Wakarusa Town Council Meeting 8-6-2014by Amy Wenger on August 7, 2014
A glance at the agenda for the Tuesday evening session of the Wakarusa town council seemed to be indicative of a short session. But as the starting time inched closer, the crowds of people filing into the room, scrambling for available seats, brought about a sense that the night was likely to linger on.
There were a number of residents and business owners in attendance, many of whom offered a collective inquiry as to the status of whether or not there were plans for a new police station. "Why is everyone so secretive?" wondered one gentleman in attendance.
Several members of the council directly addressed the matter, with Jeffery Ziegler being the first to clarify the ongoing issue. Ziegler was one of the individuals serving on a special subcommittee that was formed several months ago to further discuss whether a new station was, in fact, necessary, or whether it would be more advantageous to pursue renovations to the current facility, located on South Spring Street.
"We, as a council, we've determined that we need to move forward with a new structure," Ziegler said. "We're looking at many factors, such as the type of building itself, the size, the cost. Right now, there's a lot of unanswered questions. We don't have any definitive answers."
The police station committee has conducted a number of special meetings, and the council has broached the topic at a number of work sessions, Ziegler also noted. He explained that they have researched other stations and facilities in nearby communities that have needs and capabilities similar to a town of Wakarusa's size. Added town council president Mark BeMiller, "At this time, we just don't have any concrete numbers. We're looking at factors like where we would decide to put it. We're just dealing with estimates at this point."
To that observation, several people questioned the rumors about the costs associated with construction of a station that would run in excess of $2 million. "That's a number that was put out there," said vice-president Fred Avery, adding that other estimates actually put the price tag nearer to a $3.1 million mark, upon adding various phases such as implementation of ADA regulations and adequate spaces to ensure "the best practices" for departmental usage and efficiency. Town Marshal Bob Cunningham, it was noted, has also been an integral source of input and advice during this phase of evaluation.
Council member Laurelyn Street asked the group if they would feel more at ease with the notion of having a special public forum specifically designed to address and allay the concerns of the community, to which the crowd unilaterally replied, "Yes." She then invited the audience members, those who were unfamiliar with the condition of the current station, to travel there and assess the building for themselves. "You can see for yourselves how inadequate it is," she said.
To that point, several in attendance agreed, stating that while the increased burden to taxpayers will certainly be met with resistance, it is unfair to confine the police department to a structure that has clearly been rendered inoperable for what the department needs to properly and safely function.
Ultimately, said BeMiller, no decisions will be made about what will transpire next without sufficient notice and opportunity for the public to share their views on the subject. "We're not going to sit up here and say 'this is what's going to happen,'" he assured those present.
In other business, the council:
- Awarded the bid for a roof replacement project at the Wakarusa Fire Station to Leaf Guard, in the amount of $52,400. The company will be responsible for the installation of steel shingles that carry a 50 year warranty. Leaf Guard was awarded the contract, despite not having the lowest bid, on the advice of Jim Emans of Emans Engineering. Emans explained that Leaf Guard has an established record of favorable documentation with projects of this nature, and that the actual low bidder, Ti-Mar Construction, did not file paperwork in accordance with bid specifications.
- Approved a partial payment to Phend and Brown for the rebuild of Sunset Court and the resurfacing of West Wabash Avenue, for a cost of $101,709. The work has been completed, and has been given a very satisfactory report from travelers and residents of those areas.
The Wakarusa Town Council will conduct its next work session on Thursday, August 28 at 6:30 p.m., which is a rescheduling from the original date, on account of the Labor Day holiday. The regular town council meeting will take place on Tuesday, September 2 at 6:30 p.m.