Council Mulls Fate of Pool at Budget Session

DSC 4213

New Carlisle City Council members met Monday evening, February 8 for a session on reviewing the city’s 2016 budget. While the project ending balance of all total funds combined is well in the black, the City Manager said the figures aren’t even close to being where they need to be.

“For a municipality, we’re pretty pathetic,” said City Manager Randy Bridge upon seeing the city’s projected balance of nearly $1.4 million.

Finance Director Colleen Harris said the city is “starting with” $1.5 million this year also, saying the figures “weren’t bad.”

Bridge feared the possibility of a major breakdown of a large piece of machinery or sudden need to replace infrastructure, saying that such an instance could cause significant damage to the “health of the General Fund.”

In total, all of the city’s departments and employees were counted for in the roughly $5.3 million dollar budget. $60,000 of that budget was allotted for the New Carlisle swimming pool, if members of council vote to open it this summer.

Bridge and the councilmen spoke at length about the fate of the pool, with its supporters speaking passionately about the importance of keeping it open as a community amenity. Bridge, however, told the councilmen that raising their voices over the issue wouldn’t solve anything, saying that if they couldn’t speak casually, then there was no point in meeting. He said that while he had no part in the decision to keep the pool open last year, he said he has been told by many residents that they do not want the pool to open anymore because it is a drain on the city’s income. Bridge said that the majority of people who visit the New Carlisle pool live outside the city limits, yet this statement was vehemently shot down by Mayor Mike Lowrey and Councilman Rick Lowrey, who said that they knew for sure that the majority of visitors were from the city. Bridge said they were neglecting to factor in the amount of season pass holders, most of whom Bridge said reside in other towns.

Mayor Lowrey said he was very concerned over what would happen to the pool property if it closed down, and has stated in past meetings that he believes the empty lot would become “another Madison Street School,” or a drain on the city. Rick Lowrey said that additional deputies would be needed if the pool was shut down, saying that the town’s youth would have nowhere else to go and likely seek out trouble instead.

Harris said that in years past, the pool has lost in excess of $30,000 annually, but noted that this year, it only lost $4,700. Although council could not vote on the decision to close the pool at Monday night’s meeting because it was not a regular session, Mayor Lowrey expressed his opinions, saying he was strongly in favor of keeping the pool open this summer, saying it deserved another shot because of the vast improvements shown this past year. Bridge said that Lowrey was comparing two unlike seasons in the differences in losses, saying that the pool was fully-staffed and open nearly every day when it lost $30,000 annually. This past summer, Lowrey said the staff worked hard to keep only a skeleton crew at all times, as well as closing down on cool or cloudy days, which Bridge said contributed heavily to the decrease in losses.

Lowrey asked Harris if the budgeted $60,000 for the pool could be lowered, noting that it was still up to council to decide whether or not to keep it open. Harris said she could easily reduce that number to $50,000 in case council approved the pool’s 2016 season.

Councilman Lowell McGlothin said it was important for New Carlisle residents to attend city council meetings to express their opinions on the pool, as it would offer some insight to city representatives as they weigh their options in voting.

Harris noted that the sheriff’s contract with four deputies was budgeted at $345,000, which includes regular shifts and some extra duty hours. She said the ending balance for the police fund would be around $77,000 if everything follows according to budget, and noted that the city would bring in roughly $72,000 at the beginning of this year. $22,000 was budgeted for the four deputies’ gasoline in their cruisers, which was up nearly $4,000 from last year.

Harris also stated that $90,000 had been transferred from the General Fund into the Twin Creeks allotment, saying that the city’s payment toward the parcel was roughly $86,000 this year, down from well over $100,000 last year, she said.

Public Service Director Howie Kitko said that a trending increase in wastewater rates has been occurring, and also noted that he would soon call in a consultant to examine the city’s water fees. Bridge said that the city would pass along these rate increases to the citizens if necessary to keep a healthy General Fund, saying that a solid General Fund is what every member of council has strived for. Bridge told the councilmen to “not be surprised” when they’re forced to vote on “tough” resolutions such as a water fee increase, as they were likely to come to attention this year. Currently, the city adds a ten percent late fee to late water bills, and Kitko said there are between 20 and 40 water shutoffs out of 2,000 in every given month.

McGlothin addressed the water department’s remaining balance of $7,000, saying he was very concerned about continuing to “supply water to our citizens” if something major were to break or require repairs in the water department.

“I would like to see that addressed very soon,” said McGlothin.

Bridge said the water department’s remaining balance should be well over $100,000 to account for maintenance, repairs, and in the event of catastrophic damage to the infrastructure.

Kitko said one of the primary strains on the water department’s budget is the water plant, which was built in 2006. The city pays $216,000 per year on the plant, which Kitko said was built for anticipated growth that never happened in New Carlisle.

Kitko said the budget did not account for “all the things that could break,” noting that a major piece of equipment at the water plant is getting very close to needing replaced. He said that the “bar screen,” which filters out large debris from water entering the plant, is “the first line of defense,” noting that the screen is almost “all rust,” saying that a new one costs in excess of $175,000.

New Carlisle City Council meets the first and third Monday of each month at the Smith Park Shelter House at 7 p.m., with the public encouraged to attend and share their views on city issues.

Local News
Stories on people, places, events and businesses right here in Western Clark County.
Local Government
Meetings and news from local Boards of Education, Township Trustees and County Commissioners.
Sports
Arrows, Bees & Warriors; we cover all local high school sports, as well as local semi-pro and adult leagues