By Lauren Zeugner
SYRACUSE — The Syracuse Town Council heard from several guests during its regular meeting Tuesday night, June 20.
Matt Meersman, representing the St. Joseph River Basin Commission, came before the board to explain how Syracuse plays a role in the organization and to seek the town’s annual dues to the commission.
Meersman explained Turkey Creek flows into the Elkhart River which then flows into the St. Joseph River. Because of this, Kosciusko County has five representatives on the commission, one coming from Syracuse as the largest municipality with water flowing to the St. Joseph River.
The commission has a basic budget of $60,000 and depends on local government funding. That funding is determined by the amount of water draining into the St. Joseph River and population. Syracuse’s portion is typically $141 a year.
Some of the projects the commission has undertaken include working with the Wawasee Area Conservancy Foundation on water monitoring and more recently working with the Syracuse Parks Department in planting urban trees.
Councilmen Nathan Scherer and Bill Musser stated they thought the town could do better than $141 to the commission. Scherer made a motion to give $500 to the commission which was approved.
Michael and Amelia Abramson came before the board with a petition to remove the ordinance banning poultry from the town limits. Recently the code enforcement officer came to the Abramson home and told them chickens were not allowed within the town limits and they would have to remove them.
After hearing their case, Musser asked if the Abramson’s bothered to even check to see if there was an ordinance in place. Michael Abramson said it never occurred to him there would be an ordinance banning chickens.
Council President Cindy Kaiser noted children in town who participated in 4-H livestock clubs kept their 4-H projects outside the town limits. She did state she would read the petition presented by the Abramsons.
Scherer noted ordinances affect the whole town and the council has to look out for the town collectively. He stated zoning regulations and ordinances should be enforced or removed. “I heard you,” he said.
Councilman Paul Stoelting wondered if there should be an exception to the ordinance limiting the number of chickens to no more than 10.
In the end the council made no decision and moved on.
Tom Hodgson came before the council to thank Scherer for his work in getting the railroad bridge between Syracuse Lake and Lake Wawasee repaired. Scherer said he wasn’t the only one involved in getting the project done. Repairs on the bridge are currently underway.
The town council approved CF-1 approval for a number of local businesses that have tax abatements. The CF-1 approval is an annual check that businesses granted tax abatement are still in compliance.
The council approved a contract to do a number of projects for a total of $2,252,768.32. The projects include post aeration at the wastewater treatment plant for $26, 067.37; the Oakwood lift station for $879,332.98 and the Lakeside watermain loop for $1,117,368.01.
The work is expected to be completed within 180 days with seeding to be done next spring.
The council approved a quote from Middlebury Electric to install 13 street lights in the technology park for $21,400.
In his report, Town Manager David Wilkinson noted there is an ordinance requiring local businesses to come into the clerk-treasurer’s office and get a business license. The ordinance appears to have never been enforced.
Jay Rigdon, town attorney, asked about the need for such an ordinance. Wilkinson noted it would provide town officials with knowledge about what businesses were within the town limits.
Rigdon pointed out the ordinance offers no fee structure and the clerk-treasurer’s office doesn’t have a form for business owners to fill out.
Scherer noted a business license fee would provide some cushion for economic development. Stoelting thought a business registry would be a good idea.
After some more discussion it was decided the council would continue the conversation next month with the goal of establishing a business license requirement for Jan. 1, 2024.
Chad Jonsson, park superintendent, reported just over 200 people participated in the ninth annual Mudtastic Classic Saturday. Many were participating for the first time and said they would come back next year with a group. Kaiser asked how old the youngest participant was, Jonsson said 5.
In upcoming projects, the parks department will be replacing the pavilion and restrooms in Henry Ward Park. The plan is to have construction start in mid-July.
Fireworks are planned for Syracuse at Lakeside Park for Tuesday, July 4. The Tour des Lakes will be held July 15. This ride typically brings in about 400 riders.
Fire Chief Mickey Scott announced the department’s annual barbecue will be 10 a.m. until sold out Saturday, July 1. Chicken and chops will be available for $7 with corn on the cob $1 an ear.
Scott told the council the fire department is working to get markers on the trails to assist anyone needing to call 911 to tell dispatch where they are so first responders can reach them.
Wawasee Property Owners Association will have the flotilla and fireworks on Saturday, July 1. The department does have a new fire boat with a water pump in service.
Scott requested permission to spend $135,000 to purchase Dr. Rod Kaufman’s property directly north of Station 1 on SR 13. The council approved the purchase. The property will be used for administrative offices and allows the opportunity for further expansion should the department need it in the future.
The council also approved Scott spending $2,000 on eight rescue life jackets for the department.
Rigdon reported he is still working on an ordinance regarding restaurants offering outdoor dining. However, the state legislator recently passed a law regarding outdoor dining. Rigdon has seen a summary of the new law, but wants to see it in its entirety so he can match the local ordinance with the state law.