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Town Council Meeting Summary

Avilla Brings Back Sidewalk Program = By Steve Garbacz – KPC Media, April 20, 2017

After about 10 years, Avilla is relaunching its sidewalk restoration program.

Property owners who want new sidewalks installed in front of their homes or businesses will be able to get government pricing and have an opportunity to finance the payback for up to five years.

Town Manager Bill Ley suggested at Wednesday’s Town Council meeting Avilla offer the program again since it is in the midst of other projects to improve infrastructure downtown.

“I think that would be an excellent idea,” council President Paul Shepard answered almost immediately.

Property owners can contact Town Hall at 897-2781 about sidewalks they would want to have replaced. The town will prepare a replacement project that it then will bid out.

By bidding the project through the town, construction rates likely will be much lower.

“The plan we used previously, the town took bids to replace sections of sidewalk, and the homeowners had to agree to pay whatever the cost of that bid would be,” Ley said.

The town would pay for the sidewalk replacement using county economic development income tax revenue, then property owners would reimburse the city, Ley said.

They could either pay a lump sum up front or finance the work over three or five years at a small interest rate, he said.

Ligonier also offers a sidewalk replacement program, although the larger city offers to pay 50 percent of the cost if property owners will pick up the other half.

Ley said he would review the previous sidewalk plans and then begin advertising the new program around town.

In other business Wednesday, the Town Council received an update on an electric rate study from John Julien of H.J. Umbaugh and Associates.

Julien reported that revenue for the electric utility will probably need to increase somewhere between 3.2 percent and 5 percent to cover the increased cost of operating the utility.

Although Avilla has had rate increases in recent years, it would be the first rate hike since the early 2000s that would be used to fund operations. Previous increases solely were to cover increasing power costs from provider Indiana Michigan Power.

Julien will provide final end-user rates in May, but said the town’s increase is much smaller than previously anticipated. Avilla caught an error earlier this year with about a dozen large electricity users that were only being billed for about 66 percent of their energy use. Fixing that error has helped the utility’s finances.

Previously, Julien was anticipating a needed increase of 12 percent to 14 percent.

Also Wednesday, Councilman Philip Puckett expressed his desire to step up enforcement against an eyesore property in the 200 block of North Main Street.

The town previously had issued an order to the owners to address issues at the property, including a collapsing porch. Puckett said minimal work has been done, and he wants to put more pressure on the owners to either fix the unoccupied home or tear it down.

“This is our main drag, and we’re really putting money into our Main Street, and that’s an important thing,” he said. “I’ve been hearing a lot more complaints, and the weather is changing and people are getting out walking, riding their bikes, and they’re seeing it more.”

Town Attorney Steve Hagen said he’d have to review the previous repair order issued by the city and then determine whether the Town Council would need to issue another order or if it could continue to force the issue through the current one.