Batesville Councilman Alleges Misuse of Taxpayer Funds; City Responds

first_imgBatesville Mayor Rick Fledderman responded during the council meeting on Monday:There has been discussion and controversy concerning the recent five-year Wastewater Rate Study that is required per the Sewer Use Ordinance. The recommendation of the study included a capital improvement plan and a recommendation of a rate increase from 5% to 15%. At no time did the Mayor, Board of Works or City Councilmember propose a 15% increase. The recommendation of the Board of Works was for a 5% increase the first year followed by a 3% increase the following year. Upon considering the recommendation the City Council voted and approved on first reading a 5% increase for year one and a 1.5% increase for year two.A capital improvement plan is always part of every rate review. In this case, the plan was put together based on the improvements needed over the next five years for the Batesville Wastewater Utility. One item included in this plan has been the subject of discussion and controversy. The liner and earthen basin is in need of replacement and repair. The City does acknowledge that upon a more detailed repair/replacement estimate of this item the actual cost to do so is $410,225. The Board of Works has made no public comment on this item per the advice and direction of legal counsel. The Board of Works has directed legal counsel to work directly with the general contracting firm that originally installed the earthen basin and liner regarding concerns with these items.It has always been the policy of this administration to use prudence and restraint when addressing situations that involved potential legal implications. Our considered view is that is in the best interests of the City and taxpayers to attempt to prevent these matters from playing out in the media in deference to the settlement process. More importantly, we believe it would be irresponsible to make public statements about such matters before undertaking an investigation into the facts. We can assure the ratepayers that the City of Batesville is working diligently to come up with a financial solution that will be in the best interest of the ratepayers and minimize any financial damage to the utility. Upon reaching a conclusion in this matter, we will make public comments on this issue.A public sewer rate meeting will be held during the next city council meeting Monday, October 13. (From left to right): District 1 Council Member Derrick Cox; District 2 Council Member Kevin Chaffee; Clerk-Treasurer Ron Weigel; Mayor Rick Fledderman; City Attorney Lynn Fledderman; District 3 Council Member Jim Fritsch; District 4 Council Member Beth Myers; Council President Gene LambertBATESVILLE – District 2 City Council Member Kevin Chaffee recently penned a letter regarding taxpayer funds and a previously held sewer rate hearing. It led to a response from the mayor and some heated discussion at Monday’s monthly meeting between Chaffee and Council President Gene Lambert.The letter we received from Chaffee reads:During recent sewer rate hearings, I asked about a project named “Earthen Basin”. The mayor said this project couldn’t be discussed for legal reasons.My engineering firm designed the earthen basin built in 2001. The project contractor recently confirmed a claim has been submitted against them based upon conclusions from an engineering report commissioned by the city.The report claims the wrong basin liner material was used, the soil subgrade was not properly compacted, and no underdrain system was installed.The liner material was changed back in 2000 because the original specified material was no longer available from the manufacturer. This change was approved by the city. Soil compaction tests were completed confirming proper subgrade preparation, and the “missing” underdrains are indeed installed and readily obvious.When presented with this information, the city’s engineering consultant said if he had known this he would have significantly changed the report’s conclusions. He said he asked the city for these records, but was told this information was not available.I asked him why he didn’t contact me prior to issuing the report, and he responded “I asked the mayor how to get a hold of you and he told me he didn’t know”. That’s odd since I sit next to the mayor at every council meeting.I also asked Ron Weigel for the total amount of taxpayer funds wasted on this quest. He responded by sending me a letter stating the amount is confidential.  Apparently both he and the mayor have something to hide.I believe the mayor is using city taxpayer funds for political purposes by trying to discredit me for a successful project completed many years ago. I reported this misuse of funds to the proper authorities and understand that it is being thoroughly investigated.last_img

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