LEESBURG – With about 14 years on the Leesburg Town Council, Councilman Doug Jones said he is vacating his position on the Council, effective Jan. 1.
Jones made the announcement at the end of the Council meeting Monday. He said the Kosciusko County Republican Party has his letter of resignation and there will be a caucus to appoint his replacement. Jones said there are people interested in the position.
Other aspects of Jones’ life has taken up so much of his time, Jones said he wants someone on the Council that has the time to put toward it. He feels he doesn’t have the time to give the town the time it deserves. He said he has the highest respect for the people he is leaving behind and knows he is leaving the town in good hands.
He’s proud of the work the Council has done and “it’s been my honor and privilege to serve this amazing community and I’m going to miss it, but it comes down to a certain time limit,” he said.
Jones said it was a hard decision, but “something had to give.”
Councilman Tom Moore said he hopes Jones’ replacement shares Jones’ enthusiasm for the town. Moore said even though he likes to tease Jones, Jones’ heart is in the right place and he thinks about the town and its future.
Earlier in the meeting, the Council approved an update to the refuse ordinance it has been talking about for the past couple of months.
Moore doesn’t remember the date of the original refuse ordinance, but it’s been in use for a number of years, possibly going back to the 1950s.
Council President Christina Archer said the ordinance says it is unlawful for any junk or refuse of any kind to accumulate on a person’s property. The Council included in its definition of refuse leaves, grass clippings, lawn waste, limbs, scrap roofing, household furniture, tires and automotive waste.
Moore said the biggest addition of the ordinance approved Monday is a clause to address a penalty if the property owner does not address the refuse. The penalty clause allows the town to take care of the refuse 30 days after a warning is issued if the property owner doesn’t address the issue. Worst case scenario, Moore said it is a lien on the property.
Also, the Council discussed the town’s sewer pumping station.
Moore said there have been complaints from people who do not live in town about the stench coming from the sewer pumping station. He asked what can be done about that.
Derek Tenney, of Tenney & Sons, said he has caught whiffs of it himself.
Moore asked if the charcoal filter has been installed. Tenney said it was. Moore asked if the aerator is supposed to help with the smell. Tenney said it’s supposed to help with things like getting the smell and the hydrogen sulfite gas levels in the sewer down.
Moore said if the hydrogen sulfite gas levels are lowered, the smell should go down, too, but that hasn’t happened.
Jones asked if the smell has been more prominent since the town has installed the aeration system. Tenney said it’s been more noticeable.
Moore suggested having a representative from the aeration system at the next meeting. Tenney said he will be in touch with the aeration company.
Moore said the town can’t keep throwing money at the situation. The town has spent at least $20,000 on the aeration system and it hasn’t fixed the problem.
Moore also brought up he and Tenney still need to get together to set up a maintenance schedule for the pumping station.
Moore brought up the fact the sewer department spent $44,321.95 last month on maintenence for the system. He said people have to understand how intricate a sewer system is. If someone flushes things into the system they shouldn’t, it can plug up the system. He said that person may not care that the plugging happens because they pay the sewer bill every month and has the right to use it.
“No, you don’t,” he said. In the town’s sewer ordinance, it states “any person who shall continue any violation beyond the time limit provided for” shall be fined in an amount not to exceed $500 for each violation. Each day in which any such violation will continue shall be deemed a separate offense.
Moore said people have to understand the money side of the sewer system.
“We have no recourse but to keep raising the rates as long as our costs keep going up,” he said. So if the $73 sewer rate has to go up, people need to remember the people that flush things into the system.
“If people don’t care, then you’ll have to write a very big check. And I think that’s very unfair to the people who do care,” he said.
Archer said it gets more expensive to take care of the repairs necessary when people abuse the system.
Jones said he would go a step further and it’s really not the town’s discretion what the sewer rate should be at a certain point because the bond holders will look at the sewer’s financials. The bond holders could say the town isn’t charging enough and pull the bonds.
Clerk-Treasurer Mike Searfoss said there is about $400,000 in the sewer fund. Jones said the town makes two payments a year of about $150,000 each.
Searfoss said the $44,321.95 that was spent over the last month is a good month and half of income as the sewer utility is bringing in a little less than $30,000 a month.
Archer said a sewer rate study was done by Baker Tilly. Jones said it was suggested the rate be raised to $80 per month. Archer said the town has been monitoring the sewer fund closely since then so the town does not keep raising the sewer rate.
The Council didn’t take any action Monday.
In other business, the Council learned the Christmas Candelaria will be Dec. 10. The Leesburg Mighty Farmers 4-H Club and Boy Scout Troop 729 will help with the lighting.