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Town of Castalia
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Castalia votes to start street repair project
Castalia commissioners voted on Tuesday, February 6 to allow Stocks Engineering to begin work to solve drainage issues on three streets in Castalia: Harrison St., Estelle St., and Church Street, one of the main thoroughfares through the town. The estimated costs of the repairs will be over $75,000 which will be paid out of designated Powell Bill funds.

Citizens have long complained of damage to property from blocked drainage systems on these roads. In the past, the Castalia Town Board has tried other stop-gap measures to address the situations, but they have proved unsuccessful.

Kevin Varnell, a project manager with Stocks Engineering was present at the most recent town meeting to meet with commissioners and answer questions about the project. According to Varnell, the drainage problems often result from actions of homeowners.

"Typically, 90% of the problem is homeowners dumping grass clipping and debris in the ditches," Varnell said. "Silt build-up, root growth, and overhanging tree branches that fall in the ditches are other causes of the problem."

Varnell said that the next step would be to determine what was causing the drainage problems on the specific streets mentioned and decide how to address them. Then, he said the town board would need to decide whether they wanted to cut new ditches on these roads or install curb and gutter at a higher costs.

"If you want to do curb and gutter in the near future, it would be better to do that upfront instead of paying money to dig ditches that will go away when the curb and gutter is installed. However, if it will be years down the line before you want curb and gutter, you need to address the immediate problem with ditches," Varnell explained.

Commissioners also heard an audit report from David Ess of Nashville accounting firm, Pate, Horton, and Ess. Ess said that the general fund balance for the town did well and was a "clean report." However, the water fund continued to face shortfalls, this year with a loss of roughly $8,000.

"This situation will need to be addressed soon," Ess said, "most likely with a rate increase."

Ess said that the annual water rate increases of 5% each year for the past several years was not even covering the rising increase in operating costs, much less addressing the larger problem of a water budget was seriously underfunded.

"I don't think you can really cut costs to solve this problem," Ess said. "It appears to me that you are operating on a bare-bones budget as it is."

Commissioner Russ Sigmund asked Ess if he could come up with a figure that would cover the costs and suggest a way that water rates could be gradually increased over a three year period in order to bring the budget into line. Ess said that he would present a suggested rate increase at a future meeting.

In other business, Fred Winners was voted in as co-chairman of Castalia's annual Fourth of July committee. Originally, Lisa Jordan and Ken Rice had been selected as co-chairs. However, at the Castalia town retreat, Mayor Ellene Leonard said that the committee was not satisfied with Jordan's actions as chairman since she had been unable to attend several meetings. Rice and Winners will now serve as co-chairs of the annual event which is a highlight of the community.

Commissioner Russ Sigmund, who has been present at several of the Fourth of July committee meetings, said that overall he was really pleased with how the plans were going this year. "We have had several fund-raisers to raise money for the event and they have been successful," he said. "Everything is going well. I think this will be one of the better years for the event."

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