It's been nearly two years since it has had one, but the city of Greencastle now has a city engineer on staff.
Mayor Sue Murray informed the Greencastle Common Council at Tuesday's meeting that Garth Hughes has been hired for the position and has been on the job for just over a week.
Hughes is filling the role on a part-time basis, but his impact on what the city pays for engineering service could be substantial. Since the spring of 2007, when Greencastle last had an engineer on staff, the city has had to pay for outside contractors to perform engineering work.
"He most certainly gives us an opportunity to have that kind of expertise," Murray said. "In the last two years of not having an engineer, the cost has been substantial to the city."
The mayor also said the timing of the hiring is right, as the city needs someone with Hughes' expertise on staff as it applies for economic stimulus money.
"Just having him right now has probably saved us significant dollars and for a chance to get some dollars. Hopefully we do," Murray said.
Clerk-treasurer Teresa Glenn offered some less optimistic news about the ongoing problem of late property tax draws from the county as well as shortfalls in the taxes received as compared to the original budgeted figure.
For example, the city had a certified tax levy of over $1.3 million in the general fund, yet has received just $1,292,518 -- leaving more than $92,000 due to the city.
The general fund isn't the only city fund coming up short, though. In total, the city is still owed $183,486.15. While part of the problem may lie in the unforeseen number of foreclosures in 2008, Glenn is still confident the city will receive more of the 2008 money it is due.
In spite of the shortfall, the city was able to get itself into the black for the year, a fact both Murray and Glenn credited to the city department heads and employees.
"The reason we ended up in such a good situation is because department heads have been so diligent in trying to save money," Murray said.
"It's much better than what I had anticipated," Glenn said. "The department heads and employees have done a great job in cutting costs where they can."
The city has also paid off the temporary loans it took out last year, but may have to do the same this year, as things look to be behind again.
"This is just a snapshot on where we were in 2008, and we still have no idea where we'll be in 2009," Glenn said.
Five new ordinances were passed by the council Tuesday. All passed by 4-0 votes, as Councilman Mark Hammer was absent. Hammer, a CPA, was unavailable on the night before property taxes were due.
The council approved an increase of septage rates from 8.5 cents per gallon to 10.5 cents per gallon. The increase does not affect the wastewater rate for those on the city sewer system. It is only those, inside and outside the city, from whom the city accepts septage from a self-contained system.
The city will establish a red flag policy to prevent identity theft. City attorney Laurie Robertson Hardwick reported that the city has to establish such a program because it collects money for utilities. Basically, the ordinance establishes a set of suspicious activities that could indicate identity theft, as well as a plan of action in what the city will do in these instances.
Hardwick said most of these practices are already in place, but the change will make them official policies.
The council also approved a change in its policy for special event permits. Besides one-day, two-day, three-day and seven-day permits, a seasonal permit is now available at a cost of $250.
The schedule for reserved parking spaces in front of the senior center will be changing. Instead of there being no parking in the two spaces from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Monday through Friday, the schedule will now be from 9 to 11 a.m.
The council also voted to establish a permanent sustainability commission. A growth out of the sustainability committee that has been active since late last year, the city will now officially establish the commission to continue to work on environmental issues in the community.
The commission will be composed of nine members, three of whom will be appointed by the mayor, three by the council (including one council member) and three by the commission itself.
The council also approved a number of street closures and noise ordinance waivers. Noise waivers included Relay for Life on April 25, DePauw Under the Stars on May 16, DePauw Phi Gamma Delta's FIJI Isle on May 2 and the DePauw Environmental Club's Rooftop Concert on April 30.
Street closures were granted to Main Street Greencastle for Fair on the Square, which will be May 15 through 17 and for the farmer's market, which will run each Saturday morning from May 30 to Oct. 31.