Buchanan approves new city manager

Published 4:00 pm Tuesday, May 23, 2023

Getting your Trinity Audio player ready...

BUCHANAN — Buchanan City Commissioners made it official Monday as they voted to hire Benjamin Eldridge as the new city manager. 

Eldridge currently works for the town of Millersburg, Indiana in Elkhart County and will start his new duties here June 26. 

The City Commission’s decision came after a 15 minute closed session with City Attorney Mathew Denby to go over details of the contract. Commissioners came back into open session and voted unanimously to hire Eldridge. The new contract is for one year and pays him a salary of $97,000. 

Eldridge, 51, was the commission’s choice after they interviewed three finalists in early May. He and his wife, Michelle, live in Goshen and have two grown children. He is a professional water and wastewater operator with over 20 years of experience in local government management and operations and community development.  

Millersburg is a small farm community in Elkhart County with a population of 1,000 people. He started out working in the town’s street department and then got his water and wastewater operator’s license. He has continued to do more and more for the town and have overseen several community projects. 

During his interview, he called his three greatest traits as his honesty, his responsibility and being a visionary. He said he will have an open door for staff, commissioners and citizens and will keep commissioners up to date with what’s going on.  

His goals for his first year are to balance the budget which now has a deficit, meeting the benchmarks set by the city commission and having a good working relationship with staff and with local businesses. He also plans to focus on customer relations with the public and taking an inventory of what the city has and how that inventory can be utilized. 

It was Eldridge’s comments about the city’s budget as well as knowledge of water and sewer matters that earned him praise from commissioners during his early May interview. 

Monday, commissioners and interim city manager Tim Lynch welcomed Eldridge who was in attendance with his wife. Lynch is expected to stay on to mentor Eldridge during the transition. No time frame was given for how long Lynch will stay on. He recently retired as the manager of the Benton Harbor-St. Joseph Wastewater Treatment Plant. 

“I’m looking forward to working with you in the transition,” Lynch told Eldridge. 

“Welcome aboard, I’m quite sure you will do a great job,” Commissioner Larry Money said. “I have every confidence in you. Tim is a great coach, you can learn a lot from him.” 

Fellow commissioners Patrick Swem and Mark Weedon and Mayor Sean Denison gave similar words of welcome.  

The bulk of Monday’s meeting was spent on the city’s new 2023-24 budget. The city’s fiscal year starts July 1. Commissioners approved the new budget as well as budget amendments to the current 2022-23 budget during the meeting after a public hearing and budget presentation by Lynch. 

The new budget calls for a total of $7,185,238 in revenue and expenditures for the general fund, major streets, local streets and water-sewer funds. Of that total, the general fund calls for $3,520,500 in revenue and $3,326,050 in expenditures with $248,000 set aside for equipment replacement. 

The general fund numbers are lower than the current year budget which called for $4.25 million in revenue and $4.7 million in expenditures. Lynch called the new general fund budget as realistic and fiscally prudent. The budget calls for funding a full-time code enforcement officer and a part-time deputy clerk. 

In his letter to the commission about the entire city budget, Lynch wrote “Going forward, it is imperative that cost controls be implemented on a consistent basis to achieve a positive bottom line for the City financially.” 

In public comments about the budget, resident Carla Johnson asked commissioners to think about city residents and the high tax burden they have as the city levies one of the highest property tax millage rates in the county. She noted that the city’s population is actually declining. 

“Please consider who your constituents are, cut costs and focus on basic needs and not pie in the sky dreams,” she said. “Please represent the people, it’s everyone’s money, not just the squeaky wheel.”

Buchanan approves new city manager