New Madison Police Department officers Cameron Blankenship (left) and Joseph Gibson. (Madison Courier staff photos by Mark Campbell)
New Madison Police Department officers Cameron Blankenship (left) and Joseph Gibson. (Madison Courier staff photos by Mark Campbell)
Madison City Council approved a list of appointments by Mayor Bob Courtney, introduced new police and fire personnel and heard annual reports from all city departments in its first meeting of the year Tuesday at city hall.

The beginning of the annual reports included the introduction of three new staff members reported earlier in The Madison Courier: Mindy McGee, chief of staff, Hannah Fagen, director of community relations and Brian Martin, city building inspector.

Martin gave a preliminary report on the city’s commercial and residential projects in 2019 — 47 commercial constructions valued at $20,745,850 and 132 residential projects valued at $23,563,659. Ten of the commercial builds and 31 of the residential are ongoing.

The city responded to 175 property nuisance calls in 2019 of which eight were declared unsafe. Two of the structures have been demolished, one is approved for demolition, two are being rebuilt and one is awaiting Department of Natural Resources approval to rebuild since it is in a flood plain.

Planning and Preservation Officer Nicole Schell gave an overview of 2019 projects. She said the city’s PACE grant program gave out $73,086 in grants and the Redevelopment Commission granted another $39,413 to projects. Those projects were matched by $187,504 by property owners.

The Historic Board received 103 applications with 91 approved and five denied. The office reviewed another 45 applications, Schell said. She said the city’s Stellar program also saw its biggest year since the designation was declared in 2017.

Utilities Manager Brian Jackson said the city actually spent more in 2019 than it took in through billing but much of that was for implementation of a smart meter upgrade that should make future meter reading and water purchase charges more accurate. In the past four years the city has spent $396,000 out of water department funds and $350,000 from the sewer department on the meter project and expects to spend another $200,000 in 2020.

Jackson said the city is also developing a 20-year master plan for all utilities and re-doing its sanitary sewage treatment ordinance.

Parks and Recreation Director David Stucker said the department continues to add leagues and recreation opportunities — including seventh grade basketball and cheerleading in 2019 — and is focused on using the Rucker Sports Complex even more during the summers. He said Pickleball was added to Brown Gym in 2019 with three courts open from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Monday through Friday and the tennis courts at the former Madison Country Club are earmarked for revitalization for use for Pickleball and other racquet sports and at some point that facility would probably be added to the parks system.

Stucker said one of the expenses parks is facing in 2020 involves electrical and lighting projects at Rucker Complex, John Paul Park and Bicentennial Park and replacement of the heating and air-conditioning system at the Comfort Station on Main Street.

Street Department Superintendent Tony Sorrells went over his 2019 report, noting Public Works ended the year with a $118,429 balance while motor vehicles and highways had a balance of $223,902 remaining with one outstanding bill.

Sorrells said the city resurfaced 23 streets in 2019 — Vaughn Drive the biggest — and replaced 61 curbs and sidewalks, built 58 handicapped ramps and did several drainage repairs and replaced culverts.

The street department also supported several of the city’s festivals by putting up temporary fencing, electrical systems and stages and then taking it all back down including 109 hours for RiverRoots at a cost of $3,124; 208 hours for Ribberfest at a cost of $4,061, and 380 hours for Madison Regatta at a cost of $8,465.

Sorrells said the city sanitation department collected 3,021 tons of garbage in 2019 with 7,666 hauled by Rumpke. The compost program collected 1,564 tons and 343 tons of leaves were collected with that program still winding down. He said the city collected 1,193,800 pounds of recyclables as well as 188,000 pounds of metal at the transfer station.

Matt Wirth, the city’s new director of economic development, said he was just getting started and only two days into his work year but he recapped several projects that he and the city played a role in when he worked for the Jefferson County Industrial Development Corporation in 2019, including redevelopment projects at the Cotton Mill and Armour Plastics.

Wirth said he is working with Madison Consolidated High School’s Cub Manufacturing, Cub Engineering and Cub Diesel programs, Ivy Tech and Hanover College engineering to help develop curriculum and classesto “prepare students for careers right here in Jefferson County.”

Madison Police’s deputy chief, Major Ben McKay, said police service calls were up 1,800 over 2018 with 12,409 total dispatches. He said vandalism, breaking and entering/theft calls and reports of suspicious subjects in vehicles all increased.

In related business, Courtney issued the oath of office to two new police officers — Patrolmen Joseph Gibson and Cameron Blankenship.

Courtney also administered the annual oath of office to the city’s fire department leadership with Bill DeVries renamed chief, Ken Washer deputy chief and Travis Conover chief of Battalion 1 and Josh Gourley chief of Battalion 2.

DeVries said the fire department went on 730 calls in 2019 of which 265 were fires and 465 were medical or rescue emergencies. He said 500 free-smoke detectors were installed in the city and county and firefighters completed a record 3,169 training hours.

DeVries introduced 10 new firefighters who recently completed their Level 1 Certification and issued them their new helmets. The group included Breeana Chandler, Austin Schell, Damian Gibson, Tyler Jackson, Loren Marsh, Zaine Thomas, Cameron Rampy, Logan Gray, Paul Manaugh and Katie Napier.

Brent Spry, manager of the Madison Municipal Airport, reported that 2019 was a record-setting year. He said the self-serve fuel farm sold 116,000 gallons of fuel to planes using the airport — more than double 2018 — and the annual air show in September drew more than 1,000 spectators on less than a $5,000 budget.

The airport also received a federal grant to install $1.2 million wildlife fence around the property and work is beginning. The airport is also again offering a flight school for residents seeking pilot training and 12 students have enrolled.

In other business, the council unanimously approved Courtney’s mayoral appointments to several boards that have meetings in the near future, including:

• Reappointment of Anthony Branden and Ray Wilson to the Port Authority for four-year terms. One vacancy remains on that board.

• Appointment of Mike Pittman and Ken McWilliams and the re-appointment of Tom Stark to the Historic Board of Review for three-year terms. Pittman and McWilliams replace John Collins and Valecia Crisafulli.

• Reappointment of Sue Livers and Shirley Kleopfer and the appointment of Season Jackson to the Human Relations Board for three-year terms.

• Reappointment of Julie Rubio, Kathy Rohfling and Theresa Stroll to the Tree Board for three-year terms.

The council also approved the re-appointment of Joe Craig and the appointment of Madison Consolidated Schools Supt. Jeff Studebaker to one-year terms on the Redevelopment Commission. Studebaker will fill a vacancy created when Ann Suchocki stepped down.

The council also approved two appointments to the city’s Plan Commission. Jerry Ralston will fill a vacancy on the board with council member Patrick Thevenow asking for and receiving approval to serve as the city council’s appointee on the commission as council member Katie Rampy steps down.

The council also unanimously elected Rampy, the fourth district council member, as the city’s mayor pro tempore.