MILFORD — Abandoned houses and wastewater rate hikes were the primary topics of discussion at the Milford Town Council’s first public meeting of 2017.
Ordinance 2017-2, which would raise residents wastewater bill by 16.34 percent, will be up for a public hearing and a vote at next month’s meeting 7 p.m. Monday, Feb. 13.
One of the Milford Town Council’s first acts of 2017 was to fine the owners of six properties $2,500 for non-compliance to orders issued back in September 2015. Five of those properties are owned by Ron Davidhizar, once deemed a “problem landlord” in a WSBT-TV 22 article because of his failure to bring multiple Goshen properties up to code.
In that case, reported in August 2014, one of many involving Davidhizar, the properties were placed in receivership due to the length of time the houses had been neglected.
Receivership was the option recommended by Scott Reust, the attorney sitting in for Jay Rigdon, Milford town attorney, in the case of the five properties owned by Davidhizar; however, the fact three of the properties contained trailers and worries about potential costs to the town led Council President Dan Cochran and Doug Ruch to favor a different option: fining the properties $2,500 each. If the fines go unpaid, the properties face foreclosure. “I don’t think receivership is going to work,” Ruch stated, adding he believes the process could cost the town “75 or 80 grand before it is all said and done.”
Though unsatisfied with its options, the council voted to levy fines on the six properties. “There’s no great answer here,” said Cochran who referred to Davidhizar as a “master of delay.” Town Marshal Rich Miotto also noted Davidhizar “knows the system very well.” Those present were unsure of the duration of time before the properties go into foreclosure in the event of nonpayment.
Other items on the council’s agenda were as follows:
Wessler Engineering submitted its 60 percent design plans for the Milford wastewater plant. The plans show a cost of approximately $493,000, $43,000 more than previously expected, largely due to grading work around the chlorine storage room, according to the Wessler engineer, Megan Carr.
The plans also did not reflect $70,000 in upgrades to a sludge holding tank, the cost of which is expected to be offset by not having to pay future hauling and disposal fees.
Brian Haines, Milford’s new fire chief, introduced himself to the town council Monday night. The council also voted to accept fire protection at a cost of $29,000.
In police reports, Miotto asked for and received monies not to exceed $1,550 for the purchase of a new computer.
The council approved the department’s policy for the use of Narcan spray in cases of heroin overdose. The department does not yet have the allotted four doses, however, due to a recall.
Miotto is also hoping to have a dog licensing ordinance prepared for February’s meeting. Owners would be required to tag their dogs. Currently, stray dogs have to be taken to Warsaw because of officers inability to identify owners.
In utilities reports, Superintendent Steven Marquart cited communication problems between the water tower and well. He connects the problem to Verizon’s inability to maintain signal strength weekends and evenings, though, he said, Verizon reps deny responsibility. One solution may be to switch to an emergency band, according to Marquart.
Marquart reiterated his desire to change code on meter pits in Milford homes. He wants the code to require all homes have a meter pit with a cast iron lid or have the meter inside the home where it will not freeze. Town workers often have to crawl under trailers amidst debris such as broken glass to read meters.
The superintendent proposed replacing two additional fire hydrants in 2017 in conjunction with work set to begin on Main Street by Beer and Slabaugh Inc. Marquart’s plan is to change two hydrants per year. No action was taken.
Marquart is also seeking quotes for mapping of Milford’s water lines.
The council passed a motion to purchase cutter heads for the wastewater treatment plant at a cost not to exceed $1,550.
Plant operator Mark Brubaker informed the council all businesses were in compliance with Milford’s grease ordinance as of Dec. 22.