2022 County Elections – Non Partisan Platform – WIP

can and do

Purpose:  Identify criteria for selecting and electing candidates  in the 2022 County Elections. 

  1. Publish a Five-Year Plan for Roads and Bridges:
  2. Publish a Five -Year Capital Improvement Plan (CIP) for County Infrastructure – Buildings and Grounds.  Identifies priorities for funding which helps prevent frivolous spending.
  3. Financial Plan. Update the County Comprehensive Financial Plan at least semi-annually. (The value is following the trends on spending and revenue. Out of control spending leads to tax increases.)
  4. Transparency:
    1. Publish Agendas, Minutes, Recordings, from all government meetings  on the county website. 
    2. Publish the mission and functions of all offices and departments. Include the references to the state code that establishes the legal requirements for the respective office.
    3. As part of the budget process, each office should include their list of accomplishments from the previous budget year.
  5. Septic Ordinance.  Support a revision that supports compliance with the state code and eliminates all county unique requirements that cannot be justified. 
  6. Application of better methods for assessing the extent and scope of problems, recognizing opportunities and selecting the best solutions. Ref: Brown County Leader Network

Additional information:

2020 County Elections – Platform of candidates from the Democrat Party.

The stated policy of the local Republican Party is to “not” have a county platform. They believe the state and national platform is sufficient.

Change vs Improvement — Who Decides and How?

GUEST OPINION: Change vs. improvement — who decides and how?  Submitted to the Democrat as  a Guest Opinion column –   published for  the June 8, 2021 edition

In my guest opinion column, Challenges and opportunities with new septic ordinance, Brown County Democrat, May 25, 2021, I reinforced the need for the application of better principles and methods that will lead to a higher probability of producing an outcome where everyone benefits, or at least everyone will not be any worse off in the long term. Meeting this objective requires there be a process in place that captures how citizens define the more perfect or ideal outcome, along with the feedback they will require for assessing results.

For context, the U.S. government system at all levels was designed to enable We the People to work together in making progress toward a more perfect Union, county, and community. Changes are made through amendments, new laws, ordinances, and better day-to-day decisions. What is often missing in the process is assessing results — verifying that the change resulted in better outcomes. Once legislation (new ordinance) is passed, it becomes accepted, forgotten, and problems can be ignored or are slow to be resolved.

Many of the U.S. founders were students of human nature, history, philosophy, and the Bible. Lessons of history identify that centralization of political power in the hands of the few (be it at a local or national level) is never good and produces suboptimal results. The reference to more perfect was influenced by a biblical worldview where only God is perfect and man is imperfect and expected to improve. In a secular approach to improvement, man identifies the ideal, or more perfect. In a quality management context, the customer defines the ideal.

To support continuous quality improvement, new processes and technologies for improving any system and in any area (profit, non-profit) started to emerge in the 1920s. In 1924, Dr. Walter Shewhart of Bell Labs developed a new method for managing variability that helps determine when change results in improvement. This knowledge increases the probability that change in any aspect of life will result in the expected improvement.

Variation represents the gap between the ideal or more perfect outcome and the actual situation. These methods were classified during WWII and applied to improve the quality and quantity of war materials. They were declassified after the war and shared worldwide beginning in Japan. Application of the new technologies helped companies grow — like Toyota, which became one of the largest and most profitable automobile manufacturers in the world.

At one time, it was believed that quality costs more. It is now an accepted fact among the world’s quality management profession, leading organizations, and customers that the closer a product or service gets to the ideal (a more perfect outcome) by reducing variation, the higher the quality and the lower the cost to the customer and society. This concept is referred to as the Taguchi loss function. For a more common illustration, consider the situation when you buy or receive a product or service. Do you want it to meet your expectation for quality and cost, or would you rather have a bad experience that you might share with as many people as possible?

In 2017, Brown County, through a team of volunteers, applied for and was accepted to participate in the Hometown Collaborative Initiative (HCI) sponsored by the Indiana Office of Community and Rural Affair. The intent of HCI was to provide training in order to build and sustain a capability for supporting improvements throughout the community. The project categories included Economy, Placemaking, and Leadership. The Brown County team was the first in the program’s history to select Leadership for the capstone project.

The first application was in support of a local foods’ initiative which identified that we lacked the needed capabilities and processes. We then shifted to development of support materials that integrated some basic quality principles and methods. We also developed a concept for a Brown County Leader Network (BCLN) and a supporting website (browncountyleadernetwork.com). Our first proof-of-concept project was in support of the Jackson Township Trustees Office. The COVID-19 pandemic led to a pause in further application.

In contrast to the approach that was taken to develop and approve the new septic ordinance, identifying all the stakeholders is among the first steps in applying a better process. Stakeholders include everyone who can be affected by the change in the short, mid, and long term. They can be classified into three areas: Direct (receive the service), Internal (provide the service), and Indirect (everyone else). Once the stakeholders are identified, the next step is to identify their respective needs, the products and services to be provided, and the expectations and related feedback measures. This is an iterative process that can be further developed over time as new insights and knowledges are gained.

In addition to a stakeholder assessment, additional materials support analysis, decision making, and planning that reinforce the critical need to identify and define the scope and extent of the problem. Application of the better processes by citizens can lead to further improvements and more community support for the respective changes. The new processes also allow for periodic review of the change to determine if it is achieving the expected results.

America’s system of government was designed to continually improve through leadership at all levels. Application of the better and proven methods can lead to better (more perfect) results where everyone benefits, or at least, is not any worse off in the long term.

Tim Clark

Tim Clark of Brown County is a quality improvement practitioner, educator and author who specializes in the public sector. He is a senior member of the American Society for Quality, a volunteer with the Brown County Leader Network, and an admin for the Facebook group Brown County Matters. He has served on the Brown County Redevelopment Commission and on the Brown County Schools Strategic Planning Committee. He can be reached at tjclark2036@gmail.com.

New Septic Ordinance — Challenges and Opportunities

New Septic Ordinance — Challenges and Opportunities by Tim Clark

Published in the Brown County Democrat, May 26, 2021.

The vote on May 5, 2021, to approve the septic ordinance received a “Yes” vote from Commissioners Biddle and Braden and a “No” vote from Commissioner Pittman. The overall management of the final review and approval process represents challenges as well as opportunities for improvement.

May 11, 2021 Septic ordinance approved with 2-1 vote,
Brown County Democrat, by

The public hearing date for this ordinance was first scheduled last November. Commissioner Anderson did not support the ordinance and had already decided not to run for reelection. He was replaced with Chuck Braden. I wrote a two-part article on the issues identifying a needed justification for the specific changes (Guest Opinion: Justification ordinance lacking for proposed septic ordinance Brown County Democrat, Nov 24, 2020). I also provided a response to the updated information provided to the commissioners and reinforced key points in my written comments to the commissioners provided on May 3, 2021. I share these on my website: Independent Voters of Brown County IN.

To summarize the process, approving an ordinance requires three public meetings to include considering written comments provided by citizens. Citizens were asked to limit their verbal comments at the public hearing to two minutes, which reinforced the importance of providing written comments to identify concerns, questions, and recommendations.

In the case of this ordinance, the health board, through the work of a committee of volunteers, drafted a new ordinance and recommended approval to the commissioners (elected officials). The work of volunteer committees can easily be influenced by one or more individuals with an agenda.

The “elected” officials — not appointees or volunteers — are directly accountable to the voters. The expectation is that commissioners will listen, seek to understand, and address the specific concerns and questions of their constituents before voting to approve an ordinance. These actions help to ensure the development and execution of the best policies for the county.

At the state level, as opposed to the county level, elected officials are required by law to “fully consider comments received” (IC 4-22-2-27). The default standard at the county level appears to be that if you dislike the quality of the decisions of your elected representatives, vote for a change and improve the decision-making processes.

The written comments on the ordinance were due by May 3, with the second and final vote due less than 48 hours later at 2:00 p.m. on May 5. At the second reading, Commissioner Biddle moved for an immediate vote, which prompted questions from the public. Commissioner Pittman asked for a two-week delay to allow time to review the written comments and provide a response. Commissioners Biddle and Braden refused the delay and refused to consider providing any documented justification for their approval of the specific changes included in the ordinance. Further, they did not demonstrate an understanding, knowledge, or interest in all the written comments provided by citizens, including those from their fellow commissioner.

The decision-making process of Commissioner Biddle and Braden resulted in a disservice to the citizens opposing this ordinance, as well as to the individuals and groups that worked on its approval. Refusal to justify and defend a position can contribute to questions about motives, competence, and the overall quality of the ordinance.

In contrast, better processes could lead to an outcome where everyone benefits, or at least, are not any worse off in the long-term. This would have required the commissioners to schedule additional public meetings to allow for more in-depth discussions on the issues and areas of disagreement. This approach can lead to better policies, community buy-in, and support for the changes. It may only take two votes to pass an ordinance, but it also will only take two to replace it with a better version.

Why would Commissioners Biddle and Braden avoid supporting further discussions to help clarify and resolve the differences between the proponents and opponents of this ordinance? The short answer is that they do not have to.

With a monopoly on political power, some county-elected officials can choose to represent the interests of the few with little repercussion. Commissioner Pittman was the only commissioner who identified that he talked with his constituents. His concerns, questions, and position were published in the Brown County Democrat Letter: “Brown County citizens’ rights” and septic ordinance on Jan 12, 2021, and in a guest column in the Brown County Democrat, Thoughts on the proposed septic ordinance update on April 27, 2021.

From a systems perspective, elected officials can be selected based on their support for a status quo that can favor one or more special interests or groups as opposed to the interests of all their constituents. Appointed officials and volunteers can either go along to get along, or risk being a social outcast. And cognitive dissonance helps people avoid acknowledging the truth in a respective situation and while expecting better decisions on behalf of all the citizens.

A way ahead? In future articles, I will provide additional information on the issues and processes regarding this ordinance. I will also introduce some better methods that have a higher probability of producing results where everyone benefits, or at least, are not any worse off in the long-term.

Tim Clark

Tim Clark of Brown County is a quality improvement practitioner, educator, and author who specializes in the public sector. He is a senior member of the American Society for Quality, a volunteer with the Brown County Leader Network, and an admin for the Facebook group Brown County Matters. He has served on the Brown County Redevelopment Commission and on the Brown County Schools Strategic Planning Committee. He can be reached at tjclark2036@gmail.com.

May 3, 2020 Comments Proposed Septic Ordinance

Updated (edits)  May 13, 2021

My comments provided to the Commissioners requesting a NO  vote on the Proposed Septic Ordinance.  PDF  copy 2021_05_03 Comments Septic Ordinance F01

The ordinance was passed on May 5, 2021, on a vote of 2 to 1.   Specific responses to the written comments provided by citizens identifying questions, concerns, and recommendations were not discussed.  Commissioners Pittman suggested a two-week delay to allow time to review the comments and provide a response. His request was refused by Commissioner’s Biddle and Braden.

Comments  Provided  to Commissioners – May 3, 2021 

TO: Brown County Commissioners
From: Tim Clark, County resident, and volunteer – Brown County Leader Network
Subject: Comments – Proposed Septic Ordinance and Supporting Report

An ordinance that has significant impacts on most residents in the County should not be passed without a unanimous vote. Comments and questions provided by citizens should also be addressed.

The vote for this Ordinance should also be supported with documentation that justifies the requirements that exceed the state code.  Otherwise, as Commissioner Pittman has stated, stick with the state code. When the State proposes changes to the Indiana code, there are numerous public hearings and vigorous discussion and debate to include the identification of any legal ramifications. County citizens were not afforded a similar opportunity to understand the justification for the additional county requirements.

Justification for exceeding the state requirements should include cost, benefits, risks, and a respective mitigation strategy.  This standard would meet a level of due diligence expected by the citizens you have been elected to serve.  The expectation for an ordinance should include outcomes where everyone benefits or are not worse off in the long-term. This version of the Ordinance does not meet this standard.

I will continue to reinforce that a better process is needed that would result in an ordinance that all of the commissioners can support.  An outline of a process I have shared with you has been developed by the Brown County Leader Network (BCLN). This program was developed with a grant from the Office of Community and Rural Affairs (OCRA) to support the Hometown Collaborative Initiative (HCI). Commissioner Biddle initiated the application for the grant, and Commissioner Pittman provided the opening presentation to the HCI selection committee. Commissioner Dave Anderson also supported the initiative.

The BCLN team unanimously selected Leadership (as opposed to Economic Development or Placemaking) as a needed area for improvement. This decision is reinforced by the divisiveness that is associated with this proposed Ordinance and very likely community efforts to repeal if it receives a “Yes” vote.  The process for developing a stakeholder analysis would reinforce the flaws and weaknesses in the Ordinance and the processes used to develop it.

I’ve included a copy of my statement I made at the Public Hearing on April 26 (encl 1) along with more specific comments that I included in the proposed Ordinance (encl 4).

Since the “Report” (Septic Ordinance for Brown County, Indiana), written by some members of the Health Board and Septic Committee, was provided to the commissioners to support a “Yes”  vote on the Ordinance, this becomes part of the record.  The Report represents a misleading narrative that intersperses facts with speculation, anecdotes, opinions, and assumptions. My comments on the Report provided in Encl 3. The Report reinforces a misleading narrative of an “environmental nightmare” used in the past by the Health Department to justify a proposed ordinance on septic management, the creation of the Brown County Regional Sewer District (BCRSD), and the  proposed Bean Blossom Sewer plant.

I also provided an introduction to a stakeholder analysis (encl 2) to raise awareness of just some of the stakeholders and their possible if not likely interests regarding the motivations for this Ordinance.

In summary, I support Commissioner Pittman’s recommendation that an ordinance be limited to following the state code.  Any additional requirements that exceed the code should be justified to include the cost, benefit, and risk.  Further at a minimum, a stakeholder analysis should be developed to help better understand citizens’ concerns and expectation and help support any future improvement strategies.

Respectively,

Tim Clark

Enclosures:

(1) Statement made at the Public Hearing on April 26, 2021
(2) Introduction – Stakeholder Analysis. Groups and Competing Interests
(3) Comments on the “Report” developed by members of the Health Department and Members of the Septic Committee.
(4) Additional comments on the Proposed Ordinance – in caps and highlighted

Enclosure 1  Tim Clark —  Statement – Public Hearing Apr 26, 2021

As you may recall, I wrote a two-part article in the Democrat last November on this proposed decision and shared it with the commissioners.  The title of the columns was “Justification lacking for proposed septic Ordinance. Nothing has changed since then.  There have been no published challenges to anything I said or recommended.

The phrase “Nothing personal, just business” was made famous in mafia movies before someone got whacked.  To paraphrase this a little, my comments are nothing personal; it’s the process that needs to be wacked and buried.

About this time four years in ago 2017, Commissioners met with members of the Health Board and those working on the Ordinance in a “working session.”   I said the same thing then as I am now – identify the unique requirements to Brown County and provide a justification that would include costs, benefits, and risks.

I also reinforced the value of Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs). SOPs would cover both operations to help ensure consistent enforcement and administration. Administrative SOPs (guidance) would address the ambiguities in the Ordinance. For example, the use of the term “may” was used 13 times and identifies the need to include the decision criteria to help prevent selective enforcement, litigation, and abuse of power.

In my government career, if I recommended to an executive to approve a policy like this, I may have had at least 50 pages of supporting documentation with links to another 1,000 pages. The purpose would be to make the case that the solution aligns with the problem, and citizens would not be adversely affected by the change.

Another issue that came out during these meeting in 2017 was the tendency for the proponents of a new ordinance to sprinkle in a few facts along with their assumptions, opinion, and speculation on health and safety-related issues. This can result in invoking fear by scaring people as to a threat in order to obtain their support for change.  This approach was taken again with the “Report” developed by the Health Board and members of the Septic Committee that was shared with the commissioners and posted in the Democrat.

The overall experience back in 2017 led me to help support the development of a community and county decision-making process that I have shared with the commissioners and the Health Board. It is included in the support materials for the BCLN.  Maybe now is a good time to apply the process in phasing in any needed changes to the Ordinance. For the record, I will be providing written comments on the process, the Ordinance and the Report.

It may take only two (2) votes to pass this Ordinance, but it also only will take two votes to repeal it if it is passed.  I hope the Commissioners will support getting it right and will perform their due diligence on behalf of the citizens they serve.

Tim Clark

Enclosure 2 – Introduction – Stakeholder Review and Assessment

Any proposed change should result in outcomes where everyone benefits or at least, are not any worse off in the long-term.  Meeting this standard requires that you identify the stakeholders, their needs, expectations, and the feedback they need to assess results.

Below is an “introduction” to some stakeholder groups affected by the proposed septic Ordinance and their possible interests.  A formal session would obtain this information from each group and the results documented.

This “introduction” is followed by a “Getting Started” assessment developed through the Brown County Leader Network.

Competing Interests (Stakeholder/Interests)

Homeowners with Functional Septic Systems. A functional and cost-effective septic system that, when maintained has an indefinite life.

  • With a projected decline in population in Brown County, this group represents the potential new market for sewer service for existing and new plants.
  • Municipal and Regional Sewer Districts can force hook-ups and although waivers can be granted functional systems, they are only temporary.

Homeowners with non-functional or marginal systems. Pump and Haul can be a temporary solution for residents whose properties will not support a new system. Sewer service may be needed for these residents.

Sewer Plant Managers. A functional system and a growing customer base that can stabilize the increases in expenses as a result of long-term maintenance costs.

Sewer Plant Customers. Reliable and affordable service. The recommended target for a monthly fee by the State is $65.00.  The current rate in Helmsburg is $92.50 due to an aging system and a loss of customers.

Property Developers. An expansion of sewers that increases the marketability and price of their land and project.

Economic Development. An expansion of sewers that may lead to more commercial businesses and residences.

Business Owners. An expansion of sewers that prevent the need for their investment in upgrading or installing their system and lowering their cost of operations.

Government.  Safe Environment. Residents that maintain their septic systems and repair or replace as necessary.  Pump and Haul supported as a last resort. Works with the community foundation and supports residents that needs financial aid to repair or replace their systems or hook-up to a sewer. Provides information and education to homeowners to include septic system maintenance, inspection criteria, locating their system, et.al

Citizen Volunteers.  Share time and expertise. When involved in supporting changes to policies, are provided with a clear purpose and guidance. Provided the opportunity to brief appointing officials and the public with updates throughout the process to obtain feedback and direction.

Realtors. Homeowners that cannot afford the cost of sewers or repairs and replacement of septic systems are a potential customer.  Functional septic systems that easily pass inspection facilitate sales. In some cases, homes on sewers can lead to higher market value.

Septic System Industry.  Customers that need repairs and replacements and support for maintenance. Clear guidance from the government on installation and inspection standards.

Elected and Appointed Officials. ?

Gentrification? Higher costs of living in a population where 53.1% of residents are in the low to moderate-income level can lead to “gentrification,” where the higher-income individuals replace the lower-income residents.

Getting Started – Stakeholder Analysis

Name (Individual/Organization):

Contact Information: (cell, email):

What is the goal of your initiative, project, program?  

STAKEHOLDER COMMUNITY

DIRECT STAKEHOLDER – Receive the service and/or product.

  • Who are your direct stakeholders or customers?
  • What are the needs of your customers/stakeholders?
  • What services/products are or will be provided?
  • What are the expectations of your stakeholders/customers?
  • What feedback is/would be used to determine if customer expectations are being met?

INTERNAL STAKEHOLDERS

  • Who will or does provide the service and/or products?

  INDIRECT STAKEHOLDERS
•             Who are the other stakeholders that are affected and/or have an interest in the products/services provided?

Enclosure 3  – Comments –   “Report” – Septic Ordinance for Brown County Indiana  submitted by members of the Health Board, Department, and Septic Committee

Link to the Report Mar 16, 2021BCD, Septic ordinance work session packet posted – Staff Report

Septic Systems are a viable and proven technology. A report by the Environmental Protection Agency concluded that “Conventional septic systems are designed to operate indefinitely if properly maintained.” (EPA 932-F-99-075). The Presby Corporation has also identified a similar finding: “If the system is designed, installed and maintained properly, there is no limit to the life expectancy of Enviro-Septic® Technology.”

Everyone wants a healthy environment.  Citizens also want to have trust and confidence in their government to include elected and appointed officials as well as county government employees.

Since this Report was provided in support of the proposed Ordinance and referenced in the public hearing, it becomes part of the record with an expectation that the commissioners are aware of its contents, findings, conclusions, and “relevance.”

The Report does not include footnotes so references to EPA and other referenced to possible studies could not be reviewed.

 Summary

What are the specific issues or problems identified in the Report and to what extent will problems be “solved” by the proposed new Ordinance?

Regarding the terrain and soils, are septic system solutions in Brown County any different than what is being done in other areas with similar terrain and soils?  Do the condition in the County infer that all if not most septic systems should be sand-lined? If so, is there a published analysis that supports this contention?

The Report does reinforce the need for a county-wide wastewater strategy, including water sampling. This is being developed which I hope will include the identification of the scope and extent of any problem.

Misleading Narratives 

The report presents a misleading narrative that does not contribute to building trust and confidence in government. It mixes in facts – e-coli levels, records or lack thereof, and age of systems with speculation and opinions as to the viability of septic systems and possible causation to health and safety-related issues.

Septic Systems.  There is no data yet from water sampling that may help identify the scope and extent of the problem (s). The ongoing water testing for e-coli will determine what if any level is due to human contamination caused by inadequate septic systems. If there is human contamination, the next step will be to identify the source (s).  Could a few systems be causing the majority of the problem?

Enteric Disease. In reference to the 41 cases cited of enteric disease from 2012-2017 (p9), the specific source of the contamination is not known. In addition to contamination in the water and environment, poor hand hygiene and food handling can also put individuals at risk.

Pharmaceuticals. Regarding detection of pharmaceuticals in the water (p11), this topic was covered in the Brown County Democrat – STREAM SAMPLING: Where’s the contamination coming from? By Sara Clifford – 1/28/20. Information included in the article states: “The highest detections in surface waters are often associated with municipal wastewater treatment plant outfalls.” Would this be true for functioning septic systems as well, e.g., an effective septic system will not treat pharmaceuticals?

Overstatement.  On a linkage of Septic Systems Failures with Sewers, the Health Department in 2013 alleged and overstated that there was an environmental nightmare in the Bean Blossom area due to failed septic systems. This was never substantiated.  Five years later, in a follow-up report in 2018, the Health Department stated there “may be” problems due to the age of systems. (Ref: Brown County Democrat, GUEST OPINION: Justification lacking for proposed septic Ordinance,  by Tim Clark)

Trust. Maintaining and improving the quality of septic systems in the county requires the trust and cooperation of the citizenry. Communication should be clear in identifying what is known, and what is unknown. A perception of an agenda that presumes a large-scale failure of systems and pushes sewers only increase residents’ mistrust of government and opposition to any change.

Anecdotal. The statement in support of the Ordinance from a Columbus area Septic Installer represents a conflict of interest. How many installers that desire to do business in the county are going to criticize an ordinance that has been approved by the Health Board and Department?

Septic Systems – Age, Conditions, and Records

Regarding the statement: “Various sources suggest 25 years as the average lifespan for a well-maintained system” (pg 8). This claim was also used as a justification for the Bean Blossom Sewer project. This statement was not supported with a reference.

Ernie Reed, from the Health Department, has since provided follow-up information on this statement (4/29/2021) via Facebook – Brown County Matters):  He states:

  • … the failure is an industry average. Most all failures are caused by system abuse, lack of maintenance and biomat growth.
  • A properly installed, well maintained system that has not been abused should last the life of a home.
  • Understand that all systems (well maintained and abused) was counted in the average.
  • The average was a study preformed NOWRA in the late 90s and early 2000s. My old customers was a part of this study.

I have asked for a copy of this report if it is still available. Too reinforce Ernie Reed’s point, EPA and Presby have both stated that a septic system has an indefinite life if properly maintained.

The Challenge.  For the sake of argument, if you “assume” that 25-30% of septic systems throughout the County may be inadequate or failing, and many if not most of these are not in an area that will be served by sewers, then what?  What is the range of viable options? How do you validate the (25-30%) estimate and would this be a baseline for monitoring improvements over time?  What is the communication and improvement strategy with residents?

  • For the estimated 3,813 residents with systems older than 28 years, is the inference that many if not most of these system are failing and residents may be contaminating the environment? If so, if you also assume an “average” $10,000 per system to repair or replace, that would indicate a $38 million dollar expense for county residents.
  • Over half (53.1%) of residents in the County are in the low to moderate-income level (2017 survey by the RDC).
  • In the case of failing systems, are state laws being broken? If so, now what?
  • In the review of records that indicated that systems located in areas with a high-water table might be contaminating the groundwater, what are the options in these cases? Perimeter drains? Other?
  • Pump and Haul is also a last resort option for individuals that may need time and money to make needed repairs and replacements or a connection to an existing or planned sewer system. Why wasn’t this option added included in the Ordinance?

Note also, many of the “older” systems may have been repaired or replaced without notification to the Hearth Department due to lack of trust in Health Department personnel and policies.

Competing Interests

What are the motivations for this proposed Ordinance and the possible conflicts on interests among the various stakeholder groups?  See Encl 2.

The push for expansion of sewers is also advocated by those who would benefit from additional customers (sewer districts) and development to include businesses that would be saved the expense of upgrading their wastewater systems.

In the case of the Gnaw Bones sewer plant, a private developer (Real America) and not the government paid for the cost of expansion (Forest Hills Apts) and helped lower the monthly rates for all customers.

Nashville has an aging wastewater system in need of major upgrades. Their population is not projected to steadily increase. They are also developing plans for economic development.  Their wastewater treatment master plan strategy includes an allegation that residents within their coverage area would support expansion in several areas.  No surveys were ever done of residents living in these areas.

Brown County’s population is expected to decline.  A survey in 2017 identified that 53.1% of residents were in the low to moderate-income level.  Upgrading septic systems or adding a new monthly bill for sewers can be challenging for many. Further, as sewer systems age, the costs of maintenance increase. And if the population is declining, the costs can be even more prohibitive for many.  Consequently, a clear understanding of the problem, community buy-in, and comprehensive planning processes are critical for improving quality and economic sustainability.

Better Processes and Methods Will Help – BCRSD, Bean Blossom Project

To reinforce the need to consider better processes for leading change and gaining citizen support, consider the case of the Bean Blossom sewer project. This Project has been an ongoing initiative for at least 15+ years. The application (preliminary engineering report) for a new plant was introduced in June of 2018 with the expectation that the Project would be approved within a year.  Approximately $220,000 of the $270k provided by the County has been spent on plans, no land has been acquired, and letters of support included in the application are from 1998.

Nashville’s wastewater master plan has identified that they can provide service to Bean Blossom at less cost than building a new plant. Further, a previous BCRSD board when Judy-Swift-Powdrill was president, voted to work with Nashville in providing sewer service to Bean Blossom. Nashville never declined to provide service.

In contrast, “residents” in the Lake Lemon area — NOT the Health Department or BCRSD, have publicly identified failed systems, and took action to request support for sewers.  When Lake Lemon floods, over 200 septic systems are in failure mode. This is not a new issue in the area.

Action is now being taken to review possible options that may include needed upgrades and expansion of the aging Helmsburg plant. Helmsburg has lost customers and higher maintenance costs have resulted in the customer having a monthly bill of $92.50.  The suggested target rate identified by the State is $65.00 a month. Why wasn’t his project the priority as opposed to Bean Blossom?  (Hint: process).

Brown County Regional Sewer District (BCRSD) Board. A failing experiment? The platform of the local Democrat Party in 2020 included the position to dissolve this Board. There is little to no evidence that the benefit exceeds the costs. Their actions have led to acquiring a grant for a regional and wastewater strategic plan. These initiatives can be aligned under the county Planning Commission. It is this office that is responsible for comprehensive planning.

  • The wastewater strategic plan is a step in a positive direction but must also be aligned with the county’s comprehensive plan, financial plan, and any economic strategic plans. This level of required analysis and planning can be supported through the Brown County Leader Network.

Additional information regarding planning and options included in the Brown County Democrat:

Suggestion. What appears to be missing is a sustained communication strategy for building trust within the community.  Education sessions through the Career Resource Center, mailings, and access to information on septic systems, operations and maintenance, how to inspect to ensure a system is functioning properly, and the importance of knowing the location of a system are all things that would be helpful and could be reinforced on a frequent basis.  An e-book could also be helpful with reinforcement in articles in the Democrat. The priority should be to build trust and educate the citizens on septic system maintenance and inspections.

Conclusion

The Report is more in support of an overall county wastewater strategy than a justification for the changes being proposed in the new septic Ordinance.

In building community support for change, better processes should be considered.

Any changes to the proposed ordinance that exceed state code should be justified to include identifying the cost, benefit, risk, and an appropriate mitigation strategy.  Without this justification, the Ordinance should be focused on complying with the state code.

Additional Information:

I have been maintaining a blog post with a timeline associated with the proposed new Ordinance dating back to 2017. See Proposed New Septic Ordinance – For the Record

Enclosure 4   —  Comments Health Board Approved Septic Ordinance July 21, 2020

 Summary of Recommendations

  1. Overall, identify the requirements in the Ordinance that exceed what is required by the State. Develop a documented justification with credible references for these changes to include the cost, benefit, risk, and any needed mitigation strategy. The additional requirements are the most likely to be challenged in court.  This documented justification will also help identify the need and development of SOPs and/or supporting guidance.
  1. Another option at this point is to limit the scope of a new ordinance to the state code with additional guidance needed to clarify the requirement – such as on permits and inspections. This is the position of Commissioner Pittman which I support.
  1. SOPs – Operations. Commissioners should direct the Health Board to review the DRAFT SOPs (and planned additions) and their alignment with the Ordinance.
    • SOPs are a living document that support the Ordinance approved by the Board of Health. SOPs should be continually improved. SOPs would include operational and administrative procedures.  Operational SOPs have been drafted but are incomplete.
  1. SOPs – Administration. SOPs or policies should address the ambiguity in the Ordinance associated with enforcement.
    • Ambiguity is identified in the use of the word “may.” The term “shall” is defined as mandatory and identifies actions that should be addressed in an SOP. SOPs and any supporting guidance could help ensure the consistent enforcement of the Ordinance, avoid selective enforcement, litigation, and potential abuse of power.
  1. The Ordinance should include actions referenced in the SOPs – examples being “Complaints” and “Pump and Haul.”

Following is the complete proposed Ordinance.  I added comments in sections using all CAPS and BOLD type to make them easier to find and read.

Proposed Septic Ordinance

Published in the Brown County Democrat, April 21, 2021

Health Board Approved Septic Ordinance July 21, 2020

SEPTIC ORDINANCE FOR BROWN COUNTY, INDIANA

RESOLUTION

It is the desire of the Brown County Board of Health to replace the Ordinance No. 97-875 regarding the construction, maintenance, inspection, and operation of onsite sewage systems (also referred to as septic systems) to include all properties within Brown County, Indiana. Accordingly, it is hereby resolved by the Brown County Commissioners that Ordinance No. 97-875 is replaced by this Ordinance.

Applicable Indiana law and, specifically, the requirements found in Rule 410 IAC 6-8.3 are fully incorporated by reference as a part of this Ordinance and shall include any later amendment, repeal, or replacement to the statutes and regulations as the same are published in the Indiana Administrative Code, with effective dates as fixed herein. All interested persons should refer to Rule 410 IAC 6-8.3 to wholly interpret their individual application.

Set forth below are certain requirements adopted by the Brown County Board of Health (and approved by the Brown County Commissioners), in addition to the requirements of the Indiana State Department of Health set forth in Rule 410 IAC 6-8.3, relating to the construction, maintenance, inspection and operation of onsite sewage systems in Brown County, Indiana.

Proper operation and maintenance of septic systems is critical to the long-term functionality of onsite sewage systems. The Indiana Onsite Wastewater Professionals Association (IOWPA) is an excellent reference. Purdue University’s Extension Service offers guidance documents for operating and maintaining onsite sewage systems, including document # HENV-107-W.

ARTICLE I

PERMITS

Installation of new onsite sewage systems, and repairs or modifications to existing systems, require a septic permit issued by the Brown County Health Officer. The Brown County Health Department will review applications for completeness and provide timely responses to the property owner, or its designee, for deficiencies and re-submittal requirements for approval.

  • HOW IS “TIMELY” DEFINED?

Section 101: The property owner or agent of the owner must obtain a septic permit signed by the Brown County Health Officer prior to construction of any building or private residence for which an onsite sewage system is required. Plans, specifications, and other information shall be reviewed by the Brown County Health Officer prior to issuance of a permit. A permit shall be paid for at the time the application is filed.

Section 102: The Brown County Recorder shall record any bedroom affidavit required by Indiana Code 410 IAC 6-8.3 Sec.6 (2) to exempt any potential bedrooms in the definition of bedrooms for the purpose of sizing an onsite septic system for a residence. A copy of the recorded affidavit must be supplied to the Brown County Department of Health before any onsite septic system permit can be issued.

Section 103: A newly-constructed dwelling cannot be occupied until the septic permit is signed and an occupancy permit has been issued.

Section 104: The permit shall be posted in a conspicuous place at or near the construction site. It should be plainly visible from the public thoroughfare. The permit must be available on site for final inspection approval signature by the Brown County Health Officer.

Section 105: Before commencement of construction of any public or semi-public building or establishing a recorded subdivision, all plans and specifications must be submitted to the Indiana State Board of Health for review and letter of approval. Upon receipt of the letter of approval, a local construction permit must be obtained from the Area Plan Commission.

Section 106: All permits issued for construction of a private onsite sewage system are valid for a period of one (1) year from date of issuance. All construction must be completed within one year from date of issuance of the septic permit; otherwise, applicants must reapply and receive a new permit and pay another permit fee. When laws change within the timeframe the permit is active, the permit shall be deemed grandfathered as issued. Renewal permits are subject to applicable Indiana law and this Ordinance, all as amended from time to time.

ARTICLE II

INSTALLATION

Numerous treatment systems have been developed, and are being developed, to offer reasonable alternatives to traditional tank and lateral field septic systems. New systems (for example, poly tanks and Presby systems) continue to enter the marketplace, but may be at higher cost to install and operate and require more extensive record keeping to insure proper operation. The Brown County Board of Health, according to Rule 410 IAC 6-8.3, will evaluate these systems for use in Brown County.

  • WHAT IS THE PROCESS FOR EVALUATION? WHAT EVALUATIONS HAVE BEEN DONE? WHAT ARE THE ALTERNATIVES FOR BROWN COUNTY CITIZENS? WHERE IS THIS INFORMATION POSTED? 

Section 201: The onsite sewage system and soil absorption area must be identified and flagged prior to construction of any building or improvement suitable for occupancy and prior to a mobile home being placed on the property. The soil absorption area must be protected from vehicle traffic or anything that could cause compaction.

Section 202: Onsite sewage systems with issued permits must be installed and/or upgraded and receive final approval by the Brown County Health Department prior to any construction above the foundation floor level and prior to a mobile home being moved onto the property without prior approval of the Brown County Health Officer.

Section 203: For new residential construction, major repairs, and replacements, all tanks for two (2) bedrooms or less must be a minimum of 1,000 gallons. Placement of all septic tanks shall be a minimum of 10’ from the structure and a recommended maximum distance of 25’ from the structure.

Section 204: The elevation readings must be identified on the proposed septic drawings provided by a Brown County Registered Septic Contractor. Drawings without elevation readings or any other information deemed necessary by the Brown County Health Officer will not be approved.

  • IS THE ELEVATION READING REQUIRED BY STATE CODE?

Section 205: Each property owner must obtain a Soil Evaluation Report showing three soil borings, or one pit and two soil borings, per septic site. All of the soil borings or pits must be located within the soil absorption field or bed.

Section 206: For each dwelling, five hundred (500) square feet of subsurface absorption field for each bedroom and/or bedroom equivalent, with a minimum of one thousand (1000) square feet, is required for soils with a soil loading rate of 0.3 or greater. Six hundred (600) square feet of subsurface absorption field per bedroom is required for 0.25 soil loading rate. Sand-lined systems, or other technology new to Indiana (TNI) shall be configured on state-approved guidelines. Additional square footage may be required by the Brown County Health Officer as a result of the Soil Evaluation Report.

  • SOIL LOADING RATE – WHAT IS THE SOURCE/REFERENCE FOR THE INFORMATION ON SOIL LOADING?
  • WHAT SYSTEMS ARE BEING INSTALLED? THE PERCEPTION IS THAT PRESBY (sand-lined) SYSTEMS ARE THE ONES TYPICALLY RECOMMENDED. HOW IS THE DECISION MADE REGARDING TYPES OF SYSTEMS RECOMMENDED?
  • WHAT IS THE DECISION CRITERIA FOR ”MAY”?

Section 207: All trench systems must have five (5) feet of non-perforated pipe measured from the header trench to each absorption trench. This 5-foot requirement does not count for the calculation of a system’s absorption area.

Section 208: The distribution box must be coated with an asphaltic coating, with the exception of plastic distribution boxes, and contain speed levelers on each outlet pipe except as provided in Section 209.

Section 209: Speed levelers are not required on sand-lined systems if the distribution box is used only as a velocity reducer.

Section 210: Buildings, foundations, slabs, garages, patios, barns, outbuildings, above ground and belowground swimming pools, retaining walls, roads, driveways, parking areas, decks, fences, and paved sidewalks must be a minimum of twenty-five (25) feet from the absorption field if located down slope from the absorption field without a perimeter drain.

Section 211: If the distribution box does not have a riser, a piece of rebar the length of the distribution box must be placed on the lid for future metal detection locating.

Section 212: A perimeter drain is required on all four (4) sides on all sand-lined systems and sand mounds unless a change or exemption is approved by the Brown County Health Officer prior to installation.

Section 213: The high vent on sand-lined systems requiring such vent requires a 4′ anchor pipe attached to a “TEE” coming off of the distribution box for stability.

Section 214: The distance of a subsurface drain must be a minimum of ten (10) feet from the absorption field, and no greater than fifteen (15) feet. The father the distance the less effective the drain will be.

Section 215: A variance of any provision of this Article II may be approved by the Brown County Health Officer due to an extenuating circumstance (for example, poor soil condition, rockiness or steepness of slope).

  • S215 – WHAT IS THE DECISION CRITERIA FOR ”MAY”?

ARTICLE III

REPAIR OR REPLACE EXISTING ONSITE SEWAGE (SEPTIC) SYSTEMS

The Brown County Board of Health acknowledges that a number of older onsite sewage systems may not meet all current requirements of the County or the Indiana State Department of Health due to site or system limitations. Accordingly, the Brown County Health Officer may consider proposals for repair or remediation that make the best use of the available space and systems and meet reasonably acceptable standards in the interest of public health and environmental concerns.

  • WHAT IS THE DECISION CRITERIA FOR “MAY”?

Section 301: For the purposes of this Ordinance, a landscape modification means any excavation or alteration of landscape or surface area within or adjacent to an onsite sewage system as defined in Rule 410 IAC 6.8-3-57.

  • WHAT ARE EXAMPLES OF LANDSCAPE MODIFICATION? WHAT IS THE DEFINITION?  DOES THIS INCLUDE ITEMS MENTIONED IN SECTION 210? OTHER?
  • WOULD A LANDSCAPE MODIFICATION INCLUDE A FLOWER BED?

Section 302: To insure there are no encroachments on or into the on-site sewage system area the owner shall obtain a septic record or septic locate approved by the Brown County Health Officer prior to any landscape modifications. Reference Section 201.

  • WHY IS THE HEALTH DEPARMENT INVOLVED IN THIS ISSUE? WHAT’S THE PROBLEM?
  • S 302. HOW CAN OR HOW WILL THIS BE ENFORCED?

Section 303: When soil absorption field replacement is required and no other site is available, a sand-lined system (or other TNI approved by the Indiana State Department of Health) can be installed at the same location as the old septic system. In such cases, the old septic system must be removed and Spec 23 sand added to fill the void. This work must be completed by a Brown County Registered Septic Contractor in accordance with the manufacturer’s construction and installation manuals.

Section 304: Examples of failures include, but are not limited to, the following: the backup of sewage into a structure; the connection of an onsite sewage system to any drain tile; liquid level in a septic tank above the inlet invert; liquid level in a treatment unit above that recommended by the manufacturer; structural failure of a septic tank or treatment unit; or water samples documenting contamination of ground water or surface waters caused in whole or in part by the onsite sewage system.

  • WHAT IS THE PROCESS FOR DETERMING THAT A SPECIFIC SYSTEM IS CAUSING THE CONTAMINATION OF SURFACE WATER? COVERED IN A SOP?
  • SOP REFERENCES COMPLAINTS. DOES SECTION 304 COVER THE RANGE OF WHAT COULD BE INCLUDED IN A COMPLAINT? WHY AREN’T COMPLAINTS MENTIONED IN THE ORDINANCE?

ARTICLE IV

TECHNOLOGY

The Technology New to Indiana document, or TNI, is a cumulative listing of additional septic system designs and components approved for application and use by the Indiana State Department of Health. Given the challenging soil types for septic installations in Brown County, the Brown County Health Department will consider approved TNI alternative technologies, when appropriate. The adoption by reference in this section to TNI reflects the commitment of the Brown County Health Department to consider other options as to solve the County’s septic challenges, taking into consideration public health and environmental matters.

  • WHAT IS THE DECISION CRITERIA FOR DETERMING “WHEN APPROPRIATE”?
  • WHAT TNI TECHNOLIGIES BEEN INSTALLED AND OR APPROVIDED IN BROWN COUNTY?

Section 401: The installation of any other residential sewage disposal systems not described in Indiana State Department of Health Bulletin S. E. 11 and Rule 410 IAC 6-8.3 shall be approved by the Brown County Health Officer after plans and specifications bearing the written approval of the Indiana State Department of Health have been received.

ARTICLE V

INSTALLATION INSPECTIONS

Inspection of a new installation, or the repair or modification to an existing septic system, is critical to insure that the project is completed in accordance with the plans and specifications of the manufacturer. Brown County Health Department representatives will work with the homeowner and authorized septic contractors to review the progress of each septic project and approve each project when all requirements are met.

Section 501: For the purposes of this Ordinance, a Brown County Registered Septic Contractor means a person who has passed the Brown County Health Department’s septic test within the required time frame and has paid the annual contractor’s fee for that given year. See Article VI herein.

  • MAKE THIS TEST VOLUNTARY OR DELETE THE REQUIREMENT.
  • THE COUNTY LIST OF REGISTERED CONTACTORS CAN IDENTIFY THAT THEY PASSED THE TEST AND CONSUMERS CAN DETERMINE IF THIS IMPORTANT TO THEM.
  • JOHN KENNARD PUBLICALLY STATED THAT SOMEONE CAN PASS THE TEST AND NOT BE COMPETENT TO INSTALL A SYSTEM.
  • UNECESSARY BUREAUCRACY INCREASES COSTS, MAY RESULT IN FEWER INDIVIDUALS WANTING TO DO BUSINESS IN THE COUNTY.

Section 502: The Brown County Health Department has the authority to administer a stop-work order and the Brown County Registered Septic Contractor shall not continue any work until the stop-work order has been lifted.

Section 503: A Brown County Registered Septic Contractor must be on site for all inspections, including the final inspection, and as required by the Brown County Health Department.

Section 504: The Brown County Registered Septic Contractor will be required to uncover any improperly covered up work to allow proper inspection. Additional soil cover (if required), seeding, and placing straw over the absorption field are the responsibility of the Brown County Registered Septic Contractor and will be required prior to final approval by the Brown County Health Officer.

Section 505: The site evaluation may be postponed until the area is cleared based on Rule 410 IAC 6-8.3-74(f), and a re-inspection fee will be incurred. If the ground is disturbed, a new septic site may be required.

  • S505 WHAT IS THE DECISION CRITERIA FOR REQUIRING A NEW SEPTIC SITE? COVERED IN A SOP?
  • WHAT IS THE DECISION CRITERIA FOR ”MAY”?

Section 506: For site evaluations, the septic system must be visibly marked with a flag at the beginning and a flag at the end of each trench or bed, and a flag approximately every 20′ along each finger or 30 feet along the upper and lower edge of each bed. The Brown County Registered Septic Contractor must identify the contour of the septic beds or each trench finger sufficiently with flags for the site evaluation.

Section 507: At least two (2) inspection ports are required in the subsurface drain for inspection purposes. The inspection ports must be no higher than four (4) feet tall.

Section 508: If a property has a gate or other device restricting access, the gate or device must be unlocked for site evaluation(s). If access is denied for any reason, a re-inspection fee will be incurred.

ARTICLE VI

REGISTRATION FOR SEPTIC CONTRACTORS

In an effort to avoid unnecessary and preventable losses and expenses for property owners, contractors and others shall be required to satisfy all requirements for registration as a Brown County Registered Septic Contractor; it being understood that soils conditions and slopes of Brown County can present unique and difficult challenges requiring particular knowledge and expertise.

  • WHAT IS THE BASIS? HOW MANY (WHAT PERCENT) OF CASES  OF “UNNECESSARY AND PREVENTABLE LOSSES” HAVE THERE BEEN? ANY DOCUMENTATION TO VALIDATE A PROBLEM?
  • WHAT ARE THE UNIQUE AND DIFFICULT CHALLENGES? ARE THESE REFERENCED IN GUIDANCE FROM THE STATE? 
  • IS BROWN COUNTY THE ONLY COUNTY IN THE “COUNTRY” WITH THESE  “UNIQUE AND DIFFICULT CHALLENGES?”
  • DO THE MANAFACTURES OF SYTEMS INCLUDE GUIDANCE FOR THE CHALLENGES?

Section 601: Any person engaged in or intending to engage in the installation or repair of onsite sewage (septic) systems within Brown County, Indiana shall submit an application to the Brown County Health Officer to have their name placed on the County Register as an approved contractor. In addition, such person must pay an annual fee prescribed by the Brown County Health Department.

  • WHAT IS THE PROCESS AND COST?
  • HOW IS THIS DIFFERENT THAN WHAT IS EXPECTED FROM OTHER CONTRACTORS?
  • WHY NOT HAVE SIMILAR REQUIREMETNS FOR ALL CONTRACTORS REGISTERED WITH THE COUNTY?

Section 602: The applicant must successfully pass a written test of requirements administered by the Brown County Health Department.

  • S501 AND 602. ARE THE PROFESSIONAL CERTIFICATIONS FOR OTHER CONTRACTORS (electricians, plumbers, HVAC, et.) VERIFIED BEFORE THEY ARE REGISTERED TO DO WORK IN THE COUNTY? 
  • MAKE THIS TEST VOLUNTARY OR DELETE THE REQUIREMENT. JOHN KENNARD PUBLICALLY STATED THAT SOMEONE CAN PASS THE TEST AND NOT BE COMPETENT TO INSTALL A SYSTEM.
  • THE SOPS IDENTIFY THE REQUIEMENTS AND THE WORK IS INSPECTED AND CAN BE RE-INSPECTED TO ENSURE COMPLIANCE. ADDITIONAL INSPECTION FEES CAN ALSO BE ASSESSED.
  • UNECESSARY BUREAUCRACY INCREASES COSTS, AND MAY RESULT IN FEWER INDIVIDUALS WANTING TO DO BUSINESS IN THE COUNTY.

Section 603: A Brown County Registered Septic Contractor must be adequately insured and provide proper documentation confirming coverage(s) of such at time of license application and annual license renewal. Required coverages include at least $1,000,000 general liability and completed operations liability insurance.

  • IS THE MILLION DOLLAR REQUIREMENT APPLIED TO ALL OTHER CONTRACTORS REGISTERED WITH THE COUNTY?  INSURANCE SHOULD COVER THE DAMAGES ASSOCIATED WITH A BAD INSTALLATION –WHEN WOULD THIS REACH $1,000,000 OR EXCEEED A $100,000? 
  • WHAT SITUATION WOULD OCCUR THAT WOULD NOT BE CAUGHT IN AN INSPECTION OR RE-INSPECTION?
  • IS THERE DOCUMENTED EVIDENCE OF A PROBLEM TO JUSTIFIY THE NEED FOR THE MILLION DOLLAR “SOLUTION?”

This proposed insurance requirement exceeds what is required by other contractors that are licensed by the County (see Ordinance 12-17-90, A Comprehensive Listing of Contractors Operating within the Jurisdiction of Brown County, IN). The liability  insurance requirement in this Ordinance if 100K per person and 300K per occurrence. This change (a million dollars) also reduces options for residents and will likely contribute to reducing competition and increasing costs.

  • UNECESSARY BUREAUCRACY INCREASES COSTS, AND MAY RESULT IN FEWER INDIVIDUALS WANTING TO DO BUSINESS IN THE COUNTY.

Section 604: After providing notice of a violation and reasonable opportunity to remediate, the Brown County Health Officer shall remove the name of any person, and his or her firm, from the register of approved persons for the installation, construction, and repair of onsite sewage systems if the person has failed to comply with all rules and requirements of this Ordinance.

The notices and penalties are as follows:

1st violation within a 12-month period receives a written notice.

2nd violation within a 12-month period receives a 30-day name removal from the contractors list.

3rd violation within a 12-month period receives a 3-year name removal from the contractors list. (See Section VI if the contractor/firm wishes to install septic systems after the end of the 3-year violation period.)

Once the contractor/firm’s name is removed from the contractors list, no septic work can be performed by the contractor/firm.

  • S604 – COVERED IN AN SOP TO INCLUDE DEFINING “REASONABLE?”

Section 605: A Brown County Registered Septic Contractor must be certified by the septic system manufacturer to install those systems that specifically require certification by the Indiana State Department of Health. A list of approved onsite sewerage (septic) systems is maintained by the Brown County Health Department.

ARTICLE VII

CHANGE-OF-USE INSTALLATION INSPECTIONS

Onsite property inspections are part of mandated procedures for evaluation, compliance, and approvals as set forth in Rule 410 and, specifically Section 6-8.3-51.

Section 701: If the property owner or agent of the owner requests an inspection, the Brown County Health Department may require additional information regarding the onsite sewage (septic) system in order to provide an accurate and adequate inspection. If the Brown County Health Department does not have sufficient information on the current septic system on file, the requestor shall hire an on-site inspector (either nationally or State accredited) which includes any certified Brown County Contractor that wishes to participate to locate the septic system, prepare a drawing of the system and complete and submit a septic system information form to the Brown County Health Department.

  • WHAT ARE EXAMPLES OF CHANGE OF USE? IS THERE AN SOP THAT DEFINES WHAT IS COVERED IN AN INSPECTION?
  • WHAT IS THE DECISION CRITERIA FOR ”MAY”?

Section 702: A visual inspection can only take place when a septic system has been used with a minimum of 2,000 gallons of water within the past 30 days.

ARTICLE VIII

TOURIST HOMES AND BED & BREAKFASTS

In Brown County, the permitted occupancy of an approved tourist home (also referred to as a guest rental) or a bed & breakfast is a change of use from residential use. When the occupancy is maximized, the septic system will be stressed so the septic system will need to meet the current code of 75 gallons per person on any given day. Reference Article VII (Change of Use)

Section 801: If the septic system for a guest rental including, but not limited to tourist homes and bed & breakfasts, does not meet current standards, the septic system must be upgraded to meet or exceed current standards.

  • ARE CURRENT TOURIST HOMES, AND B&B’S EXEMPTED?
  • IF NOT, HOW MANY TOTAL TOURIST HOMES IN THE COUNTY? HOW MANY TOURIST HOMES DOES THIS EFFECT? WHAT IS THE ESTIMATED COST TO UPGRADE A SYSTEM? 
  • A TOURIST HOME IS NOT OCCUPIED 365 DAYS A YEAR. WHAT EFFECT DOES THIS FACT HAVE (OCCASIONAL OCCUPATION) WITH THE REQUIREMENT?
  • HOW MANY HOMES WILL NOT BE ABLE TO UPGRADE DUE TO SPACE OF MONEY? (MORE COST THAN BENEFIT). 
  • IS THE INTENT TO REDUCE THE NUMBER OF TOURISTS HOMES ET.AL. IN THE COUNTY? HAS THE FINANCILA IMPACT BEEN CONSIDERED?

Section 802: The minimum required size of the onsite sewage system for a proposed tourist home, guest rental, or bed & breakfast shall be determined by the maximum number of guests times the daily design flow of 75 gallons per person per day on any given day.

Section 803: For guest rentals, the number of guests will be determined by the sleeping features:

Twin/cot = 1 person

Double/queen/king = 2 people

Sleeper sofa/sleeper loveseat = 2 people.

  • S802-803. HOW WILL DISPUTES BE RESOLVED? A TOURIST RENTAL MAY ACCOMMODATE MORE GUESTS THAT WHAT THE OWNER MAY ADVERTISE OR ALLOW BECAUSE OF THE LIMITIATIONS OF THE EXISITNG SEPTIC SYSTEM.

ARTICLE IX

NOTICE OF POSSIBLE

VIOLATION

The Brown County Board of Health relies upon the Brown County Health Department and its officers and agents to communicate with persons affected by this Ordinance.

Section 901: Any person found to be in violation of any provision of this Ordinance shall be served by the Brown County Health Department, acting through the duly appointed Health Officer or the Health Officer’s agent, with a written order stating the nature of the violation and setting a time limit for satisfactory correction thereof.

  • COVERED IN A SOP? DOES THE PROCESS ALSO IDENTIFY THE PROCESS FOR FILING AN APPEAL?  IS THE HEALTH BOARD INFORMED OF VIOLATIONS AND THE ONGOING STATUS OF CASES? 

ARTICLE X

PENALTIES

  • IT WAS STATED IN PUBLIC MEETINGS THAT PENALTIES HAVE NEVER BEEN ASSESSED. THIS SECTION SHOULD BE ELIMINATED. IF PEOPLE ARE IN VIOLATION OF THE LAW, CAN’T A LEGAL ACTION BE FILED DUE TO VIOLATION OF THE ORDINANCE? ORDINANCE VIOLATIONS CAN NOW BE SUPPORTED BY THE PROSECUTOR’S OFFICE.
  • HAS THE SOP ON THIS TOPIC BEEN REVIEWED AND APPROVED BY THE HEALTH BOARD AND COMMISSIONERS?

In order to insure public health, the Brown County Board of Health has authorized the assessment of penalties, including fines and/or injunctions. These penalties are intended to promote compliance with the requirements of this Ordinance.

Section 1001: Any person determined to be in violation of any part of this Ordinance shall be subject to a fine of not more than Five Hundred Dollars ($500) for the first offense, and for the second offense and each subsequent offense, by a fine of not more than One Thousand Five Hundred Dollars ($1,500).

Section 1002: For purposes of Section 1001, each day after the expiration of the time limit determined by the Brown County Health Department (acting through the duly appointed Brown County Health Officer or agent) for correcting a health hazard relating to a septic system shall constitute a distinct and separate offense.

  • “A DISTINCT AND SEPARATE OFFENSE” PLEASE EXPLAIN – IN A WORSE-CASE SCENARIO, IS THERE A MAXIMUM ON WHAT COULD BE ASSESSED?

Section 1003: In the event enforcement of this Ordinance requires the enforcing agency to commence litigation and a court finds a violation of this Ordinance, in addition to the fines and penalties and other remedies set forth in this Article, the enforcing agency may also be rewarded any costs associated with the prosecution including, but not limited to, reasonable attorney’s fees, and the same may become a civil judgment against the violator. The enforcing agency may also be entitled to seek any other legal remedy against any person or firm violating any provision of this Ordinance.

  • COVERED IN A SOP?
  • WHAT IS THE DECISION CRITERIA FOR “MAY”?

Section 1004: In addition to imposing fines, the enforcing agency may seek injunctive relief from any court of competent jurisdiction to abate a public health hazard, nuisance, or violation of this Ordinance.

  • WHAT OVERSIGHT DOES THE HEALTH BOARD AND COMMISSIONERS HAVE ON PROPOSED LEGAL OPTIONS?
  • THE SIMPSON CASE PROVIDES AN EXAMPLE OF AN ABUSE OF POWER AND CAUSING A CITIZENS A SIGNIFICANT COST IN DEFENDING THE ACTIONS BY THE HEALTH DEPARTMENT AND HEALTH BOARD.

ARTICLE XI

ADMINISTRATIVE APPEAL

Section 1101: Any person who is aggrieved by a decision of the Brown County Health Officer or its agent may submit an appeal to the Brown County Board of Health. The said decision shall be deemed final unless appealed with thirty (30) days. Upon receipt of a written appeal (which contains an explanation of objections to the decision), the Brown County Board of Health shall schedule a hearing to consider the matter no later than its next scheduled public meeting date or sixty (60) days.

WHAT IS THE PROCESS FOR REVIEWING A DECISION?   ARE ANY PENATIES SUSPENDED DURING THIS TIME?  THIS ISSUE COVERED IN A SOP?

  • WHAT IS THE DECISION CRITERIA FOR “MAY”?

ARTICLE XII

VALIDITY

Section 1201: All other county ordinances or parts of such ordinances which are in direct conflict with the provisions of this Ordinance are hereby superseded for purposes of interpreting and enforcing the purposes, intent, and provisions of this Ordinance.

  • IS THIS LEGAL? WHAT WOULD BE EXAMPLES?  WHAT IF THE OTHER ORDINANCES STATE THE SAME THING?

Section 1202: The judicial determination of the invalidity or enforceability of any section, clause, sentence, or provision of this Ordinance shall not affect the validity or enforceability of any other part of this Ordinance.

  • WHAT DOES THIS MEAN?

ARTICLE XIII

ORDINANCE IN FORCE

Section 1301: This Ordinance shall be in full force and effect from and after its passage and adoption by the Commissioners of Brown County, State of Indiana.

Section 1302: This Ordinance supersedes the Brown County Ordinance #97-875 which is no longer in effect.

Section 1303: Passed and adopted by the Commissioners of Brown County, State of Indiana, on this ___________ day of ________________, 2020.

60074519, 4/21/21, hspaxlp, 21-72

Local GOP – Post on Facebook

Republican-party-mascots-states-Democrat-politics-government

June 8, 2021. Letter: BCD, Party leaders do not speak for all local Republicans by Ben Phillips, Van Buren precinct chair, 812-343-9930; Jenni Voris, Van Buren vice precinct chair, 812-340-9342.

  • To the editor: We are Republican Precinct Committee members, and we are disturbed and angered by the actions of Brown County’s Republican Party leadership …

New Facebook page:  Republicans of Brown County Indiana – Not affiliated with the former Brown County Republican FB page or its administrators.

  • A social club dedicated to promoting republican ideals, ethical and transparent government, thoughtful conversation, local candidate recruitment, and community leadership.
     

June 8, 2021.  BCD. Letter: ‘Act accordingly’ when leaders do wrong or do nothing by Bill Austin.

  • In recent weeks the Republican Party has been caught up in some serious issues. I don’t intend to rehash those here. I think those of us who have been a part of the Republican Party need to watch now and see how this is handled by our leaders — those elected, appointed and self-proclaimed. You have chosen to be a leader. Think of it this way (I had to look up the exact quote): “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.”

May 4, 2021. BCD. Local Republicans say ‘disgusting’ post doesn’t represent them By  

Apr 27, 2021.  BCD. Post on GOP Facebook page prompts questions, By – 4/27/21 5:51 PM

 

Apr 30, 2021. Indy Star / The Herald Times .  Racist post on Brown County GOP Facebook elicits bipartisan backlash  By Boris Ladwig

 

 

 

Allowing ATVs, OTVs, UTVs on County Roads- For the Record

Updated May 25, 2021 – 1030 hrs

QUESTION: Should vehicles designed and purchased for off-road use be allowed on local county roads?

Local Media Coverage:

March 2021. PROPOSAL: Petition at Change.org – Allow ATV and UTV use on public roads in Brown County Indiana”

Questions:

  • What are all the vehicle types referenced in the ordinance?  What are the specifications regarding speed and noise?
  • Is the intent for including a wide range of vehicles to increase the number of supporters for an ordinance?
  • Note the higher-end vehicles with a few modifications, can reportedly by made street legal.
  • How many owners of ORVs will benefit?  A dozen, 50, 100, 1,000…?
Brown County Indiana Citizens against Off Road Vehicles on our county roads

Safety:  What are the manufacturer’s recommendations when operating on a paved road?  What are considered to be safe operating speeds?

Roads.  Are roads assessed on safety e.g. condition, line of sight, grade, blind curves ..?  What does DNR consider an unsafe road?

Culture.  ORV /ATV riding is marketed by many communities in support of destination tourism.  If this is a potential possibility in Brown County?   Historically, the vision for tourism in Brown County was expressed by  Andy Rogers:

  • “He stands at the center of Nashville’s dogged attempt to satisfy a tourist industry while retaining its soul—the thing that people have lost in their own communities, the reason they come to visit in the first place.  …. “We don’t need to be slick and highly commercial. We need to be more country. Country is what we sell…. We need to maintain that. Once you destroy that, it won’t come back.”

Tourism – Visitors.  Convention Visitors Bureau (CVB) estimates 3 million visitors a year.
This estimate based on park gate fees (2.5 persons per car), innkeeper tax, and the food and beverage tax.

Industry / Economy. What has been the growth in the industry?  What’s the market?

  • What’s the purpose and objective for promoting ORV use on local (county) roads?
  • Is the intent to provide more places to ride for those that have limited access to trails or private land?
  • POLARIS T.R.A.I.L.S. Grant Application $10,000. The T.R.A.I.L.S. program makes funds available to national, state and local organizations in the United States to ensure the future of ATV riding.

“Freedom”   The freedom issue has been raised, e.g. people should be free to use local roads for vehicles that they purchased and were designed for off-road use.  There is Freedom-to do something and there is Freedom-from not being adversely affected by a proposed change.

Statute. Can counties limit access to county roads to residents only? (Premise being state and federal money could be used to fund repairs and replacements and have to be accessible to all).

ContextA County Decision-Making Process. Provides a definition of terms and an outline that can be used to consider all relevant issues and interests.

Facebook Discussions on the PetitionSee reactions to initial posted by Paul Hazelwood (for) and Greg Delong (Against).

Assessment – as of May 21, 2021. The issue is if this is the right thing for “Brown” County. ORV owners “chose” to buy a machine designed for “off-road” use. I have not seen any information yet that would convince me a new ordinance is a good idea. I’m not a fan of the “argument from ignorance fallacy” that asserts that a proposition is true because it has not yet been proven false. Advocates of this proposed ordinance weaken their argument and credibility when demeaning and insulting those that may disagree with their positions. I’m surprised that the industry hasn’t put together a good argument for supporting “on-road” use.

Tourism – A new vision?  Brown County a great place to visit and have fun but not to live?

  • County has about 280+ tourist homes throughout the county. Will this ordinance lead to more tourists who bring their ORVs?   
  • Can ORVs be banned from tourist homes and if so, how could or would this be enforced? 
  • Would the ordinance lead to more private land being used for ORV-related activities?
  • Does the county want to promote and support ORV/ATV related tourism?
  • Hard Truth Hills (325 acres) offers camping and ORV rides.  Developer “compares the company’s sixth location to “an adult Disneyland” that includes food and beverage experiences, all-terrain vehicle tours, on-site trails and a close proximity to Brown County State Park and downtown Nashville. ”  Adult Disneyland’ Opens in Brown County and  YouTubee Video – Inside Indiana Business.

Indiana, DNR.  Off Road Vehicle Laws, Accidents, and Safety Practices by Scott Johnson
Indiana Department of Natural Resources, Law Enforcement Division 5/19/2016  IN DNR Off Road Vehicle Laws Session_4b-Johnson_Officer_Accidents  Pg. 20 of 62

  • ATVs are designed primarily for off-road use.
  • Operating an ATV on paved surfaces can be hazardous because of handling issues.
  • Riding on paved roads is a leading cause of ATV-related fatalities.

Official Indiana OHV/ORV Safety Course Take this Indiana–approved course to complete your online OHV/ORV safety education.  

Federal Land (Hoosier National Forest) No ORV/ATV access allowed in Indiana

  • Although responsibly enjoyed by many people, off-highway vehicles (OHVs) are also a major cause of natural resource damage on public lands. OHVs are prohibited on the Hoosier National Forest (Hoosier) and may not be operated on any National Forest System land, road or trail, including campground roads.   
  • Problems Associated with Unauthorized Use:
    • Unauthorized OHV use on the Hoosier has become a significant problem in many areas of the forest. Illegal OHV has:
      • Contributed to soil erosion and compaction, impacting vegetation, by creating their own roads and trails through the forest
      • Impaired water quality due to sediment from erosion
      • Reducing native plant and wildlife diversity by introducing and the spreading  of non-native invasive plants

History:   

  • “This issue has been bought up before the commissioners twice in the last 20 years.  State legislatures left it up to the county to decide …   This may have been the law in Brown County since at the minimum of 1995. …   these vehicles already in Brown County operating against the law, and law enforcement does not have the ability or desire to deal with the issue. Burdening law enforcement which is limited with an additional duty reduces their ability to deal with other issues that are important to us all.”  (Greg DeLong, Brown County Chatter)
    • Should off-road vehicles be allowed on county roads? By – Apr. 20, 2021

      • About a decade ago, in January 2010, another group of county residents approached the commissioners who were in office at that time and asked for ORV use to become legal on Brown County roads. Supporters had a petition with about 130 signatures on it. Many of them were people who used them as a tool on their rural properties.Residents who spoke against it at that time mentioned the dangers of driving on Brown County’s hilly roads, potential road damage, potential operation of these vehicles by tourists who don’t know the roads or the dangers, and greater severity of injuries from accidents on ORVs versus accidents in other vehicles.After hearing public comments, the county commissioners at that time decided not to change the law.

Other Counties: “Sixty-five of Indiana’s 92 counties allow off-road vehicles on county roads. Three other counties only allow their use on roads for agricultural purposes.” Ref: Brown County Democrat. Should off-road vehicles be allowed on county roads? By – Apr. 20, 2021

Scope.

  • Will limiting (if possible) permits to county-only residents that just travel a few miles from their home have little to no impact on other residents?
  • Will including non-residents contribute to more ORV users traveling to Brown County?
  • Will an ordinance increase the number and use of ORVs on roads and on private land?

Volume – The Numbers: What is the projection on the number of vehicles?  A dozen, 50, 100, 1,000?

Road Conditions.  Are some roads more dangerous (line of sight) than others? Is this a consideration in designating where these ORVs should be allowed?

Best Case Scenario – No adverse impacts.

  • Opinion from Advocates: Other counties in Indiana have an ordinance with no problems.

Worst Case Scenarios?   “Noise,” Enforcement, Safety

Personal example. I know of a case in Shelby County, IN. Neighbors from Hell with ATVs and teenagers.  County has a noise ordinance (no decibel level); Sheriff has issued citations that are being challenged in court.  Although ORV/ATVs not allowed on the roads,  roads are being used — the sheriff has to catch them in the act.   An ORV ordinance in Shelby County would most likely lead to more residents voicing complaints.   Complaints were made directly to the sheriff’s office – not the 911 system. Not sure if all the complaints were documented.  Dust was another nuisance issue.  Several neighbors moved and in one case, a new buyer intended to run ATVs on his newly acquired property.

  • New York. Noise Issues with ATV use on private land. Are ATVs A Noisy Nuisance Or A Right?  New Crawford Law Points Up Divergent Views
    • However, some ATV riders will cheerfully admit that making a lot of noise is an integral part of their fun; letting out the throttle and hearing the engine respond with a throaty roar as they head for the next jump is what it’s all about.
    • Meanwhile, their neighbor next door is either calling the police, contemplating suicide, or perhaps murder.

Sound Testing.  Forest Service -How to conduct a sound test –  Max allowable sound – 96 decibels. Off-Highway Motorcycles, ATVs, & RO.Vs This is a summary of the SAE J1287 JUL98 stationary sound test procedure. Although stationary tests measure primarily exhaust noise, this test has been designed to pass quiet vehicles (those which test below a specified limit).

Safety:  Indiana DNR:  “Not all county roads are safe to travel on, ATVs are designed primarily for off-road use. Operating an ATV on paved surfaces can be hazardous because of handling issues. Riding on paved roads is a leading cause of ATV-related fatalities.”  

Controls – allowed by law?   

  • Limit to residents and those with driver licenses with Brown County addresses;
  • Require county-issued permit every year with the option to limit the numbers, or not grant any permits if too many complaints.
  • Direct Sheriff’s office to record noise complaints even though the county does not have a noise ordinance.
  • Limit the number of roads that can be used.
  • Run tests in various areas to assess noise levels in the area.  Some areas of the county can amplify noise.
  • Add financial penalties for violations of the ordinance unless penalties can be assessed under current laws.

Decibel Levels –   What will be the standard for the decibel level?  How will it be tested?  (Appears a decibel level of 80 is common).

Add the fact that the ordinance includes all (?) off-road vehicles that are not street legal (thus the need for an ordinance)?   The exception being farm equipment.

Questions for other Counties.

  • Do you have permits?  If so, what has been the trend in the total number per year?
  • What type of ORVs have been given permits?
  • Do you have a standard for decibel levels and if so, do you have ways of measuring it?
  • Do you have a noise ordinance? If so, what has been the trend on complaints?
  • If you do not have a noise ordinance, do you still accept and record complaints provided by residents?
  • How many accidents have been recorded?  How many citations have been issued?  Did the ORVs result in the need for more staffing or degrade response times for other calls?
  • Is enforcement primarily complaint-driven?
  • On permits, do you limit to county residents only?
  • Given Brown County is a destination for tourism, what if anything should we be concerned with in regards to an ORV ordinance?
  • Do you restrict ORVs from some areas?  If so, why and what type of areas?
  • Do they enforce the ordinance – check for permits?

Questions for Enforcement Agencies (DNR, Sherriff’s Dept, etc.)

  • Is enforcement only limited to DNR – we have two officers in the county.
    • Can sheriff deputies only issue warnings?
  • How many permits have been issued?  What has been the trend?  What type of ORVs have received permits?
  • How many hours (or a percent) are involved with enforcement and compliance to laws and regulations?
  • How many citations have been issued and by type?
  • How many accidents including deaths?
  • How many and what are the type of complaints?
  • Do you track noise-related complaints?

The Process to Approve and Ordinance – The Hoops

  • Commissioners referred this proposal to DNR, County Attorneys and Safety Officials (Emergency Mgmt, Sheriff’s Office) for their review and input. County attorneys will also be involved in reviewing the ordinance.
  • Any concerns, questions, changes, issues, etc. will then need to be addressed.
  • If there are two commissioners that indicate support for the change, ordinance will need to be updated, revised as needed.  Who in county government will take this lead?
  • If it gets to the point that an ordinance as written is considered appropriate, then there will be at least three public meetings to gather more citizen input which may lead to more changes or refinements. The three required public meetings include the First Reading. Public Hearing, and Second Reading.
  • I would not be too surprised to see a counter-petition.

Current Events and Status

May 5, 2021.  BCD. County commissioners researching off-road vehicle ordinance by Suzannah Couch

April 21, 2020. Commissioner Meeting. Commissioners are forwarding the proposed ordinance to the county’s attorney for review, DNR, and public safety officials that would include the  Highway superintendent, Emergency Management, and the Sheriff’s Office.  No indication that the petition was/is limited to Brown County residents

April 20, 2021. Brown County Democrat.  Should off-road vehicles be allowed on county roads? Sara Clifford 

  • Sixty-five of Indiana’s 92 counties allow off-road vehicles on county roads. Three other counties only allow their use on roads for agricultural purposes.
  • A state law that dates back to at least 1995 made off-road vehicles illegal on roads in every Indiana county, but it allowed counties, cities or towns to pass their own laws to allow them if they choose.
  • In the nine-county Indiana Department of Natural Resources district that includes Brown County, Morgan County is the only one to legalize ORVs for on-road use.
  • The DNR is the law enforcement agency that primarily deals with off-road vehicle matters. Other law enforcement agencies also can enforce those laws and investigate accidents.
  • Why does state law default to “illegal” for riding off-road vehicles on roads? … “It’s safety,” said Angela Goldman, a conservation officer for DNR District 6. “Ultimately, nearly all traffic laws were put in place for safety, and that would be the case here. Not all county roads are safe to be ridden on.”
  • In the past five years, the DNR has investigated 31 ORV accidents in Morgan County, where they’re legal on county roads. Fifteen of those accidents have been on roads, according to DNR statistics.
  • Over that same time period, the DNR handled 23 ORV accidents in Brown County, with eight of them being on a road, the agency reported.
  • Those figures may not include accidents investigated by other law enforcement agencies.

Election Processes and Capability – Quality Perspective

Assuring Elections Quality – A White Paper,  By Thomas Pyzdek and Joseph A. DeFeo

  • Thomas Pyzdek: My friend and colleague Joe DeFeo were so concerned with the loss of confidence in recent USA elections that we co-authored a paper describing how the quality profession might help. The paper, entitled “Assuring Elections Quality – a White Paper”, can be viewed at the link. Dr. DeFeo is recognised worldwide as an authority on quality improvement and is Chairman and Executive Adviser at Juran. Please feel free to add your suggestions in the comments.
  • Post and comments at LinkedIn.
    • My comment: A good idea for states to consider benchmarking their standards, assessing current processes, and making needed improvements. Could also be a value-added role and an opportunity for ASQ sections and members to support any needed improvements in their communities.
    • I’m confident with the election processes in my county. Our goal is to support the application of the quality principles, methods, and tools that will lead to better decisions, policies, and ordinances. See Brown County Indiana Leader Network at: https://successthroughquality.com/