POWER PROPOSAL: Council entertains IMPA possibilities

SOUTH WHITLEY – The South Whitley Town Council met Tuesday night with a full agenda waiting its attention. Part of the night’s meeting was devoted to a presentation made by Indiana Municipal Power Agency (IMPA) in relation to a new energy plan for the town.According to IMPA, a new contract with the wholesale electrical distributor, South Whitley could lessen its overall electrical costs by $220,000 over a twelve month period, which would be a 15 percent cost cut. Although the choice seems obvious, council members have to weigh the possible penalty if the contract with current energy provider, Duke Energy, can not be broken.IMPA officials presented a proposal to the board to buy out the contract, but the town would cover half of the 15 percent difference in costs. According to the proposal, IMPA would pay seven and a half percent and South Whitley would pay the remaining seven and a half percent to equal the 15 percent price difference between Duke’s existing contract and IMPA’s lower cost contract. The differential payment would only be paid until the Duke contract would expire in 2020.If Duke Energy prices were to fluctuate, the differential would still be split between South Whitley and IMPA.Starkey said, “This is a proposal worth considering. We just need to find out about the Duke contract to see if it can be broken.”Town Attorney Greg Hockemeyer agreed to make contact with Duke to confirm the contract’s strength. If the town does decide to enter into a contract with IMPA, the town would join together with IMPA in making and controlling electrical decisions by holding a seat on IMPA’s board. IMPA Senior Vice President Carolyn Wright said, “We want to form a partnership with municipalities. We will work together and partner with you.”Hockemeyer said that this isn’t the first time IMPA has made a presentation to the town council. Starkey thanked the IMPA officials for visiting the meeting and presenting the options to the council. A South Whitley resident attending the meeting asked how the potential decrease in expenses to the town would factor into energy rates for residents.Starkey said that the council has asked for a “complete review of rates.” He estimates that the rate review will be completed within the next 30 days. After the review and after a the decision is made on a power contract, Starkey said residents will have a better idea of how their electrical bills will be affected.Whistle blowerJoe and Darci Kessie, of South Whitley, presented the council with information on obtaining a quiet zone rating in order to lessen the amount of train whistles blown at the town’s three road-rail intersections in town. Joe said train traffic has “greatly increased” and he guessed there were anywhere from three to five trains per hour.Starkey quipped, “Those conductors like to lay on the horn at times. They don’t understand that us old men are woke up, we have to go to the bathroom and then it’s over for us. We are awake.”Hockemeyer said he had done some research on the alternatives the town could tap into that would reduce the risk of a train-car accident at these intersections. Most of the options are costly and, according to Hockemeyer, not feasible. One option that seemed likely to Hockemeyer was the installation of a median. This would create a barrier so cars could not go around railroad gates. As the council discussed this option, it was apparent the spaces at some intersections in town are tight and the barriers would make it difficult for large trucks and semitrailers to navigate around. The council agreed to table the discussion until the next meeting, allowing for more research with the regulations established by the Federal Railroad Administration.Animal volunteerJanice Perry is concerned about stray animals in the area and offered her services to help transport strays to the Whitley County Animal Shelter. The council voiced their appreciation for her willingness to volunteer, but Councilman Steve Smith said he was concerned about the town’s liability should a dog bite her. Hockemeyer said that although she is a volunteer, a waiver of liability is probably a good idea. The council also agreed that Perry would potentially get involved once the stray animal had been detained by law enforcement and caged. Perry would only be responsible for transporting the animal. Starkey asked Hockemeyer to make a call to the insurance company to verify what the town would need to do make sure both parties are best covered.Drafts of trash collection contracts were presented by Hockemeyer in order to obtain bids on new trash service. One of the variables is the actual collection itself. Will standard cans be provided and at what cost? Smith suggested that the contract be written to have bids submitted for collection with cans and without cans, meaning bagged garbage.Smith said, “There’s going to be a cost for the cans that will be passed down to us, but since the cans can be picked up with an automated truck, the actual collection service might be cheaper than bag collection.”Resident queriesA South Whitley citizen questioned the council on the regulation on trees. The council said that the town is only responsible for trees that interfere with utilities overhead. The homeowner was also concerned with asphalting the road in front of his home. He asked the council if it would be agreeable with them if he paid to have the road paved. Starkey said that he would feel more comfortable if they could see the road first to ensure the paving would not create any drainage issues. Starkey said he would feel more comfortable making a decision after someone had seen the street.David Harvey, P.E. with Fleis and Vanderbrink Engineering, Inc. gave the council an update on the progress being made on the waste water treatment plant. There were some small equipment items that would need to be purchased in order to keep compliant with safety regulations. Harvey said that those items will more than likely be added after the first of the year.To close, Starkey asked that a special meeting be scheduled for Tuesday, Oct. 2 at 5:30 p.m. to discuss budgets and appropriations in regards to some of the small ticket items mentioned in the meeting. October 2 meeting will be open to the public.