Council votes no on alley vacation
GREENCASTLE -- While the vacation of alleyways in the city has been looked into as a source of savings for the city, the Greencastle Common Council moved Tuesday night to keep at least one of the city's alleys.
An ordinance was before the council to vacate the alley that runs from Madison to Jefferson streets between Columbia and Franklin streets.
Jerry Miller, the owner of the property at 307 W. Franklin, petitioned the city to abandon the alley, as he has already built a dog kennel in his backyard and is in the process of adding a pool. He said the added land from the vacation of the undeveloped alley would give him more room for the projects.
The concrete for the kennel had already been put down partially on the city's right of way. Miller said he had an agreement with Joe Spiker to move the slab regardless of the council's decisions.
However, a number of neighbors on the block object to the vacation of the alley.
Darlene Cox, who lives at 301 W. Franklin, said most of the neighbors tend to maintain the alley's grass adjacent to the land. She said, though, the alley needs to remain open to maintain the public utility lines.
"It needs to remain clear and usable as an easement," Cox said.
Carla Ricketts, whose yard at 310 W. Columbia is back-to-back with Miller's, said she and her husband have had hopes of turning their back shed into a garage. The vacation of the alley would make this impossible.
Tony Burdine of 302 W. Columbia expressed a simple objection.
"Why would I want to pay taxes on a piece of property that I cannot use. I would love to have the property if the lines and the gaslines were taken out," Burdine said.
And the lines would not be taken out. Tim Hegg, a senior engineer for Vectren, said the company would not be willing to give up its easement and move its gaslines along the alley.
"If the city had a compelling reason, we would be reasonable about relocating. I don't really see that here," Hegg said. "We're just not in a position to waive our permanent easement to this alleyway."
When the issue came up for a vote, council president Adam Cohen was torn on the issue. He said he didn't want to approve the vacation, but wanted to wait for the absent council members. Mark Hammer and Phyllis Rokicki were not in attendance.
Council member Terry Smith was more decisive.
"When I was elected, I said I would listen to the voters. The majority of the people on the block said they don't want this," Smith said.
With that, Smith moved to not accept the ordinance and not accept the petition. The move passed 3-0.
The council also approved the first reading of the 2010 budget. The budget includes minimal increases from last year's budget, except in areas of equipment repair. These increases spring from the inability to purchase new vehicles.
Smith did express his interest in seeing the line item for CPA's fees in the clerk-treasurer's budget moved up to $3,000 from the current number of $2,200. The number was originally set at $3,000 by Clerk-treasurer Teresa Glenn before last month's initial budget hearing.
"I think that's a well-spent $800. She's working with an $8 million budget. I think it would be very easy to make mistakes," Smith said.
"I was really proud when I was able to come in for the State Board of Accounts and it was a very good audit," Smith said.
The other two council members present also expressed their pride at how well the audit went.
In old business, the council also approved the second reading of a pair of ordinances. They gave final approval to the stops being added at CSX railroad crossings as well as the 2010 salary ordinance.
Although Utilities Superintendent George Russell is currently on vacation, council member Jinsie Bingham congratulated him on his efforts paying off in reducing water loss. The figure had been as high as more than 30 percent in January and is now down to 8.1 percent, the lowest number in at least two years.
"Congratulations to George. I hope you're having a splendid vacation," Bingham said.