FILLMORE -- Town council President Jeff Osborne opened the monthly meeting with some positives for the town.
"We are making progress. Sometimes it takes two or three or four months to get things done because of the open door law and other things, but there are positive indicators. I heard today that a couple of houses sold in town," he said.
The council approved a new ordinance on the second reading that will help protect the town's water resources. It prohibits use of fire hydrants by anyone other than town employees and the fire department.
The filling of bulk water tanks will not be permitted unless the water can be measured. The penalty for violating the ordinance is a $500 fine per event.
The trio tabled an ordinance that would restrict the height of outdoor smoke stacks and require a triple wall around them to help prevent the build-up of creosote, making them a possible fire hazard.
"Greencastle outlawed them in town. I don't think its right to outlaw the use of them," said council member Wes Terhune.
"We need to do something before we have a problem with smoke going into your neighbor's window," he added, telling about a problem in Stilesville. "This is a way of keeping it from being a problem later."
Council member Alan Jones asked if the issue could be covered under the nuisance ordinance if smoke was the issue. Osborne agreed to check the town attorney and the ordinance was tabled.
Water Utilities Manager Kevin McCammack talked to council members about a problem with water meters failing and the need to begin a plan to replace them that will satisfy the Indiana Department of Environmental Management (IDEM).
"We have 185 meters, and 30 of them had to be hand read. It frustrates me when I can't tell people why they have larger water bill than usual," said McCammack.
He talked about an issue with Kay Gilley's meter. The Gilleys were out of town for a week, but their bill was the same as the prior month.
"It just doesn't make sense to be gone a week and not have my water bill go down any," said Gilley.
Currently, McCammack reads most meters with a touch tool that transmits the numbers to a handheld device that is then loaded onto the town clerk's computer for billing.
When he can't get a reading this way, he has to clean the glass and hand read the meter. Most meters are over 12 years old and should have been being replaced over the last several years.
McCammack introduced Matt Kingery with Badger Meters to show the group a new generation of meters.
"Calcium and iron deposits over the years create a drag on the plastic, making friction and slowing down the meter. That costs the town money," he explained.
He showed some new equipment that included a tool that reads the meters by radio frequency. The new meters store hourly records every hour, 24 hours a day and seven days a week.
This is helpful in discovering when a leak or spike occurred and helps the meter reader find the issue.
The new system with just the meters and not including the radio transmitter readers will cost about $22,000. With the radio transmitter, the cost goes up to $42,000.
"We're going to have to change meters. IDEM says we should have already turned them over," said McCammack.
Council members agreed it is a dilemma for the town. They have to at least show they have a plan to replace the meters.
"IDEM isn't pressuring us yet. They understand we have issues, but we're going to have to do something pretty soon," said McCammack.
Badger will buy the old meters for $3 to $3.50 each and recycle the copper on them. The expense in refurbishing the old meters is in the electronics.
"The meters are beginning to fail and there are going to be more. The electric part is also starting to fail. We'll never be able to quick read any of those again," added McCammack.
Council members discussed using some funds from both the water and sewer, but conceded they do not have a solution.
In answer to a few comments from the audience objecting to spending any money, Wes Terhune said, "We can't stop doing maintenance. My goal is to bring rates down too. But we have to maintain the meters."
Council members also introduced a draft of an ordinance aimed at cleaning up dilapidated and abandoned buildings. Jones objected to some of the language in the draft because it included construction and alterations to buildings.
Osborne explained that this draft was only letting people know something needed to be done. He said copies of the ordinance are available at town hall for anyone to read.
"The goal is to get rid of eye sores that drive everyone's property rates down," he said.
The draft cited state codes, but did not give any details. Osborne said they will have to get copies of the codes and review them.
"We want input from people. We want them to know what we are doing," said Osborne.
Another reading of a revised ordinance will probably take place at the next meeting.