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Palmyra pursues grant to fund town’s comprehensive plan

Combs town’s new water superintendent
Palmyra pursues grant to fund town’s comprehensive plan Palmyra pursues grant to fund town’s comprehensive plan
Mike Arnold, Contributing Writer

Chelsea Crump of River Hills Economic Development District Regional Planning Commission conducted a public hearing as part of the Palmyra Town Council/Utilities Control Board meeting Thursday evening. The hearing was required for application to receive a planning grant Palmyra was deemed eligible to pursue.

The Community Development Block Grant, bestowed by the United States Dept. of Housing and Urban Development Office of Community and Rural Affairs, will enable creation of a comprehensive plan for the town. The total price tag for the project is $55,556, with a 10% local match required.

The Harrison County Community Foundation committed to covering the match of $5,556, meaning no outlay is necessary from the town.

Crump said River Hills would act as grant administrator and a portion of the funds would be applied through a procurement process to hire a firm to complete the comprehensive plan. Surveys were provided for attendees to record suggestions on areas of emphasis for the plan.

Ryan Hanger and Pat Book, representing the HCCF, were also on hand to observe.

Crump said the goal of the process is to incorporate contributions from people who live and work in town to share their vision of how they would like it to look in the future.

Some examples of items that could be addressed in the plan are transportation, parks and broadband access. Any proposed elements should be included with detailed, measurable and desired outcomes.

Crump advised three- to five-year histories are helpful in illustrating certain issues, such as eroded sidewalks, and pictures are also welcome to be submitted for inclusion.

“Comp plans generally last 20 years,” Crump said. “It’s kind of like your wish list of things you would like to see.”

Crump noted the application process is competitive. She mentioned any residents wishing to submit letters in support of the project were encouraged to do so, as some have already been received. Those letters will be submitted along with the grant application. Crump also provided several documents necessary for the application submission, including disclosures, environmental reports and the CDBG signature page, among others.

The council voted to allow council president Virginia (Jenny) Kirkham to sign any documents related to the grant and also passed a local resolution to submit the application and commit the local matching funds.

During the meeting, the council named Tim Combs its new full-time water utility superintendent. Currently a water utility employee, he became eligible for the role after successfully completing necessary state certifications. He assumes duties which have been performed part time since last August by contractor Steven Schmitt (state law requires utilities to have a certified water operator on staff).

Kirkham and councilwoman Christall Ingle congratulated Combs on his accomplishment, while also thanking Schmitt for his contributions to the town.

“We’re proud of you, both of you,” Kirkham said.

“Thank you again,” Ingle told Schmitt. “Thank you for everything.”

As the result of his promotion, Combs qualified for a pay increase of $2 per hour, which the council voted 2-0 to award him (Councilman Wyman [Lee] Childers was absent). Combs’ raise was effective Oct. 31. Although no longer working for the town as a vendor, Schmitt said he would assist with the transition and be available if needed.

In another matter, the council was also addressed by resident Lacy Wright, a 12-year Girl Scout troop leader, who is forming a Daisy troop for kindergarten and first-grade girls in the area. Wright said her organization is seeking a place for its evening meetings, outside of a school. She asked about usage of the town’s community center. Meetings would initially be every other Tuesday evening, she said.

“We don’t have anything regularly scheduled for Tuesday nights?” Kirkham asked, and utility clerk Jeanetta Hopper confirmed there was not.

The council discussed and agreed to allow Wright and her troop to use the facility as mentioned, provided the building was not rented for another purpose.

The council also revisited prior discussions on increases to sewer and water rates, necessary as the town’s prices were increased by its supplier, Ramsey Water Co., more than a year ago. Initially, the town planned to phase in a 15% increase over two years (in 2020 and 2021) but elected to hold off last year due to COVID-19. A 15% water increase and 8% sewer rate hike is being proposed to offset the higher costs from Ramsey Water. (Not all water customers are connected to the town sewer system.)

As part of the process, which will include notification, as well as public hearings and other discussion, a copy of the proposed update to the town’s schedule or rates and charges will be sent for review.

Town attorney Adam Burkhardt said a rate study likely would not be necessary because the rationale for the increase was simply to move toward balancing some of the town’s higher expenses.

The council voted to allow Burkardt to draft an ordinance for future consideration, introducing the updates to the schedule of rates and charges.

In a related item, Burkhardt also noted preliminary research on the sewer agreement with Morgan Elementary School was inconclusive. The council directed Burkhardt to send a letter to North Harrison Community School Corp. asking that additional conversations occur to evaluate the sewer approach.

The town utility board, composed of the council, met directly following the regular council meetings. Resident Jerry Love approached the board to request a sewer adjustment on the bill for a property he owns in town. Love said the property was remodeled for commercial use and is for sale. The building recently developed a leak in a section of water pipe, which he estimated lost about 30,000 gallons before being discovered and repaired.

Love did not dispute he would be responsible for the water usage, but asked if the sewer portion of the bill (above the minimum monthly usage fee) could be forgiven since the charges did not result from actual sewer use.

“It all went under the house and I pumped it out,” Love said.

Hopper confirmed any adjustment would not occur until the December billing.

The board discussed and mentioned that to preserve consistency, it would like Love to submit detailed documentation from his plumber of the repairs and usage and would consider the request for sewer adjustment at the November meeting.

Burkhardt explained the town’s rationale for the approach, indicating it wishes to ensure decisions on adjustments are made in a thoughtful manner, based on the facts of the situation.

In other business, the council and utility board:

Tabled action on its 2022 salary ordinance and snow removal policy as Childers was not present. Ingle said Childers expressed his wish to be involved in the snow removal discussion.

Heard from residents Debra Ray and Charles Atkins, who discussed a possible application for a variance at the Sept. 30 meeting. Ray and Atkins announced they decided, following conversations with Harrison County Planning and Zoning, to abandon further pursuit of the variance at this time.

Announced it would meet only once in November and December. Meetings will be Nov. 17 and Dec. 15 (both Wednesdays) at 7 p.m.

Reviewed quotes for off-road diesel fuel from Jacobi Oil Service of Greenville and Premier Ag of Corydon. Combs will research further to obtain the lowest quote.

Voted to close the office from 10 a.m. to noon Friday, Nov. 12, for annual Keystone software training, necessary for end of year compliance.

Discussed a sewer adjustment request by property owner Warren Wolfe. Hopper agreed to email Wolfe a leak adjustment form.