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Culver comp plan: on track or in trouble? Council, public raise questions

October 4, 2013

The status of Culver's comprehensive plan has some business and community leaders worried, and they expressed their concerns at last week's meeting of Culver's town council.

The discussion arose during the citizen input portion of the Sept. 24 meeting, when Kevin Berger, who had been a major force in pushing for the comprehensive plan -- Culver's first in over a decade -- to take place, said he was "really disappointed in the way this is moving forward."

Berger suggested preliminary language for the plan coming in from consulting group Houseal Lavigne, which began work on the plan earlier this year, seemed too vague and boiler-plate.

"Are you guys (on the council) getting your issues addressed, at least? What about the (need for a) new town hall? What about our expanded boundaries?"

Town manager Dave Schoeff replied that work on the plan is still "very early in the process," and asserted more detailed directives will be addressed in individual chapters of the plan, which have not yet been completed. Instead, he said what has been sent to steering committee members are more general statements of visions and goals, based on meetings with individuals and groups earlier this year. The plan, he noted, is set for completion in January or February.

Kathy Clark, a member of the comprehensive plan steering committee, said that committee met only one time prior to the first public hearing regarding the plan.

"The (committee) chairman didn't email the committee members about the second meeting; Dave (Schoeff) and I were the only ones who knew about it.

"That's the extent of our involvement," she said, adding that the draft vision statement has "blatant errors" such as omissions of organizations which played a major role in improving Lake Maxinkuckee.

"Several groups feel like they're being used as a dupe," she added. "Houseal Lavigne says it's up to (steering committee chair) Ralph Winters and Dave to meet."

Schoeff said groups finding inaccuracies should give their input, and also affirmed meetings toward the plan aren't over yet.

He added he emailed Winters earlier that day and there's a plan to set up a steering committee meeting in the next few weeks. Houseal Lavigne, he added, is "very frustrated."

"They're not getting input; this side's not getting input. It's as much my fault as anybody else's, but we will make that happen."
Berger affirmed that "you get out of it (the plan) what you put into it, and we haven't put into it."

He pointed to a lack of use of the mapping tool made available on the town website (townofculver.org) for individuals and businesses to record their vision for Culver's future.

"It's a $75,000 project," said Clark, noting the Culver Redevelopment Committee, Lake Maxinkuckee Environmental Council, and other organizations "spent a lot of money" to bring the plan to fruition.

Schoeff, in response to concerns about the consulting firm's handling of the planning process, said, "I'm not saying they're away from fault, but by the same token we haven't been very good clients, either. We will step it up."

Council member Ginny Munroe, who asked to be part of future steering committee meetings, emphasized the importance of more public meetings and heavily publicizing the process.

The council approved a proposal by the Lake Maxinkuckee Southwest Conservency District to enlarge its boundaries by two properties, after town attorney Jim Clevenger explained the boundary is fixed by the court unless the council approves. The district, which joined Culver's municipal sewer treatment system a few years ago, is "nowhere near" the capacity of usage alotted by its agreement with the town, he added.

Council also agreed, after some discussion, to send a letter to the Conservency District regarding lingering odor problems in one area of its boundaries. Clevenger explained the town's contract with the District provides the later will address and fix problems in "a timely manner," though it doesn't specify any specific length of time.

Culver utilities manager Bob Porter told the council a chemical treatment had been used in an attempt to eliminate the outdoor odor near one house. When that failed, however, the next step in the process will cost around $10,000.

Kathy Clark, in the audience, emphasized the District has been working to address the problem, but can only go as fast as various solutions are attempted.

"If there's been a solution (that the District is ignoring), I'm not aware of it," she said.

Porter affirmed the District can do nothing more immediately, until arrangements are completed for the chemical treatment.

Rhonda Reinhold, a member of Culver's park board, thanked town clerk Karen Heim for helping make arrangements for Reinhold to attend a statewide parks and recreation conference in Muncie recently.

Reinhold said some discussion at the conference centered on economic growth in Indiana and asserted many companies examine quality of life in areas to which they're considering moving. Indiana, she said, has been ranked 41st of the 50 states in quality of life issues, something whose improvement must start with "community vision."

"I don't think we're there yet," said Reinhold. "What's our commom vision on economic growth and tourism? We haven't decided what we want to be when we grow up."

Munroe said it's just such discussion the council hopes to foster by way of a series of open forum, discussion-oriented meetings with the public "to brainstorm that...in a positive way," hoped to begin in the coming weeks. She added there's a plan to create a calendar with the various topics and their dates listed, and promote the events heavily in the community.

Audience member Julie Hansen raised concerns to council members about speeding and reckless driving on South Ohio Street, where she lives and where, she said, children ranging from 1 to 12 years old play regularly. She said the stop sign placed a few years ago on South Ohio between Mill and Davis Streets hasn't helped.

Town marshal Wayne Bean said the Culver Police Department would do what it could to improve monitoring of the area.

Council actions included approval of a request by Cafe Max owner Susie Mahler to offer beer and wine from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. outside her Main Street restaurant on Oct. 19 as part of the "street fair" portion of the first annual Culver Fall Fest.
Also approved was an income survey of Culver as recommended by the town's grant writer, Shannon McLeod and requested by Shoeff. The survey is a requirement for many available grants, he said, citing the town's hope to gain grant funding to assist in an upcoming water project and possibly a new emergency services building for Culver.

Schoeff also reported he'd sent out specifications for upcoming paving projects, and would open bids publicly at the Oct. 8 council meeting.
Council approved authorizing Bob Porter to make decisions "in the field" once work begins towards a stormwater project on the west side of Culver. Decisions on which Porter has questions should come to council, it was concluded.

Also approved was $6,000 for Umbaugh and Associates' handling of the town's budget, and an agreement for transportation services for the Community Cab provided by the Marshall County Council on Ageing.

The town is closer to completing the necessary steps to alter two-hour parking limits on side-streets intersecting Main Street in Culver's downtown, after Clevenger said he will make revisions to the town's ordinance soon to make the changes. New signs are already waiting for installation, it was noted.

It was agreed Porter could make electricity availabe on Main Street for the Fall Fest in October, and also noted Culver's Christmas decorations would be installed in the business districts in time for the "Christmas in Culver" shopping weekend of Nov. 8 through 10.

Council member Lynn Overmyer also thanked Porter and the street department crew for their prompt work in removing brush left for pickup around town, and park superintendent Kelly Young thanked them for their help in installing three new permanent benches and three new pieces of playground equipment in the park recently.

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