Council paves way for new park appointment, considers land annexation, visitor’s center funding
The several weeks' delay in filling the two vacancies on Culver's park board -- which has left the much-debated board short of a quorum for most of 2014 to date -- appears to be nearing an end, after an announcement and action taken at the Culver town council's Feb. 25 meeting.
Council member Bill Githens announced that Union Twp. trustee Jerry Greeson had appointed Bob Osborn to fulfill the township slot left vacant due to the resignation of park board member Kathy Hart last year. Osborn, owner of Osborn Seed in Burr Oak, has been involved in a variety of community endeavors over the years, including several years as president of the Culver Public Library board of trustees.
Council member Ginny Munroe then reported she had received a letter from the desk of Culver Community Schools superintendent Vicki McGuire, who requested -- on behalf of the school board -- to appoint someone not currently serving on that board, to fill the school board's appointment to the Culver park board, a position left vacant when school board appointee to the park Ed Behnke's tenure ended at the end of last year.
McGuire's letter also acknowledged that the school board is aware the town must amend its current ordinance in order to make it possible to appoint someone not on the school board, to the park board.
Town attorney Jim Clevenger explained that Culver's ordinance currently requires that the school board appointee be a current member of that board, though he said the town ordinance simply duplicated what was once state statute on the matter. More recently the state has changed the ordinance to allow someone not serving on the school board to be appointed to the park board.
Clevenger affirmed the council should hold a public hearing, normal procedure when changing an ordinance, before amending the rule.
The council voted to allow Clevenger to change the wording of the ordinance ahead of a public hearing on the matter, with council member Ed Pinder abstaining from the vote.
In other park-related discussion, park board member Rhonda Reinhold said she was "a little disturbed" by the heated public hearing regarding the park, held the previous week.
"A lot of things were thrown out that were just simply not true," she said, adding the park board held four executive sessions prior to the dismissal of superintendent Kelly Young, a response to some residents' allegations that the board's decision had been hasty and without prior consideration.
Reinhold read an abbreviated version of a statement from the park board emphasizing the board wants to bring the park's buildings "back to the state they deserve to be," and "bring the children back to the park where they belong," as well as to hire a full-time superintendent who will bring "top-notch" programming to the park.
The beach lodge's locks were recently changed, added Reinhold, who cited a large number of keys to the building floating around the community. Changes in locks will also preclude people using the lodge's meeting room accessing other portions of the building.
She also clarified that a letter notifying the cancellation of Culver's REAL Meals program was dated Feb. 7 and apparently took some time to reach the park board; she said she didn't receive it until late the previous week. She said she spoke to the director of REAL Services in South Bend, which made the decision, and he affirmed the closure of the local program was unrelated to the park board's decision and impending temporary relocation of the program for beach lodge renovations.
She was told by the director that REAL Meals nutrition sites require at least 10 in attendance daily to stay open, and Culver has fallen well short of that mark for a long time.
Reinhold also noted the deadline for first payment for the park's pier slips was being extended to the end of February due to a one-week delay in pier slip contracts being mailed.
Githens complimented Munroe on her handling of the public forum the previous week, and audience member Jean Rakich thanked the council for holding the meeting.
NEW ANNEXATION FOR CULVER?
Discussed was a vote by Culver's plan commission to expand Culver's limits to include tracts along the east side of State Road 17, south of State Road 10. The land in question would extend from the southern intersection of SRs 10 and 17 to Mill Street on the south, including the former site of Boetsma's home furnishings store, among other properties.
Town attorney Clevenger said annexation would be much simpler if the property owners in question agree, and he cautioned the town to consider the costs involved in extending town water and sewer service to the area.
Audience member Kevin Berger explained the motive for the move had come from ongoing discussion that more areas are needed for the possible creation of subdivisions and other housing options in the Culver area. He also said Commonwealth Engineers recommended using vacuum pumps or small lift stations so the cost of bringing water to the area would be fairly low. He added the notion of extending boundaries was part of the discussion feeding into Culver's comprehensive plan endeavors last year.
He noted the plan also gives the town more control of development at its borders in the future. He emphasized the effort isn't meant to exclude further conversation, but is only a preliminary effort so as not to "surprise" the council if and when the plan commission moves ahead.
WATER BILLS ADJUSTED FOR FREEZE-PREVENTING 'TRICKLES'
Council members approved town manager Dave Schoeff's request to allow the town to adjust the water bills of those who register with the town that they're leaving their water "trickling" in order to prevent more pipes from freezing, a proliferate problem in recent weeks in Culver (more than 15 properties have experienced frozen pipes to date).
After researching other communities and consulting with Umbaugh accountants, Schoeff suggested the town examine typical water usage for registered households and bill them according to that amount, ignoring any excess water used in "trickling." The cutoff date for the move is March 19, unless weather dictates a longer period. Feb. 12 was set as the start date for the period.
VISITOR'S CENTER DISCUSSION
The council approved a request by George Duncan of the Antiquarian and Historical Society of Culver to install an awning canopy over the entryway to the new location of its history museum and in-the-works Culver visitor's center, which he said is hoped to open in late April.
Noting the museum relocated Oct. 30 from its previous home at the Culver Public Library to a space currently undergoing renovation in the southwest portion of the First Farmers Bank at Jefferson and Main Streets, Duncan shared a drawing of the canopy with council members.
Duncan pointed out permission had not yet been granted by the bank nor a formal decision made by the visitor's center committee to install a canopy -- which would extend from the bank's Jefferson Street entrance over the sidewalk -- but that instead he felt council permission was a prerequisite to any future requests. The council approved the request pending the bank's approval.
Council opted to table Duncan's second request, for $7,500 to assist in funding the center, something first brought up to council last year.
The museum for the first time will encounter rent and utility costs due to its move to the new site, said Duncan, though the AHS will cover those costs. The visitor's center currently has an $11,790 budget for 2014, he added, and has received a $5,000 grant covering operations costs from the Marshall County Visitor's Bureau, which could be requested on an annual basis.
Duncan said it's planned to request funds from Union Township and private donors towards the $11,730 budget shortfall. The Marshall County Community Foundation has provided a start-up grant towards renovation of the space.
He affirmed, in response to council member Lynn Overmyer, that it was hoped that some funding of the visitor's center could become part of the town's annual budget.
Munroe asked if the Chamber of Commerce and Culver Redevelopment Commission had been contacted for funds, which Duncan said had not formally taken place, though CRC president Kathy Clark, in the audience, said the CRC can't put funds towards operational costs.
Audience member Susie Mahler asked if the community as a whole will be engaged in steering the visitor's center, and audience member Carol Saft, of the visitor's center committee, explained that committee was formed in December and included representatives of the town, Culver Academies, the Chamber, and the service clubs and other organizations in Culver.
The council agreed to a work session March 11 to discuss the matter further.
CVS APPROVAL AND OTHER MATTERS
The council formalized a matter discussed recently at a work session, at which John Fulkerson of the Hamstra Group asked for an easement for CVS Pharmacy on Ohio Street to make the alley west of its building one-way, with plans for a drive-up pharmacy window opening to the alley. As part of a major interior and exterior renovation of the store, the company would also pave the alley as well as the town-owned parking lot south of the store.
Mahler emphasized that local merchants -- who she explained purchased the south lot to give to the town for municipal parking -- not lose the ability to park there and that the lot not be used as a dumping ground for snow plowed from CVS' main lot.
Munroe affirmed those concerns had been agreed upon during discussion with Fulkerson, and added that a small enclosure would be added outside existing dumpsters at the site, for aesthetic improvement.
The council's approval included language allowing for Schoeff to negotiate specifics of the agreement with Hamstra to the town's satisfaction.
Approved by council was $2,333.04 for equipment to facilitate IV drilling into patients' bones, as requested by EMS director Brandon Cooper, part of required upgrades towards new state-mandated criteria going into effect this summer.
Cooper also noted January was an unusually busy month for the service, which answered 37 calls including nine in town, 20 in the township, seven in Monterey, three to Miller's Merry Manor, and six to Culver Academies.
Approved also was $2,975 to buy a new water heater to replace one which died at the fire station, at the request of fire chief Terry Wakefield. Council member Overmyer abstained, expressing a wish that the purchase could have been made from a local company rather than Edge Mechanical, which had the lowest price of those Wakefield researched.
Also approved was $1,175 for New Age Construction to replace the broken stairway to the water heater. A plan to fund the department's new fire truck, as outlined at the previous council meeting, was also formally approved as drawn up by Clevenger.
Council approved, on all three readings, an ordinance required by the State of Indiana aimed at assisting law enforcement in fighting theft by requiring precious metals dealers to register locally and with the General Assembly.
A number of bids were opened for the town's recently-replaced street truck, with Ricky Salary's $6,000 bid coming in highest. Council approved the bid with the caveat that the next highest bid of $3,850 could be accepted without separate approval, if the $6,000 didn't come through.
Town clerk Karen Heim's request for approval of $26,045 for workman's compensation insurance. She noted -- with appreciation expressed to town employees for their safety efforts -- that the town's safety rating has improved to a good level, making lower cost insurance possible.
Utilities manager Bob Porter, responding to a query from Pinder, said the freeze cycle will have to end before crews can repair the growing number of potholes appearing throughout town of late.