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Nashville council president joins "Ask The Mayor" show, talks infrastructure needs

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Unknown Speaker
All right. Hello and welcome to ask the mayor on WFIU I'm Joe Hren with WFIU WTIU News. This week, we're joined with a new guest Nashville town council president, Nancy Crocker. Hello, and welcome.

Unknown Speaker
Thank you. I'm excited to be here. Oh, we're

Unknown Speaker
excited to have you. And for those of you listening in, you can submit your questions to news at Indiana public media.org. You can also tweet us at Ask the mayor. We do want to thank DAX Norton. He's the Nashville municipal operations consultant. He's been doing this for a year or so and really appreciate his time. And he's kind of I guess, handing the torch over now to Nancy. And but he's still with the town operating in that same capacity. Right. He is

Unknown Speaker
still our town consultant. Yes. Very, very helpful for our town. Yes.

Unknown Speaker
Yeah. And he's been very beneficial. He's able to point things out find grant money. I was even reading things like Policy and Procedures Handbook that, that he was, I guess, trying to issue through a recent meeting. Can you tell us a bit about how that relationship is working out?

Unknown Speaker
I think it's working out great. He's, he's, he's become my right hand man. And I really have learned so much from him. So the the idea that the Nationals not really big enough, doesn't have the finances to have a town manager. Ms consultants, presented this opportunity that we could have a consultant that would, you know, help guide us and help us create policy and things like that. So we jumped at the chance and it's it's worked out very well.

Unknown Speaker
And we, the spot was in Kokomo and Kokomo went through a change of mayorship. And we thought it'd be a good time to change the show a couple years ago, by moving to Nashville because there's so much happening in Nashville, much more down the street from our main broadcast area. And we're your neighbors. We exactly. And there's so much going on a lot of issues. We've talked about water and sewer, bicycle pedestrian master plans, comprehensive plan, planning housing, we've been talked about a Human Relations Commission in the work so I wanted to just to start, just kind of know a little bit more about you. Nashville may know you, but some of our other listeners have crossed the broadcast area may not, can tell us a little bit about yourself.

Unknown Speaker
Um, I was born and raised in Anderson, just north of Indianapolis. I moved to Nashville nine years ago this month and opened the old Magnolia house in and I also had a little vintage store where I sold my artwork. So I came here as somebody that was creating art, but didn't recognize yourself as an artist. And I remember when a customer came in, and he looked at one of my pieces, and he said, Oh, you're an artist. And I went, Oh, yeah, I guess are you. So it's the perfect place for me. And I still have my artwork up. It'd be three gallery, but I just recently sold my house and I now am kind of retired. But I'm working very hard for this town at this point. I got into the town council realm because I was involved in the chamber. And they wanted somebody to represent the businesses and I lived in town. So I was a good fit for it. And I hope I've done them. Yeah. Well.

Unknown Speaker
So how long have you been on Nashville Town Council?

Unknown Speaker
This is my fourth year I am up for reelection. And then it's my first year as president.

Unknown Speaker
Okay. All right. You know, wanted to start with some news from Monday night. We taped the show on Tuesday. There was a fire that destroyed a couple businesses. Do you have some more information about that?

Unknown Speaker
We don't know yet how it started. But it did destroy at least two businesses, possibly up to four businesses. And what I want to say is man were we lucky because first of all, it was not a windy night. It was a nice calm night. And our Nashville Fire Department happened to be at the station for meeting. So they were able to get to this fire within five minutes. 10 minutes, tops. We were very, very lucky because of that. And that's one of our struggles here in small town America. We don't have a paid fire department and we need we need to have a paid fire department but the funds are just not there to do it. And So that's again, another struggle, as far as you know, things that we challenges, I guess you could say.

Unknown Speaker
So this happened Monday evening. Yes.

Unknown Speaker
Yeah, I got down there, probably about a little after nine. And they had already had the fire fire put out it was still smoldering at that point. But I think I'm not positive, but I think it was our restroom attendant. That called the Fire end. Because we have a great restroom attendant, she works all hours of the day, and she was probably just leaving that last restaurant nearby. And she called in the, the alarm.

Unknown Speaker
For those who are familiar with Nashville, do you know what businesses were lost?

Unknown Speaker
I know, one of them was called wishful thinking. It was a scrapbooking store. And then the store next door. I'm not sure what the name of it was. But they made signs they made handmade signs and like woodburned type signs and things like

Unknown Speaker
that. As far as you know, nobody was hurt.

Unknown Speaker
No, no. Okay. Luckily, yeah, yeah. Again, we were very lucky. And it happened in the middle of the day when we were had tourist had it happened on a windy day. And you know, there were a lot of things that again, we were very lucky that this was all that happened.

Unknown Speaker
And I assume the cause is still under investigation.

Unknown Speaker
Yeah, I haven't I haven't heard anything at this point. It's pretty, it's pretty new at this point.

Unknown Speaker
Yeah. So one of the things that DAX Norton and I talked a lot about, and he said, the number one priority in 2022, was sewer infrastructure. And I just saw at a recent meeting, Town Council was looking at some, I think it was called a State Revolving Fund loan program, to see how much the town could get for some water sewer improvements. So are you in the what would it be fair to say, in the funding stage and planning stage of this?

Unknown Speaker
Yeah, we are we have, we have the plans ready, we were able to acquire somewhat of a grant. And we're hopeful that we're going to get more, because now that inflation has come up, you know, it's gone from a six to maybe a $9 million project. So we're, we're very grateful for the state's assistance on on helping us with this. And I, they've, they've been working with us, because my my issue is, I cannot raise these rates very much of the people that live here, we are not a wealthy town. And my, my goal, my priority is to keep those rates as low as possible. However, we did just raise the water rate, we had to because we were losing money. We haven't had a water rate increase since I think, either 12 or 14. So it was time and we're going to be looking at implementing yearly increases, you know, cost of living type increases, instead of waiting so long, and then having to have a big increase, where then it really hurts. And so we also just passed approval to have a sewer increase because of the sewer project that we're going to be doing. And just and just because, again, we're not we're not breaking even on our sewer, we have a lot of issues that we have to address on a daily basis. And so we don't and we have to have money to fix them.

Unknown Speaker
Yeah, well, just to maintain operation. It sounds like it sounds like that's what the main point of the increase the the hike of the water bill is for

Unknown Speaker
to maintain operation at this point. Yes, we are looking down the road at plans to just completely upgrade our water system. Here's a little known fact and I think a lot of small towns are like this. Our water system was installed in 1947 It's never been updated. Our pipes have never been updated and we bought the pipes that we installed used from Camp Atterbury. So that's how old they are. So we need to we need to upgrade the whole town. Really, we need to overhaul the whole town because we're losing water out of the pipes.

Unknown Speaker
So you know you're right. Every time we talk to mean Bloomington has 100 year old pipes. They had our How many burst pipes last year a record. And, and a lot of these are unfunded mandates

Unknown Speaker
that absolutely, and the and luckily, we just created a utility board, great group of people, man, I just love them all. And they installed some meters and some like alert systems in our water system. So now we aren't having the brakes and the boil water orders as much as we used to. So they've been very proactive, as far as things to do to help the situation.

Unknown Speaker
You know, I did see you mentioned a little bit earlier about the loss of water, and I had to go look it up, because I remember talking about this with DAX, maybe a year or so ago, and I saw in the Brown County Democrat, someone attributing 53% of waters being lost. Wow.

Unknown Speaker
Wow. And normally, you know, just to perspective normally, in any regular, you know, healthy water system, it's about 20%. So, you know, there is always water loss, but were we and we, we don't have any way to pinpoint where it is. It's all over. That's why we're doing a water master plan. And we're, we're looking at, you know, the total upgrade, from what I understand some of the pipes are in the in the ground, and the only thing that's making them still stay as a pipe is the dirt around them. So yeah, so it's, uh, you know, these people in this town need water and they need their sewer. And we got to make sure that it's working. Well. Yeah. Definitely priority.

Unknown Speaker
And then of course, there's the wastewater, as well. And that's I believe, that's what you were talking about the $6 million project you were talking about?

Unknown Speaker
Yes. Yes. And are there wastewater? However you want to say it? Yeah.

Unknown Speaker
Yeah. Are there deadlines on that project?

Unknown Speaker
Oh, yesterday? Um, yeah, so it's, you know, at this point, it's just all about money. We don't have six $9 million sitting around to upgrade it. So it's all about money, securing the funds, once we've secured the grant money, then we are going to get started right away.

Unknown Speaker
Dax and I also talked about the Brown County State Park project. I believe that they were kind of creating or had their own water system. And now, they don't want to be in that business. I mean, who would blame them. So they're working with the town and paying for service. So that would be a big customer for the for the town?

Unknown Speaker
Oh, yeah, it would be it would be a great big customer. So that's another reason we've got to get our pipes in shape, so that we can provide water them. And the good thing is, they're taking care of everything on their side. So it's not going to be costly for our taxpayers to connect with them. Other than the fact that there's going to be a lot more water running through the pipe. So we're, we're going to have to make that area of priority. When we do start upgrading to make sure that, you know, we don't lose a lot of their water. But yeah, that's an exciting project, because that will bring some revenue into the utilities, and help us a lot.

Unknown Speaker
Why no lots to unpack there. And it's something we'll definitely talk more about, as the year goes on. And as we get to talk more and more, it's an exciting topic, isn't it? For for many people, and especially you I'm sure it is because that's a huge, huge deal.

Unknown Speaker
Oh, yeah, I live right here in town. So yeah, it's, it's it's a big deal for all of us.

Unknown Speaker
No one has to town council had its first ever discussion. I think it was last month. It's called the kind of like a voice of the people. How did that go? And how did that come about?

Unknown Speaker
Uh, my idea. I'm going to take full credit for it. I just found that first of all, our council meetings were kind of out of control because people wanted to talk all the time to us. And so we couldn't get the business of the town done. And so I just I kept overwhelmingly hearing people say, I want my voices heard. And so we, once I became President, we started these town hall meetings. We had a fabulous one last month. We had to cancel our January because of the snowstorm. But we had a fabulous one on public safety last month. That's another thing that this town is another issue that we're doing When the in this town as everybody else's again, these are, these are things that a lot of people are are dealing with. But we were able at that meeting, first of all, we had a great turnout. And thank you to anybody that attended that meeting, we were able to explain our how our how the budget does work, how the money that the town spends, gets to that point, which I don't think a lot of people realize it and, and for me, I didn't, I started looking at the budget for probably less March ish, about a year ago, and I, my town clerk would start explaining things to me. And I said to her, Okay, now you got to dumb it down. And then I said, Okay, now you got to dumb it down again. So we ended up with this really nice picture of different buckets that drop money into our cat town, and how those buckets can only be used for things in their bucket realm. And I think a lot of people learned a lot about our budget at the meeting. And we got some great ideas, because we need a really good substantial police department here. And I love my officers that I have right now. But we need more officers, but we do not have the money. For them. Again, it's boiling down to money. And the money that we get from the state, like everybody else is not enough. We are a very unique town. Because if we just had 1000 people, and that's it. Yeah, we could have a town Marshal and maybe a deputy. But we don't we have 1000s and 1000s of people that come here every year. And we have to be able to not only police the the area, but educate, communicate, we're looking at a new police chief that would be very community minded look at drug prevention. And all of this was discussed at that town hall meeting. And it was it was it was a great meeting. And a lot of good things came out of it. So I'm very excited about those meetings. And I really encourage people to come because that's where your voices are going to be heard. You can always email me, but it's different when you're there in person. And they will be on Zoom, as long as we can put them on Zoom. But we got some good ideas for extra funding and things like that, and grants and things like that. So we're working out with a merit board to come up with a plan for the police department so that we can still have this great police department and keep them. That's one of the big issues we need to when we hire an officer, we want to pay that officer enough that we can keep that officer. So so that was the first town hall. Next one is the first weekend, April, the first Thursday in April. And it is going to be on economic development. So talking about how how difficult it is in in our state to be a small town. I was thinking about our interview, and I thought about John Mellencamp 's song, I was born in a small town and how proud he was in that song to be born in a small town. And we all are proud to live in the small town. But it's hard. It's hard to be in the small town and in all small towns, and we've got it good because we do have the tourism. So we might be here 1020 years from now. But if things don't change of how legislation is set up doesn't change and doesn't start to value the small towns, then many of these small towns are just going to be non existent in 10 or 20 years.

Unknown Speaker
You bring a good point to about Spring is here and preparing for maybe another round of influx of visitors and how you know they're already here. And they're already there. They're already there. But you know, just how you mentioned about the the police needed and things like that, that we don't think about what what are the other things that the town needs to do to prepare for this influx of visitors that you get throughout the year?

Unknown Speaker
Oh, infrastructure is is you know, we're talking about water and sewer but our roads, our streets, our you know, striping of roads, all of that stuff, making sure that everything's in good shape. We do have plans Daxon I kind of call this year. He calls it more the year of planning. I call it the more year of finishing because there's been so many things in the past so many studies and we need to do this and we need to do that and nobody's just You know, grabbed hold of them and done them. So you're planning the town hall meetings will help with that, with feedback from the town that we can kind of come up with some type of strategic plan for the town, what do we want the town to be. And I'm talking about residents, I'm not talking about tourists and businesses, I'm really talking about residents, what do they want the town to be. And then also just the planning, and when you have all these tourists come in, you know, you got to be ready for it. And, and we need to have some type of strategic plan, even to handle things like festivals, we had the Christkindl market last December, fabulous, we had fabulous weather for it. And by the way, if you if you look at the video, you real quick, you'll see me, I have another personality, that I'm in the Chris Kendall market, I have a nice red dress on, let me just say that, but I don't want to give it away if children are watching. So so she helps somebody bring presents every year, my other personality. So I was able to do that at the market and end but things like that, we have to have plans for that we have to have plans of how that's gonna work and, and things like that. So, you know, there's, there's a lot of planning that needs to be done to

Unknown Speaker
we just have a couple minutes left. And as I always do, at the end of the show, I always like to just kind of leave the last question to you. I mean, last word, to the town council president and any other announcements or anything that you'd like everyone to know?

Unknown Speaker
Let's see. I guess I just would really encourage people to get involved. You know, we have Facebook and people mouth off on Facebook. All a lot, a lot. Comment, let's say comment on Facebook, but but we need people to get involved. And and start being proactive in this community instead of just reactive. You know, get involved in the Commission's come to the meetings, come to the town hall meetings, listen to the town council meetings, and and just be active in the community. And, you know, I I'm always willing to listen and do what I can. We have, we have people down the road from me that just want the parking changed on the street, you know, but they're not is if they just complain about it. It's not going to get done. But they reached out to me and and we're working on a plan for that. So there's, there's a lot that can be done. But there's a we need a lot of people we need a lot of help. And really our town is run by volunteers. I mean, there's very few paid people, although my staff and my utility workers are fabulous here, and that's another thing. They don't get paid enough money either. So So I would just say just get involved. Just get involved. Reach out, ask questions. Be willing to give your time to your town because if you don't, the town's gonna disappear.

Unknown Speaker
All Thank you. This was a great interview. It was great to meet you. Hopefully I will get to meet you in person in Nashville. We can meet someplace and talk more about the town and the issues. And, again, really appreciate your time today.

Unknown Speaker
Yeah, I'd like to go around to some different locations so I can show my town off.

Unknown Speaker
That'd be wonderful. Thank you so much.

Unknown Speaker
Thank you. You have a great afternoon.
Town Council President Nancy Crocker on a Zoom interview Tuesday afternoon.

Nashville town council president Nancy Crocker during Tuesday's Zoom interview. (Zoom)

A fire destroys at least two downtown shops, the town is looking for state grant money to fund sewer projects, the town needs more police officers during tourism season, and we learn more about Crocker as we welcome her to our show for the first time.

On this week’s installment of Ask The Mayor, Nashville Town Council President Nancy Crocker addresses these issues and more. Listen to the full conversation with Indiana Newsdesk anchor Joe Hren by clicking on the play button above, or read some of the questions and answers below. A portion of this segment airs 6:45 and 8:45 a.m. Wednesday on WFIU.

This conversation has been edited for clarity and conciseness.

Editor note: Nashville municipal consultant Dax Norton says he's 'passing the torch' to town council president Nancy Crocker for Nashville's segment.

Hren: Welcome Nancy to your first show on WFIU's "Ask The Mayor," let's just start by learning more about you.

Crocker: I was born and raised in Anderson, just north of Indianapolis. I moved to Nashville nine years ago this month and opened the Old Magnolia House Inn and I also had a little vintage store where I sold my artwork.

I came here as somebody that was creating art, but didn't recognize yourself as an artist. And I remember when a customer came in, and he looked at one of my pieces, and he said, oh, you're an artist. And I went, Oh, yeah, I guess I am.

So it's the perfect place for me. And I still have my artwork up at B3 Gallery, but I just recently sold my house and I now am kind of retired. But I'm working very hard for this town at this point. I got into the town council realm because I was involved in the chamber. And they wanted somebody to represent the businesses and I lived in town. So I was a good fit for it. And I hope I've done them well.

This is my fourth year and I'm up for reelection. And this is my first year as president.

READ MORE: Fire destroys at least two Nashville shops

Officials say no one was hurt during the blaze.
Officials say no one was hurt during the blaze at Wishful Thinking. (Courtesy: Nancy Crocker)

Hren: One of the things that Dax Norton and I talked a lot about, and he said, the number one priority in 2022, was sewer infrastructure. Would it be fair to say you're in the funding and planning stages now?

Crocker: Yeah, we have the plans ready, we were able to acquire somewhat of a grant. And we're hopeful that we're going to get more, because now that inflation has come up, it's gone from a $6 to maybe a $9 million project. So we're very grateful for the state's assistance on helping us with this.

I cannot raise these rates very much of the people that live here, we are not a wealthy town. And my goal, my priority is to keep those rates as low as possible. However, we did just raise the water rate. We had to because we were losing money.

We haven't had a water rate increase since 2012. So it was time and we're going to be looking at implementing yearly increases, cost of living type increases, instead of waiting so long, and then having to have a big increase, where then it really hurts.

We also just passed approval to have a sewer increase because of the sewer project that we're going to be doing. And again, we're not breaking even on our sewer, we have a lot of issues that we have to address on a daily basis.

Here's a little known fact and I think a lot of small towns are like this. Our water system was installed in 1947. It's never been updated. We bought the pipes that we installed used from Camp Atterbury. So that's how old they are. So we need to we need to upgrade the whole town.

Hren: I remember talking about this with Dax, maybe a year or so ago, and I saw in the Brown County Democrat that 53% of water is being lost.

Crocker: Just to put it in perspective, in any regular healthy water system, it's about 20%. But we don't have any way to pinpoint where it is. It's all over. That's why we're doing a water master plan. And we're looking at the total upgrade. From what I understand, the only thing that's making them still stay as a pipe is the dirt around them.

A photo of Brown County State Park closed.

Hren: Dax and I also talked about the Brown County State Park project. I believe they had their own water system and don't want to be in that business. So they're working with the town to pay for service. So that would be a big customer for the town?

Crocker: It would be a great big customer. So that's another reason we've got to get our pipes in shape, so that we can provide water to them. And the good thing is, they're taking care of everything on their side. So it's not going to be costly for our taxpayers to connect with them. Other than the fact that there's going to be a lot more water running through the pipe. So we're going to have to make that area a priority. But yeah, that's an exciting project, because that will bring some revenue into the utilities, and help us a lot.

Hren: What are some other things that the town needs to do to prepare for the influx of visitors that you get throughout the year?

Crocker: Our roads, our streets, our striping of roads, all of that stuff, making sure that everything's in good shape. We do have plans. Dax calls it more the year of planning. I call it the more year of finishing because there's been so many things in the past, so many studies and we need to do this and we need to do that and nobody's just grabbed hold of them and done them.

What do we want the town to be? And I'm talking about residents, I'm not talking about tourists and businesses. And we need to have some type of strategic plan, even to handle things like festivals.

Our town is run by volunteers. There's very few paid people, although my staff and my utility workers are fabulous here. They don't get paid enough money either. So I would just say just get involved. Reach out, ask questions. Be willing to give your time to your town because if you don't, the town's gonna disappear.

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