By David Hazledine
MILFORD — The June 14 meeting of Milford’s Town Council started on a high note as Fire Chief Virgil Sharp presented certificates of appreciation to John McQuade and Micah Mansfield for “quick thinking, life-saving service to our community” during a house fire.
According to Sharp, on April 7, 2021, when a home at the corner of West Catherine Street and SR 15 caught fire, McQuade and Mansfield, employees of Widman Builders, were working on the roof of a nearby house and – after realizing people were trapped in the second story of the house – used one of their ladders to help them reach safety.
“I’m thankful we were there and God had us working,” said McQuade. The pair received a round of applause from attendees and Councilman Ken Long jovially commented, “I’m impressed you did what you did and went back to work.”
Later, Milford resident Jay Urbin again referenced the fire while asking what the town intends to do about the burned structure.
Long said a letter had been sent to the homeowner; however, he believed it had not been received and would be “coming back to us.”
Town Attorney Jay Rigdon said, “Most statutes only require you to send. You don’t have to prove it was received,” adding he would seek confirmation this is the case.
The homeowner has 60 days from the postmarked date to address the situation. At that time, Rigdon added, the town has three options: impose fines, put the house into receivership or demolish the structure. The town would likely be financially responsible for the property in event of the latter two options.
Citing previous attempts to impose fines on Milford homes owned by Ron Davidhizar, which are still under litigation years later, Urbin suggested demolition. According to Urbin, children have entered the structure. “The clock is ticking,” said Council President Doug Ruch.
Referring to the Davidhizar matter, Rigdon said transcription of a previous hearing was finished and he would “keep it moving.”
During fire reports, Sharp informed the council Milford Fire Department’s new pumper truck, paid for primarily by Van Buren Township, would be ready by fall 2021. The truck will take the place of two department vehicles, the old pumper and a rescue truck, the latter owned by the town, Sharp noted.
Sharp also said he was pursuing grants for new radios in response to a push by the Kosciusko County Fire Association to move to digital 800 megahertz radios.
Milford Fire has already purchased some 800 handheld radios to accompany Elkhart County departments, which have made the transition, along with Marshall and Noble counties.
“It’s been a circus,” Sharp commented on his efforts to have paperwork complete for three different grants: one federal, one state and, if neither of those comes through, a third from K21 Foundation.
The total cost for five units, 18 handheld radios and 30 pagers is $118,000.
Van Buren Township Trustee Becky Alles said K21 wanted to “see what townships are putting in … what skin they have in the game.” She also noted money would be coming in from the sale of the old pumper truck; additionally, the township’s cumulative fire fund is “up to the max,” and Jefferson Township would be able to contribute.
Ruch queried if ARPA/CARES Act money could be applied to radios, to which Clerk/Treasurer Tricia Gall said not as the act is currently written.
During police reports, Chief Derek Kreider requested the council approve the purchase of a 2012 Dodge Charger with 65,000 miles at a cost of $6,500 from the New Castle Police Department. The vehicle would be for the use of part-time officers.
The council approved the purchase, plus an additional $1,479 to cover the difference for an 800 mhz radio, which cost $3,217 but was partially covered by a fundraiser held by the department.
The council also voted to promote Thomas Waikel to chief deputy, replacing the outgoing Tim Miller. Waikel has “over 20 years experience,” said Kreider. A salary ordinance amendment was also passed to pay R.J. Plummer $41,000 per year.
During water reports, $1,000 was approved for camera work on 1,000 feet of sewer on West Street.
Sewer Plant Manager Mark Brubaker also invited council members and others to an open house held by BioWaste, next door to the plant, from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. June 24. There will be information on land application techniques there, which is something Milford hopes to pursue in the future.
During street, water and park reports, Superintendent Steven Marquart reported street lights were out on Sixth Street and in North Park. He said NIPSCO could replace 13 lights at a cost of $10,472, which would then include a monthly fee. The council followed Gall’s advice to wait until the cost of the state-mandated pond closure at the sewer plant was determined before spending the money.
The council approved payment of $1,225 to EJP for the purchase of an eight-inch valve at the well house to replace a leaking valve, roughly 50 years old, recently inspected by Indiana Department of Environmental Management.
Marquart also received permission to pursue a SWIF grant from Indiana’s Infrastructure Fund to help replace lead and copper pipes. Marquart said 56 service lines were in need of replacement at last count. He also received permission to apply for the next Community Crossing grant, a 75/25 matching grant provided by INDOT.
The council also grudgingly agreed to pay $2,988 to maintain archived social media sites for the town and police department. Because these Facebook sites are a source of government information, Gall explained, they need to be archived to prevent deletion of content by either the town, police or Facebook itself. She added she gets “quite a few questions” via Facebook and the police site receives even more.
Facebook, she said, reaches the most people the quickest. “Communication is super key,” she emphasized, “We need to meet people where they are.”
“It’s simply the cost of running government,” Ruch said, and suggested trying the service for a year. Long’s was the lone vote against.
After reviewing three quotes, the council chose MicroByte Enterprises to provide a new copier, fax, scanner unit for $2,835.