At the March Town Board meeting, Mayor Pat Taylor asked for consensus to send a letter to legislators outlining concerns about proposed changes to the ABC System contained in SB87/HB 91. It involves the merger of separate municipal ABC System boards into a single county board, eliminating multiple ABC Boards.
“This might make sense for a large county with several ABC Boards, but there are only two in Macon County, one in Franklin and one in Highlands and we want to keep it that way,” he said. “We want our ABC Board to operate our system and allocate the money to support our nonprofits and our town.”
According to ABC Board member Andrew Schmar, the profits from Highlands alcohol sales – $3 million over the last 25+ years – are distributed to various departments in town government and to nonprofit organizations that address social issues related to alcohol treatment and rehabilitation initiatives.
The proposed statutes include the option for multiple systems within a county to voluntarily merge into one board.
“We have no objections to a voluntary option being a part of the ABC statute, with option and voluntary being the keys words,” said the mayor. “One size doesn’t fit all.”
The board unanimously agreed to send a letter outlining their concerns to legislators.
Unfunded state mandate
The mayor also initiated a discussion concerning a resolution the League of Municipalities distributed against an unfunded state mandate that orders municipalities and counties to fund retirement benefits for full-time fire fighters. The money would come from municipalities’ taxpayers even though as in Highlands case, the fire district extends far into the county. In addition, the fire tax which is collected district-wide, can’t be used to fund retirement benefits.
“This isn’t equitable especially since the fire tax can’t be used to fund the retirement system,” said Commissioner Amy Patterson. “It’s not fair to expect the local government to carry the burden.”
Instead of signing the League’s resolution, commissioners agreed to send a letter outlining their concerns.
“We agree, [about firefighters deserving retirement] we just need to look at the resolution more carefully,” said Commissioner Eric Pierson.
Main Street Webcam
The theft of a chainsaw from the back of a pickup truck parked on Main Street and again from a truck parked in Highlands Plaza initiated discussion about the video capability of the Main Street Webcam.
Police Chief Bill Harrel said by going through the low-resolution, stop-action pictures taken every 10 minutes coupled with high resolution surveillance video from Highlands Plaza, his department was able to make a case against the thief.
However, he asked if the town was able to video the street, as in the plaza and at some retail establishments, which would help in criminal investigations.
“There have been numerous occasions when a playback feature would have been helpful concerning a crime being committed,” he said.
Initially, commissioners didn’t want people to feel like they were under surveillance while they walked down the sidewalks, which is why they went with the picture every 10 minutes. But in the end, they decided the possible good outweighed their concerns. Now a 14-day video with the playback feature will be available to the police and town before it is written over. However, unlike the stop-action snapshots of the street, the public won’t be able to view the video.
Mayor Taylor said no one will be monitoring the video. “This will just enable the police to retrieve footage for criminal investigative purposes.”
Water Plant Filter
At the Finance Committee meeting and then at the Town Board meeting, financing the initial fix for a broken plastic component in the filter system at the water plant was discussed and money allocated.
The system is only six years old and Highlands wasn’t the only municipality to buy the system which has the state concerned.
The town is paying W.K. Dixon Engineers to find out what went wrong.
Media is getting into the filter, but the backwash process has kept it from moving through the system and into the town water. Town engineer Lamar Nix said there is a short-term, intermediate and long-term plan.
“Right now, we are in the discovery stage; finding out what caused it so we can fix it immediately. Beyond that we want to make sure it doesn’t happen again,” he said. “Right now, we have two of everything so if one goes down, we have the another, but I want three instead of two. A triplicate system is the long-range view.”
Town Manager Josh Ward said since only one side of the system is being used at a time right now, the water flow could be less which is OK now but it won’t be OK come season, so it needs to get it fixed.
Nix said the problem is an underdrain system within the filter that needs to be repaired. The block underdrain system is made up plastic structures with a stainless-steel cap system. A small opening happened on one end allowing filter media to get into the underdrain.
“We are replacing that underdrain immediately. Looking forward, we are monitoring the other filter closely with the idea that it may need to be replaced next fiscal year. It lasted six years and there is no evidence of why it is compromised. The long-range plan is to use a different underdrain system on the next two.”
- This year’s Ecumenical Sunrise Easter Service will be at Memorial Park instead of the Nature Center or K-H Founders Park.
- Lawn maintenance companies and residents will face a citation if they fill roadside ditches with debris.
- The bearproof street cans have been ordered. They are expected to be in within six weeks
By Kim Lewicki, Highlands Newspaper