By David Slone
WINONA LAKE – A public hearing for the town’s 2022 budget and several agreements were on the Winona Lake Town Council’s agenda Tuesday evening, Sept.21.
Before getting to the agenda items, however, the Council held a moment of silence for Councilman Jim Zachary, who died Aug. 17. A caucus on Friday elected Austin Reynolds to finish out the remainder of Zachary’s term. Reynolds attended Tuesday’s meeting via Zoom while on vacation. Reynolds will be sworn in at a later date and he said he will be at the October meeting.
Clerk-Treasurer Kent Adams made a brief presentation on the 2022 budget. He said Tuesday was the public hearing for the budget. The budget will be adopted at the Oct. 19 council meeting, and then will be submitted to the state within three days for approval.
“The budget overall is going up 8.55%, which, in reality, is only 4.3% because we rolled ’20 into ’21 last year with everything going on and not quite knowing what the revenue was going to be, to play it safe,” Adams stated.
The proposed 2022 budget totals $5,459,722, an increase of $429,870 over the 2021 budget of $5,029,852. Adams said those amounts include fees that are not from property taxes.
The net assessed valuation for the property in the town went up 9.62% from $190,211,105 in 2021 to $208,515,398 in 2022, he pointed out, which then affects the tax rate. The residential property tax rate will decrease from $0.6876 per $100 of assessed valuation in 2021 to $0.6524 in 2022, Adams said, a decrease of 5.12%.
Landlord Jerry Nelson was the only member of the public who had any questions about the budget.
“You outlined the fact that the wastewater and stormwater are included here, and yet they’re a fee-based situation. So is this strictly information and should it be included in that 8.55%?” he asked.
Adams said they are included in that 8.55% budget increase, but when it comes to the property tax rate, “It’s not going to be there.” He said it had to be listed in the budget total.
Nelson then asked, since the stormwater and wastewater are listed as part of the 2022 budget, if the Council may be able to address the fees before December. He has rental properties and some of those fees he passes on to his renters. If he knows how much the fees will be sooner, he can let his tenants know of any increases in their rent before the start of the new year.
Adams said the sewer rate of $56 per month is staying the same, but the trash fee is going up $2 from $6 to $8 per month and the stormwater is going up $2 from $5 to $7 per month. Town Manager Craig Allebach agreed the wastewater rate is already set, as is the stormwater rate, and the only question is the trash rate but he predicted a $2 increase for 2022. The town subsidizes the trash rate by over 50%, Allebach said.
No other questions from the public were heard and the public hearing on the budget was closed. No action was taken by the Council on the budget.
The first agreement to come up before the Council was the Argonne Road roundabout supplemental No. 3 agreement with A & Z Engineering LLC.
Council President Rick Swaim said, “In a few months we’re going to have a roundabout being constructed.” The roundabout will be at the intersection of Argonne Road, Winona Avenue, Kings Highway and Park Avenue.
Allebach said the agreement is for additional costs associated with the design and coordination, especially with the railroad and other utilities.
“It’s a mess down there, and we’ll probably start to see a lot of activity before the end of the year for those utilities to relocate,” Allebach said. “I just had a boring company in a couple days ago and they’ll start boring for the fiber and relocating for all that, but gas will have to be relocated.”
In addition, Allebach said, before the end of the year, the city of Warsaw will come through and bring a stormwater drainage system down McKinley Street, over toward Argonne Road and tie in to the lakes. Warsaw is paying for it all, but Winona Lake is coordinating it before the roundabout project.
“So there will be a lot of activity probably in the very near future with utilities and everything else,” he said.
Bid letting for the project is expected around February or March.
According to a copy of the supplemental agreement, A & Z shall obtain the Rule 5 permit and do the work associated with it, as well as provide potholing and subsurface utility engineering services. The company will design and prepare plans, estimates and special provisions for a new control cabinet and associated wiring. A & Z shall receive as payment for the work performed under the contract supplement No. 3 a fee of $426,290, an increase of $11,100.
The supplemental agreement was unanimously approved by the Council.
Later in the meeting, the Council tabled a railroad construction and maintenance agreement for the roundabout as INDOT found the railroad might be charging too much.
“Now it’s a fight between INDOT and the railroad, and it’ll be our fight, I guess, next,” Allebach said.
The next agreement was with A & Z Engineering for the Heritage Trail East segment 5 supplemental No. 1.
The trail segment runs from Lakeland Christian Academy to Raccoon Run.
Allebach said there were some additional costs in regard to relocation. The costs total an increase of $34,109. The Council unanimously approved the agreement.
Allebach then presented two bids the town received for the Boys City stormwater project, which he said the town has been working on for three or four years. Part of the problem has been the town has been trying to find the money to do it.
The Council accepted the lowest bid of $83,348.12 from SiteWork. The second bid was from Haskins Underground for $112,550.
In other business, the Council:
• Approved Resolution 2021-9-2 regarding Kosciusko Economic Development Corporation Incentives and Policies and Procedures.
Suzie Light, representing KEDCO, said KEDCO was requesting the town of Winona Lake adopt the incentives policy, as recommended by the town’s Redevelopment Commission. The purpose for the policy “is to level the playing field for any business that comes into our county seeking an incentive to locate here. We want to make sure we have a process in place that is identified prior to a request and that we don’t pit one community against another, it’s a level playing field.”
• Approved Resolution 2021-9-3 regarding the adoption of Title VI Implementation Plan.
Swaim said he read through it and it was “basically a non-discriminatory policy.” Allebach said it was just a requirement for a lot of the federal and Indiana Department of Transportation projects the town does.
• Heard the “Winona Happenings” include Oktoberfest in The Village at Winona, this Saturday, Sept. 25, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.; Grace College Homecoming Parade, Oct. 2, 10 a.m., from Lakeland Christian Academy to Grace College down Wooster Road; Symphony of the Lakes, Winona Heritage Room, Oct. 2, 7 p.m.; Fear is a Liar Color Run 5K Run/Walk, Oct. 16, 10 a.m.; Winona Lake Community Church Fall Fest, Oct. 16, 1 to 3 p.m.; Leaf Kicker 5K/15K/13.1 Run/Walk, Oct. 17, 9 a.m.; and trick or treat, Oct. 30, 5:30 to 8 p.m.
Village at Winona Managing Director Nick Hauck said there was a lot going on during Oktoberfest so he recommended people check out https://villageatwinona.com/events/oktoberfest/ for the full list and times.