COLUMBIA CITY — Columbia City’s Common Council is considering a project that would address City Hall issues, provide a long-term cost savings, and not cost the city an extra dime.
It might sound too good to be true, but a program focused on energy savings may make it happen.
The council heard a feasibility study from Perfection Group, a company based in Ohio, at last week’s meeting.
Perfection Group’s Rob Vollrath said the council could repair City Hall’s roof and ceiling, update lighting, install a new HVAC system and upgrade street lights — all energy-saving projects — with an initial cost of about $1.1 million.
Perfection Group guarantees the city will save a certain amount of money per month by doing those energy-saving updates. Rather than pocketing the saved money, it would go toward paying off the loan for the project. After interest, the total cost would be about $1.4 million.
“We reduce the amount of money you’re spending today, then allocate those funds to pay for it without raising your budget one penny,” Vollrath said.
Mayor Ryan Daniel and Clerk-Treasurer Rosie Coyle began exploring the city’s options this summer after there were issues with the ceiling/roof at City Hall. The building hasn’t been updated since the early 1990s.
“Rosie and I have been trying to find the best path forward,” Daniel said. “It’s been awhile since anything has been done at City Hall.”
Several other communities have taken part in this program, including Hammond, Franklin, Morgan County, Tipton County, Boone County and Lake County.
Vollrath said Perfection Group would utilize local contractors when possible.
The council has not yet decided if it will move forward with the project, but decided to move forward with requests for proposals.
“We need to take action (on the roof) and who knows what this winter could bring,” Councilwoman Jennifer Romano said.
Also at last week’s City Council meeting:
• The Council approved a raise of $3,999 total for the mayor’s position, including the $1,000 raise all city employees will receive in 2018. Last year, the council agreed to raise the mayor’s salary by $3,000 per year each year until the position was earning as much or more than city department heads. Next year, department heads will make $2,300 per year more than the mayor — who is their boss.
“I respect what you’re doing, but he’s our boss. I think you should take it further. I think it’s crazy that I have a boss that makes less than me,” said Fire Chief Tom LaRue. Wastewater Superintendent Mike Cook concurred. Council members indicated they were comfortable with the pay increase schedule they discussed last year.
“That says a lot about you as department heads, that you don’t care how much of a raise he gets,” said Councilwoman Nicole Penrod. The mayor’s salary will be $67,571 in 2018.
• The Council approved the first reading of a rezoning request for a property outside the city limits. The property at 995 E. Old U.S. 30, owned by J&E Enterprises, is currently zoned as industrial, which has made it difficult for owner Jim Gingrich to find tenants. Gingrich is requesting the property be rezoned as general business to allow him more options. There is currently a print shop in the building, which is allowable under either industrial or general business. The Plan Commission unanimously approved the change in its last meeting, and the council unanimously passed the first reading last week.
• Park Director Mark Green reported that the county agreed to give $10,000 annually for the next five years toward the Russel and Evelyn Fahl Aquatics Center. In light of the partnership, pool membership rates will now be the same for city and county residents. Green said he hopes to start selling memberships in December, in time for Christmas, through the park and utilities offices.
• The Police Department’s new flashing speed limit sign has been delivered and will soon be on the streets. The sign with radar detector will flash the driver’s speed.
• Dave Sewell, former longtime city/county planning and building director, has been hired by the city for 16 hours per week to assist with community development.
• Councilwoman Jennifer Romano is heading the city’s annual Christmas Lighting Contest. Romano asked that all decorations be up by Nov. 24 for judging. A winner from each district will be chosen and announced at a December Council meeting.