Costly winter, city classification heat up city council meeting

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. (WLFI) – A costly winter and a new classification for the city were the topics up for discussion at a West Lafayette City Council meeting Monday night.

The council voted a second and final time to transfer money from the rainy day fund to help pay for this year’s harsh winter, but not all council members were on board.

Between sand and salt, overtime, potholes and equipment repairs, it was a costly winter for the city. By a vote of 6-1, the council voted to move the funds. Mayor John Dennis said the city will transfer about $390,000. Some of that money will also go towards street work to prepare for another possible harsh winter.

But councilwoman Vicki Burch voted down the transfer, saying she thinks other funds should be used. She doesn’t consider the harsh winter an emergency.

“The rainy day fund is one indicator of a city’s financial health and I just don’t feel we should be digging into it,” said Burch.

“Our cash reserves, for the most part, our savings and our rainy day fund is sort of like interest earned on an account. I wouldn’t want to ever construe that to be disposable income. But in the event of an emergency, like this past winter was, our rainy day fund is specifically where we go to for that,” said Dennis.

The council had its first vote on a change of classification from a Class 3 to a Class 2 city. The change comes after the recent annexation. According to Indiana code, second class or Class 2 cities have between 35,000 and 600,000 residents.

Dennis said it would give residents another city council member and force the city to redistrict. It would take away the position of a clerk-treasurer and create two positions of clerk and controller. He said it will also bring in more state funding.

But Burch voted down the change, saying she needs to know more about switching classifications.

“What exactly are the funding opportunities, specifically? I’m not hearing any specifics. I’m just hearing generalizations of funding from the state and funding from the feds, but what are they? What are the agencies, what will the money be used for?” asked Burch.

“Often times, when they’re trying to distribute funding throughout the state of Indiana, they go by classifications. It’s not as though you are getting specific money because of the classification, it’s just how you fall on the distribution list. So as a Class 2 city, we would be more competitive for funding because of the status,” said Dennis.

As News 18 has already reported, the council is expected to vote a second time either at the July or August meeting. Dennis said the city needs to wrap up the process by November, a year ahead of the municipal elections.

The council also learned more about the State Street Master Plan. Perhaps most notable in the presentation was the information that the plan calls for roundabouts at the intersections of State Street and Tapawingo Drive and State Street and River Road. Those details raised questions from several council members.

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