Syracuse Council Holds Public Hearing For Fire Equipment Fund

Syracuse Town Council took action on several items during their regular monthly meeting. Pictured (L to R) are Cindy Kaiser, Larry Martindale, Council President Bill Musser, Paul Stoelting and town attorney Jay Rigdon. Council Member Larry Siegel wasn’t present. Photo by Denise Fedorow.

Denise Fedorow, Correspondent
SYRACUSE – Turkey Creek Fire Territory needs to re-establish funds for replacing fire equipment and a public hearing was held at Tuesday’s Syracuse Town Council meeting for that purpose.

There was no comment from the public and the Council unanimously approved the ordinance re-establishing the fund. Fire Chief Mickey Scott explained it was necessary to re-establish the fund because they currently weren’t receiving anything from property taxes.

He said, under the Department of Local Government Finance rules, when assessed value goes up, the rate goes down but never seems to go back up.

Councilman Paul Stoelting said, “That’s a dumb rule.”

Scott said they have to have the means to replace equipment regularly and reminded the Council how bad the equipment was when the fire territory first came in. He said with a 70% increase in the cost of aluminum, it’s going to make the price of equipment increase.

He said he gave the Council a 20-year plan with a 4% increase each year. According to the ordinance, property tax increase “will not exceed $0.03 per $100 assessed value” and will begin with tax payable in 2023.

Jeremy Hardy, of Commonwealth Engineers, was present at the meeting and apologized to the Council for last month’s confusion when another representative from Commonwealth attended the meeting in Hardy’s place. There were questions about what the representative was proposing so they tabled the matters until this month.

Hardy went through the four task orders he needed approved and explained each one and the cost. The first task order was for the Oakwood lift station. He said the idea was to bypass the pumping stations and go straight to the treatment plant. The task order was for the design work, bid documents, etc. at a cost not to exceed $107,400. He said the project should be able to go out to bid this month and if all goes well be completed next summer.

One of the Council members asked how it would be paid and was told partly through American Rescue Plan Act funds and partly through tax increment funds.

The second task order was for the Lakeside Drive water main loop and he told the Council they’d probably bid this project with the Oakwood lift station project. The task order amount is $50,400.

The third task order is for the north water tower – for painting the exterior and Hardy said it could be done sometime in 2023, whenever the Council was ready but at least the quote package would be ready. That cost was $39,700. Lastly, the on-call task order is for times when staff or developers need assistance and it is not to exceed $10,000. The total for all four task orders was $207,500.

The Council approved all four task orders.

Alan Tio, CEO of Kosciusko County Economic Development Corporation (KEDCO), was at the meeting to touch base with the Council. He told them, “It’s good to be here with you – between COVID and being shipped overseas it’s been a while.”

He commended the town for its hard work and used Polywood for one example.

“What’s unique to our county is our three pillars – entrepreneurship, housing and talent recruiting and retention,” he said, and explained each to the Council.

Council President Bill Musser asked what they’ve done specifically for Syracuse. Tio and Greg Fitzloff, also from KEDCO, mentioned they’ve worked with Polywood, Aluminum Insights and Jasper Plastics and have worked with the gentlemen renovating the old Syracuse Elementary School. Tio said he meets with the town manager and with the chamber director monthly.

Tio said one thing they want to spread the word about is a statewide matching grant with up to a $200,000 match. He said the program is called Manufactured Readiness Program for employers investing in Smart manufacturing, which he said is varied and can mean taking anything that’s done manually and automate it, using robotics or other means and wouldn’t do without the state support.

Town Manager David Wilkinson talked to the Council about the comprehensive plan he and the department heads are working on. He was asked about the Syracuse TIF plan and said there’s currently over a million sitting in the fund and the funds were created for the purpose of upgrading utilities, adding sidewalks, improving roads and aesthetics. He said there are lift stations that need improving and there’s been conversation about connecting the trails through the village. The Syracuse TIF runs from the north on Ind. 13 through town.

Councilman Larry Martindale asked about putting the sign back that was taken down for the roundabout. Wilkinson said there’d been discussion with the chamber about that.

Wilkinson said the comprehensive plan from 2006 was found. “The 2017 comprehensive plan was almost a duplicate of 2006 cover to cover. There’s been a lot of conversations about the same things for 15 years.”

Stoelting asked tongue-in-cheek, “Should we try to accomplish our goals?”

“Instead of talking about them,” Councilwoman Cindy Kaiser said.

“We’ve spent a lot of money creating them so we should work on them,” Wilkinson responded.

He received Council approval to moving forward with the plans.

Clerk-Treasurer Virginia Cazier wasn’t present at the meeting so Wilkinson gave her report with the help of former Clerk-Treasurer Julie Kline, who was in the audience.

They asked the Council to approve the use of cumulative capital property tax funds to make up the shortfall from Forest Park section of town. Kline said in 2009 the Forest Park residents wanted to be annexed and had to pay for the water and sewer so they paid a monthly amount on their bill and the town took out a loan. Kline said, due to several circumstances, they’re not coming up with enough revenue. They’re asking for $10,000 a year until 2029 to cover the shortfall.

After the meeting, Kline said one of several reasons was a property that went into a commissioner’s certificate sale and the town had a $20,000-plus lien on it and only received a little over $300.

In other business, the Council:

• Approved making Oak Street and Portland a four-way stop.

• Heard the superintendent’s updated job descriptions and they were given to town attorney Jay Rigdon for review.

• Heard the Kern Road annexation remonstrance was over and only one signature opposed it.

• Heard the Parks Department received a Tree City award and will be planting 50 trees on April 30 and Chad Jonsson is reaching out to civic organizations looking for adult volunteers to help plant.

• Heard the town received an extra $1,000-plus from the ARPA that was distributed to towns.

• Chasity Sandy was present and introduced herself as a candidate for Kosciusko County auditor.

• Heard Syracuse Easter egg hunts will be April 9 with three age groups:?0-3 years old, 4-6 years old and 7-10 years old. The first hunt will start at 9:45 a.m. with the next ones following 45 minutes later.