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Milton battles rising fuel costs

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By Lorrie Kinkade

Increased fuel prices, which continue to affect everything from automobile parts to construction supplies, have left Milton commissioners seeking creative solutions in a battle to stay within budget.

During the group’s regular monthly meeting Aug. 14, commissioners were disappointed to learn that bids for repairs to the aeration system at the city’s wastewater treatment plant came in more than twice what was anticipated. The commission had expected to spend approximately $30,000 on the repairs and admitted the budget does not allow them to go higher. A representative with O’Brien Engineering who has been assisting the city on the project agreed to assist officials with redesigning the project to eliminate as much of the cost as possible. Additionally, the city’s utility department may ultimately complete some of the work. All previously submitted bids for the project were rejected by unanimous vote.

In another move to reduce expenses for the governing body, Mayor Donnie Oakley suggested the city consider purchasing a Yamaha Rhino to cut down on fuel, as well as wear and tear of the city’s trucks. The small all-terrain vehicle could be used driven by meter readers, employees checking wells at Burkhardt Bottom or to transport parts at the sewer treatment plant, he said.

“Let’s get serious about finding ways to save money,” he said, adding that Carrollton Utilities in Carroll County and the city of Madison, Ind. are already using similar vehicles to save tax dollars.

Commissioner Jerry Harmon also expressed concern over rising fuel and electric costs within city government. He suggested the commission investigate whether a fuel surcharge may be needed on Milton water and sewer bills.

“I’m the last person who wants to see an increase,” Harmon said. “But we have to do something.”

Oakley suggested exploring whether the city could legally add the fuel surcharge to customer bills and said he would first like commissioners to review the municipalities expenditures to see if there are other solutions for the city.

“We need to show the public we’re making every effort to conserve,” he said.

Commissions agreed to host a special meeting within the next month to analyze all city expenses before seriously considering the surcharge, which Harmon said should be no more than $2 per month per household.

The next regular monthly meeting of the Milton City Commission will take place at 7 p.m. Sept. 11 at the Milton Municipal Building.