Markle council sees voluntary annexation petition

Members of the Markle Town Council took a first official look at a petition for voluntary annexation of three parcels belonging to Novae Corporation at their regular meeting Wednesday, Aug. 21.

The three properties total about 8.4 acres and are contiguous to the town of Markle, said Council President Mark Hamilton.

He added that a public hearing on the proposed annexation will be conducted at the next regular council meeting on Sept. 18. Following the hearing, the council will likely vote on adopting the fiscal plan and annexation of the properties into the town limits.

Any plans that Novae may have concerning use of the properties once they are annexed are not official, said Markle Redevelopment Commission President John Markley.

On another matter, the council unanimously voted to give $3,000 to the Markle Cemetery Board to pay for mowing, maintenance and other expenses of the cemetery.

President Linda Caley told the council that the expenses have gone above what the cemetery is bringing in order to provide proper upkeep. As of July 31, the cemetery board paid $6,525 for mowing alone, she said.

“We simply do not have enough income generated for that high of an expense,” she added. “We are not alone in this problem. Cemeteries across the state are having the same issues.”

Caley said lot sales and burials are down. So far this year they have sold only five spaces, she said, with five burials and two cremation burials.
“In the past those numbers would be in teens,” she said. “I think because of the high cost of funeral services, people are choosing cremation and many people that are cremated don’t get buried.”

Caley added that the addition of a 48-space columbarium should help increase its income, with 46 of those spaces donated to the cemetery board to sell.

The state of Indiana requires cemeteries to have an endowment fund for the perpetual care of the cemetery, but they can only use interest generated from that fund to pay for that care. Caley said they earned $1,405.58 last year and have earned $724 so far in 2019 – not enough to cover expenses.

The cemetery board has also been in contact with Sen. Travis Holdman to see if anything can be done at the state level to help alleviate the adverse financial situation.

The town last gave the cemetery board $3,000 for expenses in December 2018. The amount will come out of the town’s riverboat fund.
Councilmen also unanimously passed Ordinance 2019-2, amending Markle’s Unsafe Building Law to authorize the Huntington Countywide Department of Community Development (DCD) to administer the ordinance.

The ordinance also designates the DCD as the enforcement authority, designates the town council as the hearing authority and prescribes monetary penalties for violations.

Marla Stambazze, representing the DCD, said the previous unsafe ordinance did not give the town council the authority to rule as a hearing authority, giving that power instead to the county commissioners.

“We want to get that corrected, plus the fact that we want to make sure that you have fees and fines in there, in the event that you did want to tear something down, you could issue fines until they clean up the mess,” she said.

Councilman Matthew Doss commended the DCD for the process that the department follows in dealing with unsafe building issues, after he and Stambazze met to go over some previous concerns he had since the ordinance’s first reading in July.

“It’s a process that works with the properties’ owners as much as they can, compared to the other processes that we see. It’s a sound way of looking at things,” he said. “This just gives the Town of Markle some more authority to keep it local.”

On another action item the council agreed to donate $100 to the Huntington County Council on Aging.

Town Marshal John Markley reported that there has been an uptick in people entering cars that have been left unlocked around town and stealing items from them.

“Make sure if you want to keep hold of your stuff that you lock it,” he warned.

Councilman Aaron McClary said he wanted to note that the incidents are not the homeowners’ faults, but locking a vehicle is a preventative measure.

Clerk-Treasurer Carolyn Hamilton announced the 2020 budget hearing has been moved back to the next meeting on Sept. 18, and the council is set to adopt the ordinance at its Oct. 16 meeting.