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Nashville Municipal Consultant Dax Norton On COVID Rates, State Park Utility Expansion

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Unknown Speaker
Hello and welcome to another edition of Ask The mayor on WFIU, I'm Joe Hren from WFIU and WTIU news the final week of the month. And as always, we have Nashville municipal consultant, DAX Norton. Hello, and welcome. Oh, Joe, are you not bad? How are you? How are things?

Unknown Speaker
it's may it's the month of May. So it's springtime and racing and man, people traveling and visiting Brown County in Nashville and spending their hard earned dollars supporting businesses. So it's good times right now. Is it? Is it busy? Yesterday, it is busy. I'm definitely picked up. People are out. I think you can tell that you can feel that, you know, sense of Cabin Fever for how many months now? 15 months is releasing and people are out and about and spending their time in Brown County Nashville.

Unknown Speaker
You know, I did check yesterday and I know these numbers will change. Nashville Brown County was on the yellow metric of the statewide COVID. Scale. I was 17% unique individuals kind of high. Is there any word about some caution there as well?

Unknown Speaker
Yeah. Health Department definitely wants us to be cautious still. You know, a Senate Bill, I think it was Senate bill five being the veto being overwritten by the legit by the General Assembly. A lot of vague answers as to who's in control at this point. So I think everybody's still being as diligent as I possibly can see a lot of reckless behavior. People are still respectful of, for the most part, from what we've heard, wearing masking in a business that requires it. And I still even see people outside on the sidewalks walking around the masculine.

Unknown Speaker
Any word on reopening municipal buildings and county town meetings?

Unknown Speaker
Yes. So really, June 1 will be the reopening of town meetings to the public. In the building being being open to the public, still need to wear your masks, still need to distance still need to be cautious. They'll still be a limit on the amount of people in the room for public meetings, the meetings will still be offered as a hybrid. The council did pass their resolution was created their electronic meeting policy as set by house enrolled acts 1437. Allowing for some numbers to be off site and made electronically from time to time. And so you still need to be diligent, but it'll be a refreshing moment to have the council back in their chambers and close to the public unable to look face to face and get some things done. Yeah, yeah.

Unknown Speaker
I I will just very quickly note that I did attend my first press conference in person with the city of Bloomington on Thursday night and the mayor was there and of course, you know, other people everyone was masked it was inside but there was this, this kind of hub of energy and activity of everyone kind of going around and saying hi to everybody. It's it's something and I can imagine the same will happen there as well.

Unknown Speaker
Well, the council meeting last week was all five council members were in the room. Yeah, we did hold it virtually as well as some some people were speaking virtually but it just was a different sense of energy. ie to be together and to have camaraderie and

Unknown Speaker
yeah, now Have you heard anything more about the American rescue plan Act funds and Any word on when they would arrive?

Unknown Speaker
Soon, shouldn't be shouldn't be very, very soon. Council passed an ordinance creating the fund for those funds. And then there is still talk of how to spend it. You know, the Treasury guidance is out it's not final probably won't be final till July or August the interim rule. I think the National Council is really probably looking more towards putting That money towards water, wastewater project stormwater projects, probably a wise decision. That's probably the biggest thing on their plate moving forward are the least the biggest expense. And but we're still kind of in talks to make sure it's spent wisely and incorrectly.

Unknown Speaker
You know, I wanted to follow up with something last month and I don't I don't know if you'll have this data in front of you, though. But you said the food and beverage tax revenue didn't decline in 2020. And from all the closures and restrictions later, it kind of in my mind thought that seems odd. Mary emailed in and thought the same thing she goes, how could it not be down and wondered if the Indiana Department of Revenue did not send Nashville its 2019 share? So anyway, I just wanted to follow up on on that. And maybe you have some more now. And if not, now, maybe somebody can look at later, too. But how was the 2020? Food and Beverage tax revenue? Not decline?

Unknown Speaker
Yeah, I think let me clarify. substantially. So not as you would have thought I can easily get number is posted on our town, annual financial report on the gateway, we can get the number and see just what that means. I think what we were saying and speaking about amongst ourselves, and we count off, you know, town offices was Wow, we were kind of surprised that wouldn't be cut in half. So when I, you know, I say that I probably should clarify and use the right language substantially. It was a surprising number that, given the circumstances and relatively speaking, it wasn't a big hit. Yeah. Okay. Well,

Unknown Speaker
I mean, that makes more sense. And I'm sure Mary, would would. That's a good it's good point. Clarify. Yeah. Yeah. You know, that last time, we talked about water and sewer you you dubbed it the next big crisis. And it's something you know, we've heard all over the state aid for years even that was in Greencastle with my resume, Miss Sue Murray back then and even great, good. My Greg, good night in Kokomo. And I know that the town is working with a new utility project with the State Park. It's a partnership. But I'm just learning about this. So I was wondering if you can fill us in on that.

Unknown Speaker
It's a relatively new development, although it does go back into last year. If you remember, in 2019, the State Park had to shut down the lodge because they actually manufactured their own water from ovulate. That was supplied large, couldn't do it because of the flooding and the amount of sediment. So to shut down for a number of days and lose revenue. Really, what's happened is it seems that DNR wants to partner with nearby communities that have water and sewer infrastructure. And have those communities provide that that product, that infrastructure and service to the park so that DNR doesn't necessarily have to be in the utility operation business. So they've approached the town to do just that. Now, they were the town's largest utility customer prior to this compensation. Some of their sanitary sewer came to the natural plant and some water was provided to the park. By national municipal utilities, this would just be pretty much the whole of it being supplied by the utility, it's a very good partnership, but very good conversations. There's a public hearing on Thursday to discuss the PERS the public, or the the, you know, preliminary engineering reports. For all the projects, there are three PERS projects totaling, I don't know, it's probably close to the seven $8 million dollar range. pretty substantial. So, you know, what's happening now is the Council on staff and myself are in talks to work with, you know, partners to make sure that there's not a major negative impact on any of the ratepayers, the ratepayers that exist now to do this, but the seven This is pre existing condition that utilities need to fish in order to have you know, the comfortable capacity need to continue to grow and serve the parks needs and needs of the growth of the Council. So it's been a very good partnership. And there's still a ways to go. But yes, water and sewer will be the next, especially funding crisis. But it looks like the state government, federal government understand that lots of money coming our way through state and federal grant processes to help fix those issues. Yeah.

Unknown Speaker
You say about $8 million for that project. How much of that is? Is the DNR responsible for how much would the town of Nashville be responsible for?

Unknown Speaker
Right now towns really be responsible for about six of it? Five or six of it on their side with the sanitary sewer rehabilitation project, force main project, now new lift station have to be built some upgrades to existing list stations and some upgrades to existing facilities at the actual treatment every month brings the plant and its infrastructure evenly even the pipes to 2020. Once standard, if you will. So it's a great project funded properly some grant process. So it doesn't have a negative impact on the ratepayer loans, it's going to be a very good project project for the ratepayers and residents of us serves.

Unknown Speaker
I see. So the that would upgrade the Nashville water sewer, through grants, the ratepayers don't have increased rate, and then the park also takes care of its water and sewer problems. At the same time.

Unknown Speaker
There could be a slight rate increase, it just all depends on how much how much revenue comes in from a grant process and how much has to be bonded. So there can be a rate increase in sorts, but you know, if you can completely rehabilitate two systems sinfully for a minimal rate increase. And that's not a bad thing in this day and age, and you've got communities out there that have seen 3040 50% rate increases. So the numbers are still being discussed, and thrown about what the goal is minimal pain to the ratepayers possible to have a utility that is modernized. And in good working order for years to come.

Unknown Speaker
And then I assume the state or the park would would pay for that service on a regular basis as well.

Unknown Speaker
Yes. So they're going to, they're going to Yes, they're going to be a customer. So yeah, they're kazarian they're in their increases definitely help to keep keep those rates as steady as possible.

Unknown Speaker
I know we just have a few minutes left, but I wanted to get any other updates. I know. We're hitting the summer period. And we'll all government areas and things start to slow up a little bit. But any updates on any other ordinances or I know we at one point talked about a comprehensive plan, Human Relations Commission. Anything else that's moving forward right now?

Unknown Speaker
You know, a strategic planning is happening. We'll move forward to the summer of this council. There's also some economic development activity that has suddenly come forth, which I think is very good infill, infill type developments, if you will, on land that's already within the footprint of the town. Housing going up at this point, which is desperately needed. You know, as we continue to move on to the summer, obviously, the budgeting process begins early begins now for the utility and and tax budget. It does slow and that I guess you will, it becomes more behind the scenes for a moment till you get those budgets out to the public and a lot of cleanup work to do. Getting ready for the Nashville September, October November season. Yeah. Which this year could be pretty big. Yeah.

Unknown Speaker
Let's hope so. Let's hope we're at that point, then. Let's Let's Okay. All right. That was all I had you have any other announcements or things we should know about from that show? No, I

Unknown Speaker
think like I always say come on down visit. support these businesses they needed and be safe.

Unknown Speaker
All right. Don't forget if you're listening, you can join in. Ask the mayor with news at Indiana public media.org or on our Twitter ad ask the mayor again. hdacs Norton, thank you so much for being with us today. Appreciate your time. Welcome. Thank you.
Nashville's Municipal Consultant Dax Norton

Nashville's Municipal Consultant Dax Norton on Tuesday's Zoom Interview (Zoom)

Brown Co. is in the yellow cautionary state metric level, municipal buildings open June 1, the DNR is working with the town in providing water and sewer for Brown County State Park.

On this week’s installment of Ask The Mayor, Nashville's Municipal Consultant Dax Norton 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.

Hren: Brown County's 7-day positivity rate was at 17 percent unique individuals, 6 percent all tests, and rising now yellow on the state's COVID metric level, any word on the increasing rate there?

Norton: Yeah. Health Department definitely wants us to be cautious still. A senate bill, I think it was SB 5, the veto being overwritten by the General Assembly. A lot of vague answers as to who's in control at this point. So I think everybody's still being as diligent as they possibly can, I don't see a lot of reckless behavior. People are still respectful of, for the most part, from what we've heard, wearing masks in a business that requires it. And I still even see people outside on the sidewalks walking around with masks on.

READ MORE: Local Emergency Health Rules Voided Without Local Body Approval After Veto Override

Hren: Any updates on city/county buildings reopening?

Norton: Yes. So really, June 1 will be the reopening of town meetings to the public. Still need to wear your masks, still need to distance, still need to be cautious. They'll still be a limit on the amount of people in the room for public meetings, the meetings will still be offered as a hybrid. The council did pass their resolution which created their electronic meeting policy as set by house enrolled act 1437 allowing for some numbers to be off site and made electronically from time to time. And so you still need to be diligent, but it'll be a refreshing moment to have the council back in their chambers and close to the public able to look face to face and get some things done.

Hren: I wanted to follow up from something last month - you said the food and beverage tax revenue didn’t decline in 2020 and from all the closures and restrictions, it doesn’t seem feasible. Mary thought the same and emailed in asking, how could it NOT be down, did IN dept of Revenue not send Nashville its 2019 share?

Norton: Yeah, let me clarify - substantially. So not as you would have thought. I can easily get numbers posted on our town, annual financial report on the gateway. I think what we were saying and speaking about amongst ourselves, and the town offices was, wow - we were kind of surprised that wouldn't be cut in half. So I probably should clarify and use the right language substantially. It was a surprising number that, given the circumstances and relatively speaking, it wasn't a big hit.

EDITOR NOTE: I asked Norton for the actual figures after the interview, he was initially correct.

Brown Co. Food and Beverage Tax receipts:

2019 - $216,766.80

2020 - $220,841.32

We'll follow up with more.

Hren: I know it's summer and government tends to slow down a little bit, but I know the town is working with the DNR to provide water and sewer services, can you tell is about this partnership?

Norton: It's a relatively new development, although it does go back into last year. If you remember, in 2019, the State Park had to shut down the lodge because they actually manufactured their own water from Ogle Lake that supplied the lodge. Couldn't do it because of the flooding and the amount of sediment. So had to shut down for a number of days and lose revenue.

READ MORE ABOUT 2019 FLOODING: Brown Co. State Park Closed Due To Water Supply

It seems the DNR wants to partner with nearby communities that have water and sewer infrastructure and have those communities provide that product, that infrastructure and service to the park so that DNR doesn't necessarily have to be in the utility operation business. So they've approached the town to do just that.

Now, they were the town's largest utility customer prior to this conversation, some of their sanitary sewer came to the natural plant and some water was provided to the park by Nashville municipal utilities, this would just be pretty much the whole of it being supplied by the utility. It's a very good partnership.

There's a public hearing on Thursday to discuss the preliminary engineering reports. For all the projects, there are three projects totaling, I don't know, it's probably close to the seven $8 million dollar range. So now council on staff and myself are in talks to make sure that there's not a major negative impact on any of the ratepayers. But this is pre existing conditions that utilities need to fix in order to have the comfortable capacity to continue to grow and serve the parks needs and needs of the growth of the Council. But it looks like the state government, federal government understand that lots of money coming our way through state and federal grant processes to help fix those issues.

Hren: Of that $8 million, how much is that will Nashville have to pick up, does the state pick up anything?

Norton: Right now, the town is really responsible for about $5 or $6 million of it with the sanitary sewer rehabilitation project, force main project now, new lift station has to be built, some upgrades to existing lift stations, and some upgrades to existing facilities at the actual treatment plant. That pretty much brings the plant and its infrastructure even the pipes to 2021 standards, if you will. So it's a great project funded properly through the grant process so it doesn't have a negative impact on the ratepayers. It's going to be a very good project for the ratepayers and residents that it serves.

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