Lanesville introduces new utility clerk, reserve Lt.
Mike Arnold, Contributing Writer
Alicia Allen was introduced as Lanesville’s new utility clerk, and reserve officer John Gott was named lieutenant during the town council’s regular monthly meeting Dec. 13 at the town hall.
Allen will work primarily on water and wastewater billing, adjustments and notices along with assisting Clerk-Treasurer Amanda Ballew.
Gott fills the lieutenant’s role recently vacated by former Harrison County Sheriff’s Deputy Chris Walden. Walden and Gott joined the Lanesville Police Dept. as reserves under Chief Melvin (Lee) Hancock last year. Walden resigned his position due to increased work hours at his main job and a wish to devote more time to his family, Hancock said.
“He’s really been a great asset to us,” Hancock said of Walden.
Hancock presented a “Thank You” letter to the council, which he requested members read and sign. He also mentioned he would sign as well and place in Walden’s file. He also provided Gott his lieutenant’s badge during the meeting.
Hancock said he was not in a hurry to add to the department’s reserve ranks; but, if he encounters someone who might be a good fit, he would be willing to bring them onto the force.
“We may try to fill one more position,” Hancock added.
Hancock also reported his agency received a megaphone, valued at about $300, arranged by a local donor. He mentioned the gift was significant in that he was asked what the department could use ahead of time by the benefactor.
“When that happens and we get a response like that, it’s really nice,” Hancock said, noting the megaphone would come in handy during firearms training.
Hancock said the department’s reserve officers logged 120.5 hours in November, which saved the town $2,711.25. In 2021, reserve duty has equated to a savings of $24,981.75, he added. Town police have begun working security at Lanesville High School basketball games and also assisted with what Hancock termed a successful Light Up Lanesville event on Nov. 27.
In another matter, the council discussed accepting payment vouchers to assist utility customers with paying delinquent bills and/or funding restoration of service following shut-offs.
Ballew said the town had been asked about honoring the vouchers by Harrison County Community Services and occasionally by local churches. She expressed concerns about the internal billing mechanics associated with the payment vouchers, particularly with customers who have had services discontinued. In those situations, Ballew said, the town requires payment in hand, as well as a reconnect fee.
Current software does not allow penalties to be waived, which, depending on the timing in the billing cycle the voucher is received, could result in additional fees.
Richard Cooper, executive director of HCCS, provided additional details on the aim of the voucher program to the council and explained several aspects of his organization’s mission in the community. He said the vouchers would be emailed or faxed and checks for utility payment aid are cut every two weeks.
“We’re here to support the people of Harrison County,” Cooper said, adding any fees and penalties accrued on individual accounts would be covered under the vouchers, as applicable.
Town Attorney John Smith said he did not believe there was any issue with the town accepting payment vouchers from HCCS, or local churches, so long as all usual conditions for town billing were met.
“As long as we’re not involved in the process of who gets the voucher,” Smith added.
Utility supervisor Terry Schmelz reported to the council that the town’s most recent monthly water loss figure stood at 14%. He indicated there had been a pump down, when storms caused electric control panels to kick off but, otherwise, all tests were compliant.
“The plant’s running efficiently,” Schmelz said.
Schmelz also spoke regarding recent paving work completed through funding from a Community Crossings matching grant from the Indiana Dept. of Transportation. A discrepancy was noted in prices for materials used in the project and INDOT required the numbers be reconciled prior to final disposition of the grant. Schmelz said the prices need to be clarified with contractor Temple & Temple and the difference is about $1,000.
“It needs to be ironed out,” council president Herb Schneider said.
Smith advised Ballew to pay Temple & Temple’s invoice, less the disputed amount, and explain the reason for the difference and that the difference will be addressed once the pricing matter is resolved.
The council voted to pay the bill, less $1,350, as it works to gain alignment with Temple & Temple.
“I’d like to hold them accountable for their numbers,” Schmelz said.
In other business, the council:
•Heard from utility clerk Allen that November billings totaled, $49,347.48. The month’s tally included 476 bills, one adjustment, 52 delinquencies and seven shut-offs.
•Approved annual agreements for 2022 with Smith for legal services and with the Franklin Township trustee and Lanesville Volunteer Fire Dept. to continue fire service for the town.
•Set a special meeting for Jan. 3 at 9 a.m. to select the town’s banking and insurance providers for 2022 and review sanitation project bids, which are due Dec. 31.
•Heard from Councilman James Powers, who said a community event occurred Dec. 10 that included input on the town’s prospective planning grant to author a comprehensive plan, funded by the Harrison County Community Foundation. “We had a great event at the ballgame the other night and got some great ideas,” Powers added.