearing would be Sept. 24.

• Tabled action on a $4,000 quote from Peterson Consulting Services Inc., to assist with work on the utility’s assets and resources. Clerk-Treasurer Debra Jones will research other options for similar services and confer with other communities to see what routes are being taken.

• Agreed to pay vacation time owed to employees who departed in August and also agreed to allow reinstatement of vacation, holiday and longevity pay for an employee who was terminated in August but rehired shortly thereafter.

• Addressed questions about Halloween activities next month. Lemmel indicated the holiday falls on a Saturday and is a mandatory detail for his reserve officers. The council noted the town usually follows suit with whatever date and time the Town of Corydon chooses.

• Discussed possible stop sign installation on several town streets which have stop signs for north and south traffic but not for east and west motorists.

• Noted comments of Jones regarding the dismissal of the employee who was reinstated.

• Determined the utility board will continue to meet twice monthly.

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