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 Grant Could Soften Carthage Water Bills

January 16, 2008 - Carthage residents expecting a 126-percent increase in their monthly water rates may get a bit of a break. To help finance major improvements to the town's water utility, the Carthage Town Council approved a 126-percent increase in water rates in October. However, after learning late last month that the town would be getting an additional $350,800 in grant funds for their $3.1 million project, the council has decided the rate hike does not need to be as high as originally thought.

During its regular monthly meeting last Wednesday, the council introduced Ordinance A-2008, which will amend the 126-percent hike OK'd by the council in October. If the council passes this new ordinance after a 5 p.m. public hearing on January 28, the increased rates will be about 8.4 percent lower than those approved last fall.

Under Ordinance A-2008, water customers will see their monthly costs rise about 107 percent, from $14.68 to $30.40 for their first 2,000 gallons of usage, and from $32.32 to $66.94 for the first 5,000 gallons. Copies of the proposed ordinance, which includes a full rate schedule, is on file and available for the public to review at Carthage Town Hall, 6 W. First St., during regular business hours. (A copy of the ordinance is also published on page 16 of this week's Banner. - Ed.)

The town's water project, slated to begin this month and be completed by January 2009, includes the drilling of new wells in a new well field, construction of a new water treatment facility and installation of a 150,000 gallon water tank. Improvements will also be made to the water distribution system. A little more than $1.3 million of the project’s cost will be paid for with grants that do not have to be repaid.

In a related matter, the town's attorney, Chuck Todd, advised the council that the town may need to apply for a special exception from the county due to the height of the new water tower. The council passed a motion giving Council Vice President Wanda Henderson, or, in her absence, any other council member, the authority to sign paperwork needed to apply for the special exception.

The council also voted last week to approved engineer Chuck Garriott as the water project inspector. Todd told the council that Garriott, who will earn $50,000 for his work, will be on site everyday to monitor the work being done.

A resolution honoring Braden Westmoreland, a five-year-old Carthage boy who died in a house fire January 2, was unanimously passed by the council at last week's meeting. The resolution declares January to be "Fire Safety Month" in Westmoreland's honor, and encourages the public to use dual sensor smoke detectors and implement a fire safety plan for their families.

Chief Boyd Duncan of the Carthage Volunteer Fire Department, who attended last week's meeting, expressed appreciation for town employees who helped at the scene of the house fire the week before. There was also some discussion about whether or not Rush County properly handled the dispatching of emergency personnel.

Council member Mike Onkst, who is also the Carthage town marshal, said he arrived on the scene about 10 minutes before the first fire fighters. Duncan said a time log he obtained from the county showed that the Carthage Police Department was dispatched at 9:58 a.m., and that it was another seven minutes before the CVFD was dispatched.

Council President Rick Bush said he thought someone should review audio of the county's 911 dispatches with respect to the fire. He said he was not trying to blame anyone, but thought it was important to figure out whether anything was done improperly so that corrective action, if needed, can be taken. Duncan said that he thought the outcome would have been the same even if the CVFD had been immediately dispatched. However, he said he agreed with Bush about the need to look into this matter and address anything that was not done properly.

Bush said he thought the CVFD needs to have some kind of mutual aid agreement with the Knightstown-Wayne Township VFD. Despite being less than five miles away, Knightstown was not called to assist with the fire that claimed Westmoreland's life, even though two departments - Raleigh and Posey Township - drove greater distances to help.

"It's nothing against Knightstown," Duncan said of the decision to call on the Raleigh and Posey Township departments for help. "We've just done it that way for years."


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