Town council in quandary over Hope trash vote

HOPE — The Hope Town Council is faced with a matter of financial consequences over its action to set and then rescind mandatory trash pickup, council president Clyde Compton said.

Today’s 5:30 p.m. meeting at the Hope Town Hall comes one month after council members rescinded an Aug. 15 vote to begin mandatory trash pickup this fall, Compton said.

On Sept. 19, council member Ed Johnson cited a parliamentary manual to rescind his earlier approval of a three-year contract with CGS Services of Morristown to provide the trash service.

The only explanation given was that concerns remain on whether the town can legally put charges for trash pickup on the same bills issued for water and sewage service.

By a vote of 4-1, other council members followed Johnson’s lead and rescinded their approval after Johnson claimed they were allowed to do so under Robert’s Rules of Order.

However, further research shows such an action is not permissible under Indiana law when the rescinded ordinance involves a contract with an outside person or entity, Compton said.

In addition, CGS Services has already purchased about $50,000 worth of new equipment and supplies to operate the service in Hope, the council president said.

“I’m afraid of a possibility of a mass lawsuit,” said Compton, the only council member who voted against rescinding the contract. “But I don’t know what the council will do.”

Efforts to rescind the contract began immediately after council members learned last month Hope residents are likely to face a 37.4 percent hike in their water bill over the next 16 months.

For a household using 5,000 gallons of water a month, that will mean an additional $10.65 on each monthly bill, according to rates quoted by Hope Town Manager J.T. Doane.

In late 2015, the council had approved increasing water bills 60 percent to fund a $3 million upgrade of the town’s water distribution system.

Under the three-year contract approved in August, the monthly cost of trash service for each resident will be $7.55 for the first year.

During the second year, the price goes up to $7.78 a month, and caps off at $8.01 for the third and final year. The town also plans to add $1 each month to cover administrative costs.

In other business, the council is expected to give final approval of a $1.24 million budget for next year.

While Doane said there are no significant changes from this year’s $1.23 million budget, the council will give final consideration today to a salary ordinance that calls for a 2 percent pay increase for most town employees.

If you go

The Hope Town Council will conduct its regular monthly meeting today at 5:30 p.m. in their chambers at the Hope Town Hall, located on the northeast corner of the town square at 404 Jackson St.

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Mark Webber is a reporter for The Republic. He can be reached at mwebber@therepublic.com or 812-379-5636.