By Lauren Zeugner
SYRACUSE — After review of a utility rate study done by London Witte group, an Indianapolis accounting firm, the Syracuse Town Council instructed Robert Reynolds, a representative of the firm, to come up with a rate ordinance during its regular meeting Tuesday night, July 18.
Reynolds went over three scenarios for both water and sewer rates. The first having the town raising rates to cover operation expenses and upcoming projects. The second was covering expenses in a combination of a rate hike and a $500,000 bond. The third was covering expenses in a combination of a rate hike and a $1 million bond.
Town Attorney Jay Rigdon reviewed the procedure for passing the rate ordinance. The town council would introduce the rate ordinance at its August meeting, hold a public hearing and adopt the ordinance at its September meeting with the ordinance going into affect in October.
“The debt (from the proposed bonds in scenarios two and three) scares me,” said Councilman Bill Musser. “We have a lot ahead of us. I think we have to put this on the tax payer rather than the city.” He noted other communities in the area have significantly raised their rates recently.
“I think it’s important for the public to understand inflation has affected the water utility,” said Councilman Larry Siegel.
Musser noted after this initial rate hike, the town should move forward by slightly increasing rates every year so the town doesn’t run into a similar problem in the future.
Under the first option, an average customer, which uses approximately 3,000 gallons a month, would have their water bill increased by approximately $4.82 and their sewer bill increase by $13.81.
In his town manger’s report, Dave Wilkinson reviewed a plan he and Mark Aurich, public works superintendent, have developed to fund projects using American Rescue Plan Act funds.
Wilkinson reviewed upcoming projects from now through 2025 and how they could be funded. The Oakwood Lift Station project would require $40,000 from the Oakwood Improvement Account to cover the cost. The Lakeside Water Loop project would require $12,360 from the water depreciation fund.
Wilkinson and Aurich are looking at projects for 2024 which include: extending sewer to Kern Road using $400,000 of ARPA funds: Improving the Pearl Street parking lot for $500,000 using funds from Economic Development Income Tax and the Syracuse Tax Increment Finance district; water main replacements using $100,000 from the water depreciation fund, dehumidifer for the water plant for $100,000 using water depreciation funds and replacing the roof at the Syracuse Community Center using $115,000 of ARPA funds.
After reviewing the plan Wilkinson requested input from the council regarding using the ARPA funds. The town would need to commit the funds by 2024 and use them by 2026.
Councilman Paul Stoelting asked about the cost of the Pearl Street parking lot. Wilkinson explained the lot would be resurfaced, relined, landscaped and there would be some traffic lane changes as well.After some discussion, the council agreed the projects were a good use of ARPA funds.
There was no one from Commonwealth Engineering to give a report or answer questions. Both Musser and Siegel were unhappy about the fact construction on several projects has not started yet.
Wilkinson told the council the Oakwood Lift Station and force main project was set to start after Labor Day with the Lakeside Water Main project to start after those two projects are complete. Aurich explained part of the delay was due to parts needing to be fabricated.
The council approved new contracts for Wilkinson and Aurich.
The council voted to do away with the business license ordinance since it had never been enforced.
Wilkinson asked the council what it wanted to do with funds in a facade grant/loan account since no one has ever asked about using it. The fund has approximately $30,000 in it. The council agreed to leave things as they are.
Chad Jonsson reported about 250 bikers braved the weather Saturday, July 15, to participate in the Tour des Lakes. The Syracuse Rotary Club is working to take over coordinating the event.
The old pavilion at Ward Park has been torn down. Construction on the new pavilion and restrooms is expected to start late next week or the week after. Once the new pavilion and restrooms are complete, the old restrooms will be removed.
Siegel asked about buggy parking at the park, Jonsson said he would look into it.
The parks and recreation department is working with the Syracuse-Wawasee Chamber of Commerce on community wide garage sales which will be held Aug. 3-5.
The Kiwanis Triathlon will be held Saturday, July 29.
Fire Chief Mickey Scott reported the next Safe Sitter Class will be held 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Thursday, July 20. To register call Station I at (574) 457- 4100. The council approved the fire territory’s operation and equipment budgets, approximately $2.5 million for operations and $500,000 for equipment.
Rigdon told the council he sent them proposals for an outdoor dining ordinance. He asked the council to review them and provide some input.
In old business Musser asked if there was a target date for improving the public parking lot across from the Syracuse Public Library. Wilkinson said the project is being considered for 2025 since it will cost approximately $1 million and he’s looking