Meeting notes – Tim J. Clark
Context: Summary of the County’s Economic (Debt and Taxes) Situation June 4 DLZ Commissioner and Council Joint Meeting
“2 Minute Limit” President of the council limited citizen input and questions to 2 minutes only. It was an unnecessary limitation and a subtle abuse of power. Lack of transparency, due diligence, and planning lead to questions and concerns. Effective leadership and planning builds trust and would help lead to action that results in everyone benefitting or at least, not being any worse off.
The solution? Comprehensive planning to identify what citizens want and do not want in terms of economic and community development. This leads to trust and a consensus regarding the change that is supported by the citizenry.
The status quo? A few people along with adhoc project teams, dominate decision-making in the county. The desire to maintain power is among the reason for the historical and cultural resistance to any kind of strategic and comprehensive planning. Some examples of consequences?
- Salt Creek Trail: Eminent domain issues and the decision to use highway bridges for a pedestrian trail.
- The government-owned Maple Leaf Music Venue and the Fast-Track Process.
- Commissioner using tax dollars to settle a dispute regarding the Van Buren Volunteer Fire Departments – no documented action was taken to prevent the need for this settlement.
- Proposed Justice Center – “Consider oConsider other ways for project to succeed
A way ahead? Vote for positive change in 2018 and 2020. I suggest a non-partisan platform and principles at Independent Voters of Brown County IN. If you have suggestions for improvements to the platform, let me know.
2 Million Dollar Increase in Debt.
Council approved borrowing 2 million vs 3 and opted for “paying it off” in 3 years vs. 2. This adds another $1.00 on a home valued at 100,000 vs $6.00. On a $300,000 home, the tax increase would be $3.58 vs $30.00. The additional interest charge on a 3 years loan vs 2 is $34,000.
This decision “not” to borrow the extra 1 million was supported or recommended by the county’s financial advisors (Umbaugh and Associates) because there was no specific plan for how the money would be spent and when. Previous speculation was that the 1 million would be related to the courthouse project. There should be a “plan” for any money that is borrowed to include the identification of the need.
The initial reasoning for borrowing the extra 1 million was to take advantage of low-interest rates and avoid paying approximately 50K in fees for borrowing 1 million (if ever needed). The 50K seems excessive but it was confirmed that these fees were normal.
Also, if the intent of the council is to always “renew” a 2 million or more loan to fund projects, this should be identified in their financial strategy and plans.
Transfer of Funds to the Regional Sewer District (RSD) Board
The Council approved the transfer of funds of $270K to the RSD Board. Councilman Dave Critser identified how the money would be spent.
Curious — how much money has been spent over the past 16 plus years on this project? How many plans have been developed? What have been the barriers? Why is this time different? Why wouldn’t these questions be discussed prior to providing the $270K?
The President of the RSD stated that they signed an agreement with the Town regarding territories at their last meeting. This statement was disputed. The agreement was subject to a review by Barnes and Thornburg. Barnes and Thornburg reviewed the agreement (do not know when) and made minor changes.
It appears the council did not review the agreement prior to the approval by the RSD Board and Town. The town manager – Scott Rudd was asked about their past policy of linking annexation to sewer service and both he and Commissioner Biddle stated that the rules governing annexations are stricter now than in the past and that the town has no interest in annexing unless it was requested by residents of the affected areas.
RSD Board Appointment
The council appoints 3 members to the sewer board and the commissioners appoint 2.
The council did appoint a new member to the RSD board – Clint Studebaker who is a retired environmental engineer with experience in wastewater treatment plants. He may be a good addition to the RSD Board.
I suggested that the council have the county attorneys review the statutes that govern the RSD board so that our elected representatives are aware of what the sewer boards (county, town, Helmsburg, Gnaw Bone) can and cannot do. For instance, can these boards charge residents for services not provided to subsidize their budgets and spending?
The previous president of the RSD stated that the Board had the power to sign agreements and contracts without needing council or commissioner approval. Since these people are appointed by the commissioners and council, then wouldn’t it be prudent prior to any appointments, for our elected representative to identify their requirements and expectations for their respective appointees?
You can delegate authority but not the responsibility. Along with the Commissioners and Council, all appointees to any Board or Commission should have a basic awareness and understanding of the statutes that govern their actions.
Compelling need and plan?
Three members of the previous RSD Board resigned stating they had no support for identifying the need for sewers. Article – Brown County Democrat – Majority of sewer board members resign, 5/17/2017. To quote:
- “ President Evan Werling, Secretary Nina Leggett and Treasurer Terri Schultz all submitted their resignations after Werling gave a nearly hourlong talk on “what the truth is about what’s been going on.” His presentation touched on a lack of documentation about the need for the sewer project, which has been in the works for more than 14 years; problems in the sewer project engineering report which a previous sewer board commissioned with county money; lack of health department cooperation in trying to obtain a “boots on the ground” survey of septic system failures in the Bean Blossom area to show sewer need; and name-calling which Leggett said she received at a health board meeting last fall.”
Why don’t “we” have a county-wide wastewater treatment plan? Policy and actions taken in conjunction with the Bean Blossom project can have impacts on all county residents
The RSD Board will be presenting “their “Plan at their meeting on June 19. 2018 at 6:00 P.M. County Office Building.
And finally, the auditor discussed the Local Income Tax (LIT) Certified Shares – “Levy Freeze for 2018 and 2019. I do not understand the issue. “It appears” this can lead to an increase in income tax. Plan on learning more. The government seems to have their own language.
Maple Leaf Ground Breaking Celebration – July 10. Hope the pictures turn out well.