City council members as part of this year’s budget season may pick back up discussions, once again, of changing the way Vincennes picks up its trash.
As the city council met briefly before their regular meeting Monday at City Hall, 201 Vigo St., to discuss the upcoming budget sessions, conversations drifted quickly to a study commissioned by Mayor Joe Yochum and city clerk-treasurer Cathy Lane of Reedy Financial Group in Seymour of the city’s current trash system, which relies on the use of trash stickers.
Yochum during his State of the City address this spring said problems still plague the city’s trash collection system, so much so that it’s relying on coffers to keep afloat, coffers that will likely be depleted in as little as three years.
The $63,000 hemorrhaged in 2021, he said in May, is “on par” with previous years.
So city officials asked Reedy to look at other options: first, an increase to the sticker fee, and second, the possibility of going to a flat rate, one that would be placed on all residents’ water bills.
To break even — and allow for the purchase of a new trash truck — the sticker fee would need to be increased from its current $1.25 up to $2.28.
That amount is based on an average of 300,000 stickers purchased per year; Lane said the city provided to Reedy three years of trash collection data.
Should the city opt to go to a flat fee — discussions of which have lived and died many times before — that monthly rate would need to be $8.34 per household.
That amount, Lane explained, allows for a significant expansion of the existing program, specifically the addition of manpower and equipment. Currently, the city only picks up a “quarter-to-half” of Vincennes residents’ trash, Lane said; the rest are assumed to use a third-party service, one like Republic Services, or throw it away somewhere else, like their place of employment or, perhaps, illegally.
If the fee is placed on all residents’ water bills, more people will inevitably use it, hence the need for more employees and more equipment.
The city’s trash collection system has used stickers — meaning residents must purchase stickers from a handful of local vendors — and sticker the bags before placing them out for pickup.
It’s an outdated system — few, if any, other Hoosier cities use it — yet Vincennes has been reluctant to evolve from it.
Former mayor Al Baldwin in 2011 did modify the system, purchasing a new truck with a mechanical arm — one very common in cities now — that picks up specially-designed trash totes.
It was a system meant largely to reduce manpower, although traditional garbage trucks were still used in several areas of the city, particularly very narrow ones.
New totes were delivered to any area resident who wanted one, but the city opted to stay with the sticker system, even doubling the cost of the stickers to pay for the new automated truck — which it now reportedly rarely uses.
About six months later, Bryce Anderson, superintendent of the city’s Street and Sanitation Department, went to city council members with evidence that the system was hemorrhaging money.
For awhile, the issue was largely forgotten, that is until two years later when then city council members, alongside a then freshman mayor Yochum, looked at privatizing the system or moving to a flat fee. But a handful of residents opposed the measure, many of them elderly who said they simply didn’t produce that much trash and didn’t want to pay the same as a family of five.
After months of thought and discussion, the idea of privatization died a very public death. In July 2013, a divided city council voted down an ordinance that would have privatized of the trash collection system.
Since then, there have been but rumblings during budget seasons that the trash collection system is still terribly inefficient, but city officials haven’t taken any action.
The mayor on Monday said he was inclined to stay the course, at least for another year.
He pointed to the establishment of a countywide Local Income Tax this spring to fund a new EMS system in partnership with Good Samaritan as well as the reinstitution of a jail tax in 2019 for an expansion to the Knox County Jail.
He was “hesitant,” he said, to push onto residents yet another fee, especially at a time of record inflation.
Yet he admitted that the current system “doesn’t work.”
Raising the sticker fee, argued council president Tim Salters, would be a mistake, too, thereby continuing with a process that has proven problematic.
Again on Monday, too, city council members mentioned just how beneficial going to a flat fee would be, thereby making it easier on residents to rid their properties of trash.
Many are deterred by the inconvenience of the stickers themselves.
“If everybody could throw out their trash, then (the city inspector) wouldn’t have to spend half his time working to get rid of trash in the city,” Lane said, to which council members agreed.
“Every time we drive up and down the street, we wouldn’t see trash. We wouldn’t have to mess with sending countless certified letters (to trash and junk violators).”
In the end, council members opted to meet at a date yet to be determined, in special session, to discuss their next steps.
“Instead of just throwing out ideas or guessing, this gives us options,” Salters said of the study done by Reedy. “This doesn’t mean they’re our only ones, but we have something to discuss.
“And I think we need to.”
The council also agreed to meet at 6 p.m. on Monday to continue hashing out the 2023 spending plan, meeting with city department heads in 15-minute increments to discuss their proposed budgets, specifically any increases included within them.
City officials have said pay raises — possibly “substantial” pay raises — will take priority.
INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — An Indiana judge won’t hear arguments until next week on a lawsuit seeking to block the state’s abortion ban, leaving that new law set to take effect on Thursday.
The special judge overseeing the case issued an order Monday setting a court hearing for Sept. 19, which is four days after the ban’s effective date.
Indiana’s Republican-dominated Legislature approved the tighter abortion restrictions during a two-week special legislative session that ended Aug. 5, making it the first state to do so since the U.S. Supreme Court eliminated federal abortion protections by overturning Roe v. Wade in June.
Indiana abortion clinic operators filed the lawsuit Aug. 31, saying the ban, which includes limited exceptions, “strips away the fundamental rights of people seeking abortion care” in violation of the Indiana Constitution.
The American Civil Liberties Union of Indiana, which is representing the clinics, asked the judge Monday to issue an order before Thursday to temporarily prevent enforcement of the law. It argued that allowing the law to take effect “will prohibit the overwhelming majority of abortions in Indiana and, as such, will have a devastating and irreparable impact on the plaintiffs and, more importantly, their patients and clients.”
The lawsuit was filed in southern Indiana’s Monroe County, which includes the liberal-leaning city of Bloomington and Indiana University’s main campus, but two elected Democratic judges from that county declined to handle the case without stating any reasons.
Judge Kelsey Hanlon, a Republican from neighboring Owen County, accepted appointment as special judge last week. Hanlon, who was first elected as a judge in 2014, was among three finalists that the state Judicial Nominating Commission selected in July for GOP Gov. Eric Holcomb to consider for appointment to the state appeals court.
No court action had yet taken place as of Monday on a separate lawsuit filed Thursday in Marion County arguing the ban is at odds with the state’s religious freedom law, which Republicans enacted seven years ago.
The Indiana ban includes exceptions allowing abortions in cases of rape and incest, before 10 weeks post-fertilization; to protect the life and physical health of the mother; and if a fetus is diagnosed with a lethal anomaly.
The new law also prohibits abortion clinics from providing any abortion care, leaving such services solely to hospitals or outpatient surgical centers owned by hospitals.
Planned Parenthood, which operates four of Indiana’s seven licensed abortion clinics, has said it planned to keep those sites open for other medical services, while those operated by other providers faced possible closure.
The lawsuit argues the ban would violate the state constitution by infringing on “Hoosiers’ right to privacy, violate Indiana’s guarantee of equal privileges and immunities, and includes unconstitutionally vague language.”
The question of whether the Indiana Constitution protects abortion rights is undecided.
A state appeals court decision in 2004 said privacy was a core value under the state constitution that extended to all residents, including women seeking an abortion. But the Indiana Supreme Court later upheld a law mandating an 18-hour waiting period before a woman could undergo an abortion while not deciding whether the state constitution included a right to privacy or abortion.
The state attorney general’s office hasn’t yet filed a response to the lawsuit in court, but Republican Attorney General Todd Rokita said in a statement that “The text, history, and structure of our Constitution excludes any serious argument that abortion is a fundamental right in our state.”
Jamie Dugan, the local community coordinator for the new Hoosier Enduring Legacy Program (HELP), went before city council members Monday to address the path forward in allocating money from the program’s “historic funding” opportunity.
“It was a very good move for the city to apply for this program, and it is quite an honor to have been one of nine communities selected,” Dugan said.
Mayor Joe Yochum hopes to use roughly $1 million of the city’s remaining American Rescue Act Funds to address quality of life issues via the HELP program.
“Part of the state requirement is that we commit 30% of our ARPA dollars to the HELP program, but we get a million dollars match,” Yochum has said.
Vincennes is one of a select group of Indiana cities or counties to be designated as a 2022 HELP community, and a recently-assembled team has spent much of the summer meeting with state leaders and visiting other cities to better understand all the program can offer.
“We’ve been going through a lot of trainings, and will continue to train throughout the remainder of 2022 — the committee, myself, and the mayor,” Dugan explained to the assembled council.
She stepped into the position in June and is responsible for building community engagement and determining what the community’s interests are in terms of applying for additional monies as a result of the HELP designation.
“It creates a completely democratic process,” she said Monday night, adding that she and committee members will begin a community outreach process within the next two weeks to garner feedback about what residents’ feel will be the best use of the funds for quality of life improvements.
Dugan says her team will begin collecting feedback at heavily-attended events such as Lincoln High School Homecoming and Autumn on Main.
It’s important, too, she said, to make sure they include as many people, from all walks of life, as possible.
“One of the things to consider is how do you get to people who aren’t the usual suspects — the outliers that maybe aren’t engaging? We have to go to them and gather the data,” Dugan said.
Council members seemed skeptical, pushing for the particulars of data collection methods and how final decisions about spending will be determined.
Councilman Marc McNeece seemed doubtful that a survey will shed the best light on what is needed to improve life in the city, pointing to a recent Knox Life survey that, too, wanted to glean information about quality of life improvements.
“One thing that frustrated me with that survey is that it came back with a lot of stuff we already have, like community gardens,” he said. “We have two, and the lack of promotion of the things we do have does a disservice to us all.”
McNeece asked Dugan if the HELP program she is coordinating has a mechanism that would help better promote things already available in the city.
Dugan said she agrees that much of what the city offers is underutilized, but that HELP “isn’t really a marketing program” and that the Knox Life survey looked at the county as a whole, whereas the HELP survey will derive data specific only to Vincennes.
Mayor Yochum said to council that what should come from all of the efforts, in addition to the $1 million of matched funds, is “a strategic investment plan that comes out of those ideas.”
Dugan says her committee has until mid-June 2023 to draft that plan after months of data collection. The city must then spend those funds by December 2026.
“I don’t think that’s going to be a problem,” councilman Brian Grove said with a laugh.
In November 2021, the Indiana Office of Community and Rural Affairs announced the city, alongside Daviess and Dubois counties, were to be the second cohort of nine Indiana communities selected for HELP.
Last fall, the city’s leaders applied for and received funds associated with the state’s new HELP initiative, which brings together some of OCRA’s old Stellar initiative but bearing in mind the challenges now being faced as the result of the pandemic.
The program was designed to improve the quality of life in communities, allowing them to apply for additional funds to use in bolstering their share of American Rescue Plan Act funds.
The program appears to be broad in scope, indicating that any projects which align with the guidelines of the Coronavirus Local Fiscal Recovery Funds — an arm of ARPA — could be funded, including anything considered a response to the negative impacts of COVID-19, such as investment in local broadband or infrastructure.
OCRA says HELP-designated communities will be implementing local projects that address some of those concerns by focusing on four main pathways: online connectivity, community wellness, quality of place and strengthening local economies.
Dugan says, however the funds are spent in the end, she hopes to see projects implemented that will endure for generations to come.
“I would like to see something that can be sustained with minimal upkeep — something good for many generations to come,” she said.
Dugan and Yochum say no spending decisions will be finalized before 2023 and hope in the months to come members of the community will participate in public forums to help determine how this rare source of funding will be utilized.
For more information about the Hoosier Enduring Legacy Program, visit in.gov/ocra/help/.
“Our bench is here,” city councilman Dan Ravellette proudly declared Monday evening during a brief meeting of the council’s Veterans Committee.
The Veterans Committee last month met to discuss additional ways the city can honor its veterans. At the top of the list was the placement of a memorial bench inside Gregg Park.
Ravellette previously told his fellow committee members John Stangle and Brian Grove that it could take months to see the bench’s delivery, but it’s here now, he said, and parks officials are preparing to pour the necessary concrete foundation.
A dedication ceremony has been set for noon on Veterans Day, Nov. 11, at Gregg Park, committee members announced during their meeting, held immediately after the council’s regular monthly meeting Monday at City Hall, 201 Vigo St., specifically near the enclosed shelter house, just to the right of the flag pole there, Ravellette said.
The public is invited, and the committee plans to invite a veteran from each war, from World War II all the way through Operation Iraqi Freedom.
The walking trail inside Gregg Park is already is dotted with Victory Inlay Memorial benches, each inscribed with the name of beloved residents who have passed on.
Committee members last month said the bench dedicated to veterans would be of identical style to others already in the park to keep uniformity.
The Veterans Committee was created in 2019 to find ways the city could better and more often recognize those who have served in the military.