By Lois Mittino Gray
Mel Levin feels a key to economic development is that the city needs to attract younger residents and those people who work in Mount Vernon should reside in Mount Vernon. The former school superintendent made this point as he addressed the Mount Vernon Common Council at its March 20 meeting.
Levin represents the Greater Mount Vernon Association, an organization which has been in existence for quite some time. The Association, also represented by Mike Ashworth, Mary Weintraut, and Jim Swinney, was established to assist with economic development in the community and to help local businesses. The organization supports the city’s efforts to date and acknowledges that it has done much with limited funds and a lot on its plate.
“Population is declining. The city is losing its young people and that is the future of our community” he said. “A focused effort is needed to attract young people.” To appear more family-friendly, Levin said the appearance of the Main Street Business District must be addressed aggressively and be top priority. To revitalize the district, he suggested removing or upgrading empty buildings along Main Street.
Mayor John Tucker thanked the group and noted it is great to have taxpayer support as the Board is moving aggressively to enforce ordinances. In the past five years, Building Commissioner Willis has addressed over 69 dilapidated buildings at code hearings. Clerk-Treasurer Sitzman’s office handles between 150-200 weed notices every summer. Last summer the Street Department had to mow 63 in which the owner did not comply. He added that two of the main issues he heard about most during his campaign are being done: Fixing up the Riverfront, and getting a dependable water and sewer system. Folks also wanted more activities and there have been 50 in the downtown area in the last five years alone.
Tucker encouraged citizens to call INDOT about the condition of Fourth Street as they may have more influence than constant calls from the mayor. Truck traffic also needs to be addressed. In 2012, according to the Port, there were 82,500 trucks just in and out of the Port. This does not include GAF, SABIC, etc, and INDOT needs to take action to regulate the traffic. “We are totally about to lose Kimball Street”.
Tucker and the Council Members thanked Levin and his group profusely for their support and input. Councilman Fuelling noted, “It’s great to hear this support. It gives the Council more power, more teeth. The Evansville Planning Organization is wondering how we are accomplishing so much in such difficult times. It’s people and the public and help getting grants doing this together”
In other council business:
–Superintendent Rodney Givens reported the sewer project last phase, the digester blowers, was just completed. He added that there are always bugs to work out this first year, but it is a good sewage plant and the city should be proud of how it all turned out.
Councilwoman Higgins asked if the traffic issue at the plant has gotten any better.
“No, it’s still terrible. The signs that have been put up have not helped. The semis still think the entrance is Lexan Lane,” he explained. A week ago there were four semis in eight hours that turned in and then had to back out. Jerry Walden suggested passing that information on to INDOT. Givens said he even e-mailed Google Earth a month ago to update their maps, but has heard no reply to date.
–Givens also reported on cost estimates for sewer systems for Mr. Lawrence’s new subdivision. He said Phase 1 looks to be 5451 linear feet at a cost of $391 per foot, for a total of $21,313.41for material only, not including installation. He added there needs to be 48 manholes at $1891.06 apiece for a total of $90,770.88. Installation costs and the cost of new lift stations must also be figured in. Councilman Hoehn asked Givens to put some numbers down on paper for them to review and Councilman Fuelling suggested the report be broken down by street.
–A resolution passed unanimously to create a separate Brittlebank Swim Team Fund that will keep its money apart from the regular Parks and Recreation Department operating money. A resolution created an Unsafe Building Fund to accept monies from fines, costs paid and pay out costs for enforcement of codes, such as title searching and advertising.
–Councilman Bill Curtis gave a recap report on the new police and fire station project planned to refurbish the old Dausmann Motors building. It was discussed in full earlier that day at the Board of Public Works meeting. Terry Burnworth, President of Pyramid Engineering of Indianapolis, filled the council in on the details. His firm will prepare the 15-20 bid packages for the project approved at the earlier meeting.
–Councilwoman Becky Higgins is planning the first fundraiser for the project. A Police and Fireman’s Ball, a tradition in town from 1880 to 1869, will be held in May or June.
–Work on the county bridge east of town should start fairly soon since the city has taken the sewer line off the bridge according to County Commissioner Jerry Walden. There is no time schedule as yet but they would like the county to get it done quickly.
–The Council met first as the Water Utility Board and heard a report from Superintendant Chuck Gray that the Phase 3 intake is complete. He hopes that work on moving the electric panels up out of the flood plain will be complete by April 19. “So far everything is working great. There have been a few glitches, but that is to be expected,” he explained. Board member Fuelling asked about the new lamella building to which Gray replied that it is complete and the frame was hot dipped galvanized as well as primed and painted in an effort to resist corrosion.