indiana borough bldg sign

Indiana Borough council Tuesday night tackled taxes, approved a budget, proposed changing meeting schedules, entered an agreement with White Township on stormwater management and pulled out of a pact with the township and Indiana Area School District over recreation.

By 10-1 votes, council approved a $6,561,760 borough budget for 2019 with a real estate tax increase from 5.262 to 5.662 mills.

“I thought there were strategies where we would not have to raise taxes that much,” said lone dissenter Council Vice President Gerald Smith, who maintained that a tax hike could have been perhaps a third of a mill rather than four-tenths.

Voting for the budget were Council President Peter Broad and councilors Dave Coker, Ben Ford, Katherine Hood, Donald Lancaster, Sean McDaniel, Betsy Sarneso, Jonathan Southard, Sara Steelman and Sara Stewart.

Councilwoman Kaycee Newell was absent.

Borough Manager C. Michael Foote said each mill nets $547,336. The tax increase raises the average bill for a property owner by $63.33 per parcel.

In other financial matters, it appears Indiana will get a 27 percent sewage rate increase, rather than the 33 percent hike it sought from the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission.

Following a tour last week by PUC officials of the borough’s sewage treatment plant, Indiana’s Solicitor Neva Stotler said an administrative law judge is writing an opinion that could go before the full PUC on Feb. 7.

Based on what previously was reported, it appears the cost for all homes and businesses using less than 4,000 gallons of water each month could rise from $12.57 to $15.96.

It would be the first change in 16 years in rates for customers in the borough and White Township.

Council unanimously authorized a joint application with White Township for a $575,000 Federal Emergency Management Agency/Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency stormwater mitigation project grant that would require the two municipalities to come up with $143,750 or a 25 percent match.

The idea is to address multijurisdictional stormwater issues, borough officials said.

“Stormwater has been a sort of hot button for the past two years,” Assistant Township Manager Chris Anderson conceded last month, as White Township prepared for final action on an ordinance that would deal with stormwater management within the township.

Such action could come from the township board of supervisors tonight along with a possible vote on White’s 2019 budget.

White Township left open the possibility of budget action either tonight or on Dec. 19.

Council also moved Tuesday to authorize Foote to give notice to the township and school district of the borough’s withdrawal, effective at the end of 2019, from the Indiana Area Recreation and Parks Commission.

Meanwhile, in the months to come, Indiana Council may have the option of voting at both what now will be agenda prep meetings on the first Tuesday after the first Monday of the month, and regular meetings two weeks later.

Council authorized advertising a calendar that flips the recent practice of voting during the month’s first meeting then discussing agenda items for the following month two weeks later.

Agenda prep and voting meetings both still would start at 7 p.m.

Council also discussed how to implement revision of the borough’s parking ordinance and authorized four transactions related to the continuing Community Center project:

One is a change order reducing by $3,579 what CNC Construction Inc. will get for exterior work on the building housing the Indiana Free Library, Jimmy Stewart Museum and Downtown Indiana Inc. offices.

Another change order would pay an additional $6,015.38 to Mid-State Construction Inc. for work within the library.

Also authorized were second payments to Davis Brothers Heating and Air Conditioning ($158,724) and Paragon Electric ($46,800) for interior work at the building along Philadelphia and Ninth streets.

Last week council chambers were the location for a public meeting about establishing a cooperative for homeowners and businesses interested in learning more about utilizing solar power.

Foote said the effort continues Dec. 11 at 6:30 p.m. in Room 225 of the Humanities and Social Sciences Building on the Indiana University of Pennsylvania, with the screening of “Catching the Sun,” a documentary, as well as a question-and-answer period conducted by organizers of what would be an Indiana County Solar Co-op.