Culver council won’t weigh in on wind farm controversy

Culver's town council has dropped any plans to hear from the Florida-based energy company propsing a wind farm in the Fulton and Marshall County area, after members cited too many differences of opinion to hope to reach a resolution on the matter.
Discussing a suggestion made by some audience members the council's previous meeting, that the council should take a position on the controversial project, council member Ed Pinder said members discussed the matter.
"We have so many differing ideas among us," he said, "we're not really unified on any attittude, so we're not going to take any stand on it one way or the other, as a council."
The council, as president Ginny Munroe pointed out, had informally agreed to hear from company representatives as well as opponents of the project, who say it could impact the economy by drastically altering the Lake Maxinkuckee landscape, as well as creating negative health effects.
"I don't see the point in having a (public) forum if we aren't going to discuss it, but we have told the public we would do it."
Member Lynn Overmyer said she couldn't vote "one way or another" on the project, about which she's heard from both sides of the debate. She added the final decision will take place at the county level, rather than the town.
Requests for a council position were based on the notion that a consensus against the project from various governing bodies in the community would send the message members of the county Board of Zoning Appeals, which will vote on the issue. Culver's parks and recreation board voted recently to condemn the project.

Charges for Academies debated

A proposed metering agreement between the town of Culver and Culver Academies will be revised to reflect
requested changes from council members following a discussion about the matter.
Earlier this year, the town-owned meter measuring sewage flow from the Academies into the town's collection system went down twice within
one month, leaving questions as to how to bill the school in possible recurrances of the breakdown. Munroe said she and others from the town met with Jeff Kutch, head of the Academies' Facilities department and reached a draft agreement.
Council member Ralph Winters said he couldn't vote for the policy as proposed, which allows for a period of non-billing for the school for 48 hours after the meter breaks down.
"To automatically give them free sewage treatment makes no sense at all to me," said Winters. "We continue to receive and process their sewage."
He added enough data exists to "come up with a reasonable (estimate of) flow for the days (the meter is) down."
Munroe explained the logic of the draft agreement was that it could be difficult to discern how long the meter has actually been down, and therefore difficult to ascertain a correct usage fee to charge the Academies.
Pinder suggested calculating an average daily use for the school by factoring monthly bills from the given time of year of the breakdown, something with which Munroe said she agreed.
The agreement will be revised, it was decided, and run by the town attorney as well as Kutch.

Tree damage liability

Debated was the town's responsibility for trees growing in town-owned right-of-ways.
The matter was raised when Munroe reported she'd received a letter from Culver resident Anne Duff asking for compensation for costs she incurred from removal of a tree from her home following the severe wind storm in Culver of June, 2010. The tree, whose removal and cleanup cost $1,050, was growing in town-owned land between the street and sidewalk, as is the case with most trees along the street side in Culver.
At issue was whether town ordinances and state law dictate responsibility for the cost of the removal on the town's part, which Munroe suggested was the case.
Overmyer argued if the town contributed towards the cost for one resident, "you have to do it for everyone."
Audience member Kathy Clark said she understood when Culver's tree commission was formed and ordinances put into place forbidding residents from major trimming or removal of trees in the town right-of-way, the town may also be responsible for its removal. Mike Stallings, of the tree commission, agreed the matter has come up "many times," and debate centered around whether tree care and removal is the financial responsibility of property owners as is sidewalk shoveling and upkeep, or that of the town, which owns the right-of-way.
Clerk Howard noted a past incident, in which a large tree limb from a town right-of-way tree damaged a resident's car, the town was not held liable. Stallings agreed the commission will examine the matter at its next meeting.

Street right-of-way uncertain

In separate discussion of liability on town-controlled property, town attorney Jim Clevenger told the council discussion has arisen due to damage to electric lines caused by a vehicle owned by Medallion Cabinetry at the corner of State Road 17 and West Jefferson Street.
The damage occurred on Cardinal Street, which runs north and south off of Jefferson and allows access to Culver's street garage. Porter explained a 50-foot easement was given to the town by a company previously operating from the factory property there, in order to turn a strip of the land "into a roadway versus private property. They (Medallion) do own it, but we have a roadway easement."
He described the incident, in which a spotter truck pulling a trailer too high caused electric lines to come down. Usually, Porter said, the trailer is lowered after the truck leaves the dock.
"The issue is, the spotter truck they have is not plate-able," he added. "Do they have to comply with CDL licensing laws because they're on a roadway?"
It was noted there are speed limit and stop signs in place on the street, and the town is allowed to ticket drivers there.
Winters and other council members emphasized extending "every courtesy" to Medallion as a local business which owns the land, and which has allowed the town the easement.
"I hate to cause a problem for them so they can't do what they have to do to conduct business," added Overmyer.
Howard noted there was no financial harm to the town due to the incident, which she assumed Medallion handled with the electric company.
After some discussion, Clevenger agreed to carry on a conversation with the company and come back to the council.

Other discussion

Among other topics and actions at the meeting:
• The council approved a three-year contract, at $1,625 per year, for outsourcing of town-wide Christmas decorations each year.
• Formally adopted was the Americans with Disabilities Act for the town of Culver, with recent changes for 2010-2011.
• The Culver fire department purchased polo shirts and t-shirts for its men for just under $900 total.
• Two seasonal employees will be hired by the street department for fall leaf pickup. Bob Porter also noted the replacement of the Lake Maxinkuckee outlet culvert on West Shore Drive would begin Sept. 19.
• A $1,200 bonus for street superintendent Porter for his extra hours of duty between May and September taking some of the responsibilities of the town manager position.