Bourbon FireIt was standing room only at the Bourbon Town Council meeting on Tuesday night as a number of residents were looking for answers on why the council members were moving ahead with a fire hydrant fee. Up to this point, residents have not had to pay anything for the 102 hydrants. If the fee structure is adopted, it will be phased in over a four-year period.

Council Vice-President, Larry Wattenbarger, said, “There was talk about doing it (imposing a total fee) the first year, but we decided to go over a four-year period.”  It was noted that due to the high “6” rating for ISO’s that property owners receive a discount on insurance.

If the fees are adopted, residents would begin paying $1.65 monthly in 2020. The fee would be $3.39 the 2nd year; $5.09 the 3rd year, and finally in year four, $6.79.

Board President P.J. Hanley was out of town and the meeting was conducted by Wattenbarger. Both Wattenbarger and council member Les McFarland voted to approve the adoption of fees on first reading. There will be a public hearing in November and the council could suspend the rules and vote on the proposed fee schedule on 2nd and 3rd readings.

Clerk/Treasurer Kim Berger explained that the tax cap adopted by the state in 2010 has meant a reduced revenue of $197,000. She said each hydrant costs $622.42 per year to maintain. It was noted that replacement costs for hydrants have risen from $1,800 to $22,000,

One resident, who did not identify himself, said, “So it is saving the General Fund? Have we looked at all avenues?” Berger sited examples of how the department heads have worked to keep their budgets in line. She said Police Chief Bill Martin is able to provide 24/7 coverage by using reserve officers. Martin said by using the reserves, the town saves about $20,000 a year. Berger said she is working with NIPSCO to replace all of the town’s street lights bulbs with LCD bulbs that should prove to reduce the monthly cost.

The fee schedule was initially prepared by Eric Walsh of Baker Tilly Municipal Advisors. Berger told the audience that she would ask Walsh for details on how he arrived at the fee.

Carol Anders Correspondent