News From Terre Haute, Indiana

Local & Bistate

June 12, 2014

Compliance with Clean Water Act dies

City Council calls for special meeting to address concerns about TH finances

TERRE HAUTE — An ordinance that would have raised fees for septic disposal at the city’s wastewater treatment facility died in the City Council Thursday night.

The ordinance, which also would have changed local regulations to meet federal environmental guidelines, never made it to a vote because of a lack of a “second.”

Councilman Todd Nation, D-4th, made a motion that General Ordinance 3, 2014 be adopted. There was no second from any other members of the council so the ordinance died.

Under council rules, the ordinance must now be changed substantially before it can be reintroduced to the council. Otherwise, the ordinance could not return for another vote for a year.

Chou-il Lee, city attorney, said he will make those changes to the ordinance and bring it back in July. The ordinance is needed to meet requirements of the U.S. Clean Water Act, he said.

In addition to meeting new federal requirements, the ordinance would increase disposal fees for sludge disposal at the treatment plant. No one from the public spoke against the fee increases; however, one person in the septic business asked why sludge from other counties is subject to a higher fee than sludge from Vigo County.

Residents of Vigo County pay a tax for the sanitary sewer system while non-Vigo residents do not, Lee said. As a result, sludge from out-of-county is subject to a higher disposal fee.

The disposal fees have not changed since about 2009, said Mayor Duke Bennett, who attended the council meeting. The ordinance also includes costs savings for the city, he said.

“We’ll just have to find out what the issue is” from members of the council who did not support the measure, Bennett said.

“It surprised me,” Nation said after the meeting about his motion not receiving a second. After reading the ordinance and the Clean Water Act requirements, he felt passage “was not an optional thing.”

•  Also, Councilman John Mullican called for a special meeting in July to discuss the city’s financial situation.

Mullican has been at the forefront of those on the council expressing worry about city finances. He led efforts this year to renew for a second year a contract with a local accounting firm to provide professional analysis of the city’s financial health for the City Council.

Members of the council have submitted questions about the city’s finances to the city controller, Leslie Ellis, they stated. Councilman George Azar, D-at large, asked that those questions be answered by the end of June. Members of the council also asked that Ellis and Bennett attend the special meeting along with Cliff Lambert, executive director of the Terre Haute Department of Redevelopment, members of the Redevelopment Commission and Earl Elliott, financial consultant to the City Council.

Council President Amy Auler set the date for the special meeting as 5:45 p.m. July 10 – immediately after a tax abatement hearing set for 5 p.m. and immediately before the council’s July sunshine meeting, now set for 7 p.m. – an hour later than usual.

Because of the July 4 holiday, the council’s sunshine meeting will be on the July 10 and the regular meeting will be July 17. The regular meeting will take place at the usual time, 6 p.m.

•  The council also approved rezoning of property for an emergency housing facility on the city’s northeast side. The facility, to be owned by Mental Health America of Vigo County, is expected to have 30 residential units with a preference for homeless veterans. It will be between Elm and Locust streets immediately east of North 25th Street.

Reporter Arthur Foulkes can be reached at 812-231-4232 or arthur.foulkes@tribstar.com.

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