Berne, LICA sign for more sewer work

    Berne City Council on Monday officially signed a contract with LICA LLC for continued improvements to the city's sanitary sewer collection system. The local firm's bid of $789,627 was accepted in April as the lowest of nine submitted for the work. The engineering estimate for the project was $925,000.
    The construction is being partially funded through a $960,000 grant received by the city last fall. Federal Community Development Block Grant funds for disaster recovery were made available to aid communities in economic recovery after natural disasters caused damage in many areas across the state during 2008.
    The grant funding allowed Berne to proceed ahead of schedule with sewer separation projects mandated by the Indiana Department of Environmental Management.
    The city  is under orders from IDEM to eliminate Combined Sewer Overflows (CSOs) and to separate storm and sanitary sewer lines. Projects to be undertaken in the latest round of improvements will include a separated sewer line which will send storm water to the new Lehman holding pond.
    A similar project to separate combined sewers in the Franklin-Hendricks street area will send storm water to the city's new south trunk line, and to create a new sanitary sewer line to the Main Street lift station.
    In other business on Monday, the council approved a recommendation from Clerk-treasurer Gwen Maller to seek a 3.5 percent increase in the annual fee paid by six surrounding townships for fire protection provided by the Berne Fire Department. The suggested increase is the same as last year, following several years of annual 5 percent hikes, Maller said.
    Dave Burson, a member of the city's Sister City committee, gave council an update on the committee's progress over the past several months. He said guests at the upcoming Swiss Days festival will include the mayor and clerk-treasurer of Trachselwald, Switzerland, a community with which Berne is attempting to foster a Sister City relationship.
    Also during Monday's brief meeting, the council approved first readings of a pair of pay ordinances for 2012, including one to grant a $600 across-the-board pay increase for all city employees. The pay raise equals approximately 1.55 percent for each employee and was recommended by Mayor John Minch.
    The pay hike also affects the clerk-treasurer, the lone elected official to be included in the ordinance because of her fulltime employment status. City council members and the mayor will receive no pay increases.