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Monday, April 19, 2021

Chrisney Town Council: Figuring out the details

by Kathy Tretter (Courtesy of Spencer County Leader)

Baby steps.

That is how almost every community must progress when faced with financing for a large (read that as costly) project.

Chrisney officials know both the water and wastewater utilities are in serious need of upgrades. Commonwealth Engineering recently completed a comprehensive analysis of both departments and Commonwealth’s Theresa Criss-Hartwig was in attendance at the council’s Monday, August 5 meeting to discuss financing options.

The water project alone comes with a $2.5 million price tag, and since the town does not have $2.5 million lying around waiting for a project, some creativity is in order.

Criss-Hartwig explained USDA offers a combination of low interest loans and grants and she had already discussed the situation with USDA Southern District Director Craig McGowan. 

The Town of Chrisney is eligible for both a loan and a grant based on median income, but as Criss-Hartwig explained, until the USDA sends a letter of conditions the specifics are unclear.

She recommended working with the town’s rate consultant, Pat Callahan, for several reasons, the first due to a contingency from USDA. The town’s rate ordinance needs to be reviewed and amended with consideration for the special rate give to AK Steel. Basically the ordinance needs to show AK Steel will continue requiring its current usage (30,000 gallons per day minimum).

Councilman Mason Seay asked if the terms would need to include a set number of years.

Criss-Hartwig did not think so, but she believes Callahan will have some idea how this ordinance should be drafted with a directive from USDA.

Terms for USDA loans are generally 40 years at a fixed 2.75% interest rate and the agency could provide up to 45% of the cost in grants.

That still leaves quite a bit of funding, so Criss-Hartwig looked into SRF (State Revolving Fund) programs. These include a loan forgiveness program but the terms for loans are not as generous — usually 20 years.

Then there is the Office of Community and Rural Affairs (OCRA) Community Focus Fund grant programs with awards up to $700,000 (or more like $600,000 plus a match from the town).

Criss-Hartwig suggested that if USDA could provide a $1.125 million grant and OCRA a $700,000 grant the whole project would be more palatable.

Meanwhile, she recommended a town official talk to AK Steel. “At the end of the day this will be better for AK Steel,”Criss-Hartwig opined.

She also suggested bringing Nathan Held, Senior Consultant with the Indiana 15 Regional Planning Commission, up to speed, so he can begin work on the OCRA grant.

An environmental review will be required, and Criss-Hartwig noted the Rural Development process is more stringent than OCRA’s, so that is another “baby step” with which to proceed.

For now, Clerk-Treasurer Kim Litkenhus will work with Callahan as she has already apprised him of the situation. Stay tuned for further developments.

Gas Utility

As with all good things, they generally come to an end. 

Utility Superintendent John Graham believes the boiler system at the gas plant, while still operational, may soon breathe its last breath. Installed in 1966, the 53 year-old system was worked on years ago, but a consultant with Spitfire — recommended to Graham by USDI (the town’s natural gas engineering/consulting firm) — told him the antiquated system is not up to code and repair would cost about three/quarters of what a new boiler system would.

The unit itself will cost $34,575, plus $770 for the controls. Other expenses will include a welder and the final connection by USDI.

Graham was almost apologetic when explaining the need, but Council President Neal Dougan noted this is an unavoidable maintenance issue.

Graham said his department can probably remove the old boiler and prep the area, but it will take six to eight weeks for the new system to come in. The change over will only take a day or so. The system will come from GSM (Gas System Manufacturing), Peoria, Illinois.

In other gas news, Graham said the department has until the end of October to complete the operator Qualification Evaluation, a tri-annual requirement for gas operations.

Sewer Plant

Graham again hated to be the bearer of bad tidings, but he had to report a flow meter at the sewer plant had gone out the day after the previous council meeting. When it was deemed unrepairable, he had to order a replacement, in the low $3,000 range.

In addition, a pair of heavy steel doors built into the aeration plant must also be replaced. The doors are mounted in concrete, an added expense (they had been installed when the building was erected). The doors themselves, to be purchased through Obermeier Hardware, Rockport, will cost over $2,000. Equity Construction will install them, bringing the total cost to $3,266.34.

The council also:

• Learned Clerk-Treasurer Kim Litkenhus and Graham submitted three Community Crossings Grant applications ahead of the deadline. All three would fund paving of gravel roads. Notification of grant awards will come in October.

• Adopted Ordinance 2019-05, amending the salary ordinance for mowers from $10 to $12 per hour, and making the amendment retroactive to July 21.

• Adopted Ordinance 2019-06 to comply with a new state law concerning building commissioner/inspector conflict of interest. Should one exist, the council president has authority to appoint a temporary replacement.

• Adopted Resolution 2019-07, upon the advice of Attorney Andrew Foster. He explained that while everyone assumed the town had been accepted in the National Flood Insurance program after adopting an ordinance, a resolution is also required and both must be submitted to FEMA for approval.

• Learned from Litkenhus she had met with a DLGF (Department of Local Government Finance) representative regarding the 2020 budget. All was in order. The council will hold a public hearing on the budget at their September 9 meeting (a week later than usual due to Labor Day), with budget adoption set for October 7.

• Heard a reminder from Litkenhus the Fall Festival will be held September 19-21, and from Graham that around 65 residents attended the free movie in the park the previous weekend.

• Learned from Town Marshal Gary Cooper that break-ins at Chrisney Elementary had occurred both August 2 and 3 and he has been handling follow-up interviews. “It looks like eight very young juveniles were involved,” he reported. They spray painted a concession stand and stole candy and soft drinks. Cooper is working with the deputy prosecutor and school principal on the case.

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