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March 21, 2013

City pondering how to deal with flare-ups

10th Street median fires examined

JEFFERSONVILLE — A substantial jump in the number of fires that have occurred in the landscaped medians on 10th Street prompted the Board of Public works to examine what changes could be made this year.

According to Jeffersonville Fire Department Chief Eric Hedrick, the fire department responded to one mulch fire in the median area in 2011 and 56 in the same area during 2012. The total number of grass and much fires in Jeffersonville more than tripled, from 24 in 2011 to 87 in 2012.

Mayor Mike Moore said his understanding of the deal — which was entered into under the previous administration — is that the mulch used in the medians was supposed to be fire retardant. Public Works Director Rick Lovan agreed.

However, City Attorney Les Merkley said there is no provision in the contract that stipulates the mulch be fire retardant.

“The bottom line is, unfortunately, we have a contract that was entered into prior to us coming in and ... we are obligated to abide by that contract, despite the problems we’re experiencing,” he said.

The contract with Walnut Ridge Nursery includes a two-year maintenance agreement and is set to expire at the end of 2013.

“If it’s that big of an issue, which looking at the numbers it is, is there not a way we can work out something where the mulch can be removed?” asked Bryan Glover, board member and city councilman.

Merkley said the contract could be amended through mutual agreement if Walnut Ridge agreed to the changes. For the last year of the contract, the cost of the mulch is listed at $48,000 and up to $44,644 could be spent on services.

Dennis Julius, an owner of Walnut Ridge and city councilman, agreed that the contract specified what type of mulch to put in — a hardwood mulch — but not that it had to be fire retardant.

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