Palmyra postpones decision on town hall reopening
Mike Arnold, Contributing Writer
The Palmyra Town Council tabled a decision on reopening the town hall last Tuesday evening during its bi-monthly council and utilities control board meeting and will revisit at its second May meeting. The town hall has been closed to the public since last spring due to COVID-19 restrictions.
Councilwoman Christall Ingle said, in her opinion, the town should consider reopening the town hall but with some protections remaining in place for its employees, some of whom are at higher risk. Precautionary plexiglass should remain, she said, along with signs requesting visitors wear masks.
“I think we really need to look at reopening,” Ingle said.
Ingle, along with council president Virginia (Jenny) Kirkham and councilman Wyman (Lee) Childers, debated continued request for masks to be worn in the town hall.
Indiana’s mask mandate ended April 6; however, individual places of business can continue to ask that masks be worn.
The council also discussed a reopening strategy and mask usage at the town’s community center.
Kirkham noted that to reopen either building, the town would need to hire cleaning staff for each. The council decided to table a vote on reopening the town hall to the public and will review next month.
“That will give us another month to see how things are going,” Kirkham said.
In another matter, Childers mentioned he had spoken with resident Melvin Strange regarding some trees near Strange’s property. Strange has expressed concern about the trees falling, Childers said.
The council discussed possible removal of the trees, and town utility employees in attendance recommended a job like that might best be contracted with an outside vendor.
“We need to seek out a tree removal company,” Childers said.
Prior to removing the trees, the town would need to make an official determination as to on whose property they are standing, as there are several old alleys in the area. In addition, town attorney Adam Burkhardt said it might make sense for a professional, such as an arborist, to assess the trees and give an opinion on their condition, before any decision is made.
Kirkham agreed to begin looking into the matter further.
The council also discussed a residence along Avery Street where numerous tires have accumulated and was mentioned as a possible health hazard as mosquito season approaches.
Burkhardt said he would look into the town’s standing to address the issue and then advise the council.
It was noted that there was a possibility the residence was also in violation of the town’s weed and vegetation ordinance.
“It looks like there’s some trouble here,” Burkhardt said, adding that the town had a much more limited scope in how it can address these types of issues.
Harrison County Councilman Kyle Nix was in attendance and added that Harrison County has a dumping ordinance. Nix said if the town doesn’t have jurisdiction to address, he believes the county health department might be able to intervene.
Childers said he would take up the matter with the health department.
“I feel like I have some responsibility to follow that up on behalf of the town,” he said.
The council voted to send a letter to the occupants of the residence related to the weed and vegetation ordinance, as it continues research into its options.
“We will check into it and see what we can do,” Kirkham said.
The council also discussed the town’s potential eligibility for a grant available through the American Rescue Plan.
Kirkham said it could qualify for up to $199,000 in funding.
Palmyra was approached by River Hills Economic Development District concerning provision of grant administration services on its behalf. The council tabled any action on entering into an agreement.
Kirkham said she would contact Chelsea Crump, of River Hills, for additional information.
“I would be interested in hearing the estimated cost,” Childers said.
Town Marshal Dennis Lemmel reported to the council that the department’s reserves worked 43 hours in March, conducting 14 traffic stops and initiating 15 officer contacts. Lemmel said reserve officer Cody Bruner is attending pre-basic law enforcement training, which should be complete by the end of April. Lemmel added that he is also researching quotes for replacement of decals on the reserve car.
As part of his report, Lemmel announced that last year, as part of an executive order from the office of former President Trump, he revised the department’s use of force policy. The updated policy was approved, and the department is now eligible to apply for various grants.
Research of a movable radar sign also continues, Lemmel said, adding he will return to a later meeting with firm prices.
In other business, the council and utility board:
• Tabled approval of the prior meeting’s minutes to the April 30 meeting, to allow for additional review. Computer quotes will also be reviewed at the April 30 meeting.
• Discussed a prior item involving an invoice for purchase of a chainsaw. An issue was noted with the purchase made on a town credit card. Ingle covered the cost and sent payment to the town’s credit card company and will be reimbursed. Clerk-Treasurer Debra Jones said there had been additional finance charges on the card. “I will cover those as well if that’s the case,” Ingle added.
• Heard from resident Sara Blessing of the Blue Dot organization, who attended the meeting to discuss the group’s aim of transparency and inclusion in county government. She invited the council and attendees to an April 29 meeting in Corydon to promote inclusion and community discourse.
• Discussed an ongoing issue involving an update to the town’s salary policy to make contributions to employee health savings accounts. Burkhardt recommended restructuring as an ordinance, and Jones will bring back in that form for council consideration.
• Voted to table action on an agreement to install an antenna on the town water tower, pending completion of all documentation and receipt of proof of bond.
• Approved estimate for postage to send the town water utility’s annual report. It will go out to customers in June.
• Agreed to look further into purchasing a trailer which would allow utility employees to transport the town’s new tractor. The issue will be revived at the April 30 meeting.