Council talks advertising signs, other issues

A number of area businesses promoted through yard signs around Culver will soon have to remove those signs, or pay hefty fines as a consequence, according to Culver's plan commission as discussed at last week's meeting of the Culver town council.

Plan commission member Ralph Winters told the council a letter would be sent to area contractors and other businesses explaining the details of the decision. Advertising signs promoting enterprises not located on the premises of the enterprise, said Winters, are not permitted.

"We're getting signs for projects that don't have a building permit," he explained. "Starting April 1, projects not needing a building permit will no longer be allowed to post signs."

Specifically, signs cited included advertising repairs, minor renovations, painting projects, adding siding to homes, and the like, noting such signs left in yards after April 1 would lead to $100 fines per day.

Council member Ginny Munroe asked if the decision could hurt "the little guy competing with the big contractor."

However, building inspector Russ Mason, in the audience, pointed out one local heating and air conditioning business "must have 35 signs around town. He's advertising."

In other discussion, Culver fire chief Terry Wakefield noted department members toured Culver Academies recently in hopes of enhancing contingency plans for any emergencies which might take place there.

Wakefield, asked if the Academies' recently-completed rowing center lacks a lock box for safe entry in case of an emergency, replied that the school has security officers on duty day and night with keys to gain entry to the building. Mason pointed out the town now has an ordinance requiring addition of lock boxes -- which are located near entryways and contain keys to the building which may be accessed by emergency personnel for quick, safe entry -- to any new construction. Mason said a certificate of occupancy and final inspection of the building haven't taken place yet, and that he would speak to school representatives about it.

It was also agreed to discuss in an upcoming work session use of the fire department's now-retired grass truck, which had previously been proposed either for sale to the highest bidder, or for use for Culver's tree commission in watering newly-planted trees.

It was noted some collectors have expressed interest in purchasing the truck as a vintage item. Tree commission member Tom Kearns expressed concern that, should the coming summer's weather be comparable to last summer's, "you'll lose a heck of a lot of trees. We're looking at putting in 80 trees (this year)."

Town clerk Karen Heim was asked to investigate whether disposal of the truck would require approval from the Union Township board, since fire department funding comes partly from that entity, and whether town insurance would cover volunteer drivers of the truck in tree commission use.

Kevin Berger of the Marshall County Economic Development Corporation distributed the MCEDC's new annual report to council members, noting the group has a new website as well.

He said most Marshall County communities are wrestling with the similar problems to Culver's in a lack of usable land for commercial development.

"If it's not for sale in Culver with a price on it, we can't market it," said Berger, pointing out several properties' availability is on a "possibility" basis, depending on proposed use of the land and price offered.

"Part of it is the cost of farmland," he added, "and some of it is just that towns don't want to give up control, so (land is) being held...I know the (Culver Redevelopment Committee) is looking into it. But all of you need to work together. We need some kind of community meeting on it. Culver needs to get on board if we can do anything here."

Asked by council member Munroe if the MCDEC could help promote availability of empty storefronts in Culver, Berger said the organization tends to focus more on industrial development since funding is more readily available in that area.

"We're trying to get Chambers of Commerce to be a bit more robust on storefronts. Our Chamber (in Culver) does a lot, but it tends to be more social than productive. And local Chambers have been pretty negative on the idea of starting a county-wide Chamber."

Berger also noted if more Culver businesses would join the Culver Chamber, it would have more funding for economic development.

Munroe agreed, adding, "We aren't marketing Culver at all."
Berger also explained the MCEDC is developing a flyer looking at how many people are located within 200 miles of Marshall County, adding the traffic passing through via highways 30 and 31 could be a boon to the area if capitalized upon properly.

Council members also voted to allow utilities manager Bob Porter to work with Jim Bonine, caretaker of Culver's Masonic cemetery, towards re-graveling the driveways -- which Bonine said are "in sad shape" -- in the cemetery. Bonine noted milling of the two blocks of Culver's downtown area, between Washington and Madison Streets, would soon commence, and asked if the milled material could be used in the cemetery.

Porter noted, however, the town will need some substantial portion of the material for Culver's alleyways, which are also plagued with potholes as spring approaches. Porter suggested the cemetery project might be better done in stages.

The council also voted to allow placement of two signs identifying the cemetery, part of an Indiana Heritage cemetery sign project being undertaken throughout the county, according to audience member Jim Easterday, who made the request. He suggested the strip of land on the west side of the cemetery would be an ideal location, but noted he's been unable to determine with certainty who owns this strip, though it's assumed the town does.

The council's approval of the location was contingent on town ownership.

Council also approved amended agreements for respective water and sewer rate studies to be handled by the Umbaugh firm, as represented at the meeting by Jeff Rowe.

Approved was $1,574 for testing and repair of five water meters attached to large entities, such as schools, in town, an annual fee of $1,140 for Stallings Consulting's regular backup of town emails and server data, and $1,369 for the State Board of Accounts' auditing of Culver's water and sewer billing. Other approvals included establishing a separate bank account for Ebay and Paypal Internet accounts for sale of other "retired" fire department items, as requested by Heim, and an increase in pay to $37.50 (from $25) per cleaning for Dee Schrimsher, who cleans the town hall and police department offices.

At the recommendation of town attorney Jim Clevenger, the council approved a contract with Priority Projects Inc., to handle administration of Culver's upcoming storm water grant, as well as establishment of a committee to interview VS Engineers inspection consulting firm for the project.

Bob Cooper III, Culver EMS director, noted a basic EMT class would begin April 30 for anyone interesting in joining the service. The class will run through the end of July and will meet Tuesdays through Thursdays from 6 to 10 p.m. and every other weekend as well.

A work session was scheduled for 5 p.m. on April 9.