Brand-new council ushers in season of change in Bainbridge

Friday, January 10, 2020
Shortly into their first meeting of the Bainbridge Town Council, new members (from left) Robert Hensley, Brent Foltz and Jeff Kiger get acclimated to their new positions.
Banner Graphic/Jared Jernagan

BAINBRIDGE -- Citing a steep learning curve, the new Bainbridge Town Council convened for its first meeting Wednesday at town hall.

However, the newness doesn’t simply revolve around Robert Hensley, Brent Foltz and Jeff Kiger -- all brand new to their positions.

There’s also new Clerk-Treasurer Bobbi Boller, the recent decision by one of the town’s utility superintendents to step back from his position and the need for new appointees to the town’s utility board, park board and board of zoning appeals.

So there’s a lot of work to be done in the months and years ahead for the trio that grabbed the top three spots in a nine-way race for the at-large town council positions.

“Be easy on us for a month or two. We’ve got a big learning curve ahead of us, all being new,” said Kiger, who was chosen as board president.

Kiger cited the time that he, Foltz and Hensley spent together on the utility board as a positive for the town moving forward.

“Everybody in Bainbridge is lucky that we work so well together,” Kiger said. “We work for what’s best for the town.”

Both Hensley and Kiger also went out of their way to say they will be open to ideas from the community in their new rolls.

“I’m not the smartest guy in the room,” Kiger said. “I’m open to ideas.”

Admitting they have a lot to learn, the three men were positive in the visions for the town they shared on Wednesday.

In discussing his vision for the town, Foltz shared ideas including getting more sidewalks, getting an ordinance prohibiting engine braking for trucks passing on the highway and a longer-term plan to run water from the town to North Putnam High School and Middle School.

“I think that would be something that would be good for the community as well as the school,” Foltz said.

Kiger shared his vision for getting more greenspace in the community with some sort of park.

“I’d love to see a park,” Kiger said. “I’ve lived her for 25 years and even though my kids are grown, it would be a place my grandkids could play eventually.”

“That’s especially important since they closed the (Bainbridge Elementary) School playground to the public,” Hensley added.

“I’d love to see Bainbridge as a place where youth leagues would have a tournament,” Kiger said, hoping any plans could include baseball, softball and soccer fields.

Kiger also went out of his way to praise the previous board members for their willingness to serve the community.

“The previous board, right, wrong or indifferent, they sat up here and it’s not easy,” Kiger said. “Sometimes it’s not fun. Sometimes you have to make hard decisions.”

Also trying to hit the ground running is Boller in her new position as clerk-treasurer.

With Deputy Clerk Brandy Ault remaining in the office, Boller will be away for several days over the next two weeks getting some of the training she needs to help her in her new position. She will be in training on Jan. 14-16, as well as on Jan. 21-23 for Association of Indiana Municipalities (AIM) “Clerk Boot Camp.”

AIM was formerly known as the Indiana Association of Cities and Towns (IACT).

Among the town’s non-elected officials, one change the new council will have to deal with is Chad Oliver’s move from a full-time utility superintendent role to a part-time, as-needed employee.

Fellow Superintendent Eric Gibson made sure the new council was aware of the change, which took effect at the beginning of 2020.

While Oliver remains an employee of the town, able to do electrical and gas work, he no longer has a set schedule, working when called upon.

In his absence, the utility board appointed Gibson as gas superintendent in addition to his designated water and sewer roles.

This does not, however, address Oliver’s roles as electric superintendent or street superintendent.

Other vacancies for which the board is seeking replacements include the utility board and BZA.

Applications for the vacancy utility board were presented to the town council Wednesday. However, the council members chose to table the matter so they could further consider all the applications.

“The utility board is a paid board. They are appointed. They serve four years,” Kiger said. “Like everybody else, I want my utility bills to be as low as possible. But I also want my lights to work. I want my water to come. I want it not to smell. I want the sewer to go in the right direction.”

Gibson asked that, if interviews are conducted, he and perhaps current utility board members Tim Davis and Kelly Stevens would be able to sit in on them.

Kiger said he wasn’t opposed to the idea, but didn’t promise anything.

“I think the three of us have a working knowledge of what a good utility board member could and should be,” Kiger said.

Likewise, the appointment of new BZA members was tabled.

In searching through records, Boller has not yet been able to find the current roster, nor the last time the BZA met.

Boller told the Banner Graphic said she knows records are out of date, as she is listed as a BZA member, which she has not been for four years.

The council will look into the appointments once more information is obtained.

One appointment that was made Wednesday evening was Christa Campbell to the park board.

With Campbell’s unanimous appointment, she rounds out the four-member board that also includes Ault, Kayla Franklin and Sara Sheeps.

The park board is scheduled to meet the first Wednesday of each month, but have not had enough members to meet. Ault said she hopes with the addition of Campbell, things will get moving forward with regular meetings.

Before concluding the meeting, Kiger thanked the public for its support and asked for patience as the town transitions to new leadership.

“Just be respectful of us and we’ll be respectful of everyone,” Kiger said.

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