Council tackles downtown snow woes, end of year business

Culver street crews will do their best, it was concluded at the most recent meeting of Culver's town council, but sometimes you just can't fight Mother Nature.

Discussion took place at the Dec. 27 meeting of the council after Susie Mahler, owner of Cafe Max on Main Street, raised concerns as to six-foot stretches of ice on the street between "bump-out" planters installed this fall as part of Culver's downtown revitalization program.

"I had three customers in walkers on Sunday," said Mahler. "The sidewalks and street were clear, but the parking spaces were ice. Then there was a three-foot band of ice on the curb to get to the sidewalks. I don't understand why we’re dealing with this."

Mahler also presented the council a letter by customer Kingdon "Kib" Brady expressing concern.

Mahler said staff members had to help Vickie Dearth, of Culver, who uses a walker, across the ice.

Dearth, in attendance at the meeting, said navigating the slick area with her walker was " was the slipperiest I've ever been on. We need to do something before there's a lawsuit."
Mahler emphasized the safety of residents is paramount.

Council president Sally Ricciardi said one challenge in combating the ice is that the recently-installed concrete is new enough that using salt on it is to be avoided, at least until next season.

Utilities manager Bob Porter said once the snow is packed down it's nearly impossible to remove.

"It will (only come out) if you chisel it with a tractor," he said. "I salt the intersections and the traffic drags it through, but it's not enough salt to melt over."

Porter and various council members noted much of the problem had to do with the timing of the snowfall: since a number of cards were already parked in the spaces in question when the snow began, crews were unable to get in and remove the snow before it was packed into a slippery, ice-like sheet.

"It gets tough to combat ice," said town manager Dave Schoeff. "You do your due diligence and do your best."

Porter said he would endeavor to sand the street outside Cafe Max, which Dearth acknowledged would help. Ricciardi added hopefully snowfall will take place when cars aren't parking in the area, though she said the problem can't be a new one.

"Once it's (packed down), you can't plow it. That's true this year, last year, and ten years ago."

Schoeff also noted snowplow markers have been added for the intersection planters, after Mahler said some area drivers have been hitting them, thinking they're simply unplowed parts of the street, since last week's snowfall. Porter said he would add some orange road cones to the bump outs in the event of more snow, though the new markers were expected to arrive by the start of the following week.

Members also discussed the need for some areas of the downtown sidewalk to be cleared of snow, something which didn't take place as thoroughly as might have been hoped last week. Mahler said in the past, she organized a group network of merchants to go together towards shared snow plowing contracting, but she's no longer doing so this year.

In other discussion, council members debated whether to reimburse two members of Culver's EMS for the cost of paramedic training, with the expectation they will stay on and put that training to use here.
Ricciardi, noting the department has enough funds to encumber from the 2012 budget, said four members of the EMS are enrolled in the class, though only two would utilize their paramedic training on a full-time basis here: current EMS director Bob Cooper III, and full-time advanced EMT Kimberly Irsa. The total cost of the course is $4,000, Ricciardi added, though proposed was a reimburse of $2,000 per person, rather than the full amount.

In response to a query from council member Lynn Overmyer, Ricciardi noted two currently recognized EMS levels, advanced and intermediate, will be eliminated by the State of Indiana in 2014, likely forcing Culver to transition to a paramedic service or slip to the considerably lower level of basic EMT.

Ricciardi said in the past, members whose training was paid in full or part by the EMS have signed an agreement to stay on at least one year after completion of the course.

Council member Ginny Munroe asked why Cooper and Irsa wouldn't be reimbursed in full for the classes, rather than just by half.
Ricciardi replied that the trainees would need to work for another service part of their time, since Culver is not a full paramedic service; hence Irsa had only requested a half reimbursement. The EMS board, she added, was unable to vote on the matter before the end of the year. If the council waited until January, the course would already be underway and it would be too late for the monies to be encumbered, she said.

Munroe suggested the town could reimburse both Cooper and Irsa for the rest of the course cost, should Culver eventually transition to a full paramedic service and put their status to full use.

The motion passed, with council member Bill Githens abstaining and Overmyer voting against it.

Also passed was a request that the EMS use encumbered money for refurbished computers, as well as a park board request for four encumbrances.

Town attorney Jim Clevenger discussed the recently-announced receipt of a storm water grant for the town of Culver, which will provide $792,835 towards shoring up the town's storm water infrastructure.
Clevenger said news of the grant, which came at the last meeting, is good, but the funds must be spent within 18 months. A grant writer and engineering firm representative will discuss the matter at the next meeting, he said.

Other council actions including approval of transferring monies from one fund to another in various town departments, a standard end-of-year action; passing of the ordinance for Culver's 2013 salaries; proclamation of Arbor Day as April 26, 2013, in compliance with Culver's status as a Tree City, USA; $4,400 for ornate posts for four stop signs at the corner of Main and Jefferson Streets, to match the recent downtown revitalization light posts. Also approved was $6,167 towards a new salt spreader for street crew use this winter.

The council waived the rules and passed on all three readings an ordinance affirming that Culver has only one voting district and council members are voted on "at large," something neither the town nor county clerk were able to find documentation to substantiate.

Also passed was a resolution indicating Culver is committed to making, designing, and constructing sidewalks and other public facilities which meet Americans with Disabilities Act guidelines in the future, as recommended by the town attorney. Schoeff noted the only comment resulting from solicitation of public input on the matter was a positive one expressing support for the endeavor.

Approved was $100 for Clevenger to join a municipal attorney's organization, which will aid in networking and fact-finding, he said. The council also approved retaining Clevenger's services as town attorney for 2013 at a one-year retainer of $4,000 and hourly rate of $125 per hour.

Audience member Ralph Winters told council of a visit to the latest Culver plan commission meeting by Chuck DeWitt, Marshall County building inspector, to offer Culver use of the new online billing option already approved by other communities within the county.

"When a contractor or homeowner wants to do a building, they can come online," said Winters. "There will be a Culver section. Anything that would require a variance or becomes involved, they would call the Culver building commissioner. Most routine items would become automated, which would significantly cut down the aggravation and pain of (those filing)."

Schoeff told council that Culver building inspector Russ Mason would continue to be part of the inspection process, should Culver sign on for online permitting. Mason added Culver's situation is unique enough that special programming would have to be created to accommodate its needs, though the county is willing to undertake doing so for free.

"I'm in favor of it," Mason added. "A lot of times we have people out of town who would like to file a permit; this would expedite that."
Mason also noted those wishing to continue filing in person may do so; filing online would not be required.

A work session to discuss the details of the matter was scheduled for 5:30 p.m. Jan. 15 at the Culver Public Library.