Markle council talks historical society

The Markle Town Council met for a regular meeting on Wednesday, Feb. 17, and gathered at the newly renovated Markle Town Hall. Featured, council members (from left) Aaron McClary, Matthew Doss and Nick Lund begin the meeting.
The Markle Town Council met for a regular meeting on Wednesday, Feb. 17, and gathered at the newly renovated Markle Town Hall. Featured, council members (from left) Aaron McClary, Matthew Doss and Nick Lund begin the meeting. Photo by Katelynn Farley.

The Markle Town Council met in its regular monthly meeting on Wednesday, Feb. 17, discussing several bids for the building of a town utility garage, meeting the needs of the Markle Area Historical Society and announcing a new employee.

The council met at the Markle Town Hall for the first time since beginning renovations within the building.

Three bids were received and opened by council. First, Equiteam LLC, of Indianapolis, bid at $723,001. Second, Schenkel Construction Inc., of Fort Wayne, bid at $529,900, with a contingency allowance of $15,000, for a total of $549,900. Last, Barkley Builders, Inc., of Ossian, bid at $460,000.

After the bids had been read, Council Vice President Matthew Doss announced that Barkley Builders had previously been contracted by his place of employment for construction projects. Due to this, Doss said he felt it was best if he was not included in the vote to choose which company to accept a bid from, so that the vote would undoubtedly be impartial.

“I was unaware of this company altogether,” Doss said. “I don’t think that it would be considered a conflict of interest . . . it could have been before me . . . but just for the appearance, I probably shouldn’t vote on this. It just makes it cleaner.”

The bid opening decision was tabled for the time being to allow council members more time to research their options.

 This will also allow time for the town engineering team to go over the bid packets, at the recommendation of Council President Aaron McClary. Town attorneys will also be contacted to clarify whether or not it would be an issue for Doss to vote on the matter.

Several volunteers from the Markle Area Historical Society were present to speak with the council regarding issues surrounding historical items and who was legally responsible for them.

Prior to the current group of volunteers, the historical society was a legal entity and was run by several Senior Citizens in the community.
The volunteers explained that, over the course of time, the historical society had dissolved and lost its state designation as an official historical society.

“We have no guidance,” said volunteer Leah Long. “Who is accountable?”

By deciding who has legal ownership of the historical items, it will then ensure that items may be checked out and kept track of properly. In order to properly track each item, an inventory of the historical items must be made.

Because there were multiple legal factors to consider, council opted to table the matter until their next monthly meeting.

“I think this is just the beginning of the discovery process to determine where these lines of responsibility lie,” McClary said. “And then we can move forward with greater clarity. We’re not going to shove this off or table it indefinitely, but I don’t think we’re going to come to any conclusions on this tonight.”

Creating a board and having clarity of who is legally responsible for the historical items will also make it easier for the historical society to receive grants and funding. Already, the historical society has received a $20,000 grant that was used for the log cabin that was moved to Mill Park in Markle.

One of the historical society volunteers, Mike Grant, was named the new assistant town supervisor. Grant, along with Jon Gray, were appointed new positions during the meeting. Gray was named the general town assistant.

In unrelated business, Chad Kline, of Wells County Economic Development, gave a presentation on the 2020 Annual Report.
“2020 was kind of an interesting year, to say the least, but it was definitely not a slow year for us when it came to economic development,” Kline said. “We still had a lot of contact with businesses . . . but the contacts were a little bit different in that we wanted to make sure we provided them with the resources and necessary information.”

One major point that Kline made was the issue of housing.

“We’re trying to make sure that we are creating the opportunity for population growth and workforce growth,” Kline said.

Another major project is creating a broadband task force. This task force will aid Wells County in ensuring that those who live rurally and/or deal with e-learning, telemedicine or are working from home still have access to the Internet.

Three correspondence letters were received from different area entities. First, the Norwell Future Farmers of America group requested donations for their “Smart Choices for Life” program. In previous years, the town had donated a total of $225 to the group. They opted to do the same for 2021.

The Huntington North High School Post Prom Committee also requested funding for the 2021 Post Prom. No funds were allocated for HNHS, as donations had never been made in the past.

“We will reserve our funds for other opportunities,” Doss said.

The Indiana Department of Environmental Management (IDEM) sent correspondence regarding the St. Henry Tile Company and several permits.
The issue of trash removal was also discussed. Several townspeople had experienced a delay in trash removal recently.

Clerk-Treasurer Stephenie Hensley explained that “there was no good explanation” for why the delays had occurred. According to Hensley, Waste Management had not initially provided any information about why the delays had occurred.

After some time had passed and more complaints had  been made, it was explained that issues with personnel shortages, combined with the large snowfall in the area, had caused the delay.

This issue brought up discussion of how to best reach townspeople and get information out to the public.

In a previous council meeting, a presentation had been made about a texting service the town could use to send and receive information between town officials and townspeople. Councilman Nick Lund asked if the texting service would have been a good option for relaying updates on trash removal.

It was later explained, however, that the texting service was very costly and, after CARES Act money was no longer available, it could cause issues within the town.

“CARES Act money won’t always be there,” said Doss. “And we don’t want the town to begin to rely on this (feature) and then have to take money out of another budget for it down the road.”

Aside from suggesting that someone look into providing a local hotline number for Waste Management, no further discussion took place on the matter.