Syracuse Town Council members prepare for the start of Tuesday’s meeting. Pictured (L to R) are Larry Siegel, Cindy Kaiser, Larry Martindale, Council President Bill Musser, Paul Stoelting and town attorney Jay Rigdon. Photo by Denise Fedorow
Syracuse Town Council members prepare for the start of Tuesday’s meeting. Pictured (L to R) are Larry Siegel, Cindy Kaiser, Larry Martindale, Council President Bill Musser, Paul Stoelting and town attorney Jay Rigdon. Photo by Denise Fedorow
SYRACUSE - Syracuse Town Council members approved allocating an additional $5,000 to the Park Board in the hopes that increasing wages for lifeguards will secure a few for the summer.

Park Superintendent Chad Jonsson reported as of Tuesday’s meeting, he had “zero applications for lifeguards.”

Councilman Larry Siegel asked about the pay and Jonsson replied it was up to $12 an hour and Goshen and Warsaw were both paying $15 an hour. Siegel asked why they didn’t increase the pay to entice lifeguards and Jonsson responded, “I don’t feel comfortable paying a lifeguard more than a full-time employee.”

Siegel, who lives near Lakeside Park, expressed concern about the near misses he’s seen with wave runners getting too close to swimmers.

“I understand the concerns,” Jonsson said, “but even when we were keeping up with other communities — two years ago we only got three applications.”

He said when it’s budget time and he brings an increase in the budget for salaries and lifeguards, maybe that will help and he suggested other town employees might need an increase as well.

Siegel said he thought having lifeguards was important and agreed with Jonsson. “We have to do something to be competitive in the labor market — there will need to be discussions.”

Councilman Paul Stoelting asked, “Does our liability increase if we don’t have lifeguards?”

Jonsson said he was told by former town attorney Vern Landis as long as they have proper signage they didn’t have to have lifeguards.

Siegel wasn’t satisfied with that and said, “I think we should do whatever we need to do to have them” and asked if they allocated funds from the Rainy Day or Riverboat funds could they still have lifeguards hired for this summer.

Jonsson said he could attempt to hire again at the higher wage rate. The Council approved the funds and Clerk-Treasurer Virginia Cazier said she’d look at which fund would be best to take it from and bring it back to the Council next month.

In other park business, Jonsson reported the swim ropes are in at the beach. He also reported that on April 30 he had 22 teens — 15 members of the football team and eight members of the soccer team - help with planting trees and it went quickly.

Public Works Director Mark Aurich explained to the council that the Redevelopment Commission approved using funds from the Syracuse Tax Increment Fund to pave roads in the tax increment finance (TIF) district, which includes the corridor of Ind. 13. The Council approved having a couple of roads that lie within that TIF district to be paved using the general street budget. Aurich was asking that approval be amended so that instead of Harkless Drive, those funds could be used to pave Maple Grove, Forest Lane, Poplar and Medusa.

He also asked the Council’s approval of the Redevelopment Commission’s approval to use TIF funds to pave Harkless Street (Chicago to Pickwick), the intersection of Front and Medusa, Maple Street and to pay the town’s matching portion of the Community Crossing grant for Main and Railroad streets at $62,705.

The total for all the roads to be paved is $285,705, with $205,705 coming from the Syracuse TIF district and the rest from the Street Department’s budget. The Council approved both requests.

Town Manager David Wilkinson said, “We’re very grateful for the RDC, we’ll be able to do a lot more street paving than in the past and that’s good for the town.”

Town attorney Jay Rigdon updated the Council regarding a property on Cable Lane. He said the Council asked him to send a letter to the property owner about the building issues and that the house wasn’t hooked up to sewer. Rigdon said the town inspector reported that a permit for a tap-on had been applied for, as well as a permit for building, but there’s been no evidence of any work being done.

He said they gave the property owner a deadline that passed in early May and Rigdon wanted to know if they wanted to give them another 30 days or start litigation. One Council member asked how long the situation had been going on. Rigdon said he found copies of a letter Vern sent dated 2018 and another dated 2020.

Rigdon said, “If he’s done the permits at least he’s thinking of doing something,” but added if the Council decides to start litigation he feels the property owner has been given fair warning.

Siegel said it was time to “get aggressive.” Council President Bill Musser said residents of Cable Land had been appalled about the situation. The Council advised Rigdon to initiate litigation.

In other business:

• Wilkinson said he’s having Bose-McKinney review the job descriptions at a cost not to exceed $1,500.

• Police Chief Jim Layne reminded residents about the high grass ordinance. If the grass is higher than 9 inches, the property is in violation and will be staked. Once staked they have five days before it is turned into the town for a work order and the property owner will be billed.

• Jeremy Hardy of Commonwealth reported updates on the projects he’s working on.

• Heard the burned-out house on Boston Street is in the process of being torn down. Fire Chief Mickey Scott said a town ordinance is needed to secure such properties and he will look into that and bring it back to the council.

• Heard a CPR class will be June 29 at 4 p.m. at Turkey Creek Fire Station number one at 402 N. Huntington St. The class is free but registration is requested by calling 574-457-5507. The free CPR class is held every fifth Wednesday.