Watch List – BCRSD

Presentation1

Website: The Brown County Regional Sewer District (BCRSD) 

Updated Mar 25, 2022 – 3:00 pm

In 2021, the Board consisted of Clint Studabaker, Richard Hall, Mike Leggins, Deborah Larsh, and Phil LeBlanc.  For 2022, Deborah Larsh is not continuing and her vacany was filed by Matt Hanlon.   Per the commissioners, this is a council appointment and the council meetings Jan 17, 2022.

Mar 23, 2022. Commissioner Meeting – BCRSD Request for additional funding. – “Public Hearing” on the issues

Brown County Regional Sewer District (BCRSD).  Good time to transition the BCRSD to an Advisory and Support Committee?

A review is needed on the continued need for the BCRSD including their scope, roles and responsibilities . A delay is suggested for any new board appointments and support for any additional funding such as from the ARP pending a review.  Options could include eliminating the BCRSD and converting it to an Advisory Committee on wastewater management and to support the Helmsburg RSD.  The HRSD Board can be expanded to include a representative from Bean Blossom and Lake Lemon.

Future Joint Meeting. The Commissioners have asked for a joint meeting with the HRSD and the BCRSD boards to discuss their requests for ARP funds. The BCRSD has requested $300K and the HRSD has requested $515K (25K of which has been approved). The Council should also be represented at this meeting.

RSDs – American Rescue Plan (ARP) Funding. The proposal for funding was  submitted by the Brown County Regional Sewer District (BCRSD) with a copy to the Helmsburg Regional Sewer District (HRSD). The BCRSD is currently requesting $300,000 from the ARP funds.

    • Copy of the BCRSD Proposal to the Commissioners: Cover-letter-and-proposal-to-brown-county-commissioners.  Areas covered range from Lake Lemon to Bean Blossom.  Bean Blossom includes but not limited to Brownies, Bill Monroe, Staley’s Mobile Home Park, greater Bean Blossom, Little Fox and Woodland Lakes, and Freeman Ridge.
    • Helmsburg (HRSD) Proposal for APR funding. HRSD identifed the need for $515,000 (has since been increased). Commissioners did approve the 25K needed to acquire more land to support a plant expansion.  Dec 6, 2021, HRSD_BCRSD Joint Proposal to Commissioners. Commissioners also approved $40,000 to hook up two customers (Mar 22, 2022 meeting.)

Current plans. The proposed bean Blossom sewer plant project is on “pause.” The current plan for the area is to justify an expansion of the Helmsburg Plant to potentially serve the Lake Lemon and Bean Blossom areas. This project has a higher likelihood of receiving federal and state money. There is a valid and documented need in the Lake Lemon area whose residents also support sewer service. Helmsburg has an aging plant that needs upgrades. The Helmsburg RSD (HRSD) Board can be expanded to include representation from Bean Blossom and Lake Lemon. State and Federal officials have both reinforced that the fewer RSDs the better.

History and Background: The BCRSD (Formerly the Bean Blossom RSD) was created to acquire sewer service for Bean Blossom.

For “20+ years”, there has been some interest in Bean Blossom for sewer service. A common position by those I’ve talked to within the county, state and federal level, (to include articles in the Democrat) has been that it made the most sense for Helmsburg to provide the service.

Conflicts between individuals in Helmsburg and Bean Blossom prevented support. One of the barriers was the perceived potential risk to Helmsburg customers for paying more per month to cover the expansion to Bean Blossom. County elected leaders at the time refused to get involved.

Bean Blossom then created an RSD (BBRSD) and needed to expand their customer base (despite documented evidence of need) to justify sewers. The Bean Blossom RSD was converted to the Brown County RSD (BCRSD). When Evan Werling was president of the BCRSD, he asked the state to provide a “boots on the ground” assessment as to need. The Health Department did not support this assessment. Given the lack of a documented need and lack of support from the Health Department, Werling and two other board members resigned from the Board. Evan Werling was replaced by Judy Swift who was elected as president. She was also in support of documenting the need that was not supported by the rest of the board. She resigned from the board. She was replaced by Mike Leggins who still is serving as president of the board.

Under the leadership of Mike Leggins with technical support provided by Clint Studabaker, a “need” was derived based on the speculated “age” of systems and lack of records.  The BCRSD submitted an application for funding  through a Preliminary Engineering Report (PER) in June of 2018 and later received tentative project approval from the State.  The PER included Letters of Support for this project from “1998.”   Without support from the current customer base, it would might be difficult to acquire the estimated 190 easements.

Additional Information:

Property – Bean Blossom Sewer Plant. The BCRSD was not able to acquire property from private landowners and asked Parks and Rec for five acres which they provided. The DNR refused to support the transfer due to deed restrictions. The Bean Blossom sewer plant project is on “pause.”  It has not been officially cancelled and removed from the States pending project list.

A new sewer plant in Bean Blossom appears highly unlikely at this point. The council provided $270k to the BCRSD. Over $200K has been spent on planning. No land has been identified. BCRSD has no customers and the justification used to create the RSD is no longer valid.

Nashville Support of Sewer Service. Nashville offered to extend sewer service. Evan Werling and the board at the time unanimously rejected their offer due to cost and an annexation requirement. An assessment by the Redevelopment Commission (RDC) at the time identified that service from Helmsburg would likely be more cost effective.

Nashville has recently identified their interest in providing support at less cost than building a new plant without an annexation requirement.

    • Oct 15, 2021. Nashville Sanitary Sewer Master Plan. The justification of need to support expansion to outlying areas are based on anecdotes and hearsay. The plan also includes an estimate for supporting an expansion to Bean Blossom.

Consideration —  BCRSD Transitioned to an Advisory and Support Committee

As mentioned, the HRSD Board can be expanded to include a representative from Bean Blossom and Lake Lemon. The BCRSD is an unnecessary redundancy.

The BCRSD received funding from ROI to develop a needed  study – Brown County Wastewater Infrastructure Strategic Planning Study. This study is near completion (84%) and can serve as an addendum to the County Comprehensive Plan (CCP). The CCP is managed by the Planning Department. The Area Plan Commission (APC) has identified an intent to update the current 14-page plan. The Wastewater Plan can be managed by an Advisory Committee.

Preliminary water sampling indicates some human caused e-coli. This information was shared with about 600 people via a postcard. Unknown at this time the extent and scope of the problem.

BCRSD Water Quality Card Notice

Finding and Potential Solutions? Who is in charge? What control would county elected officials have over any potential findings and “solutions” from the wastewater strategy?  Does the BCRSD have the power to act independently?   The BCRSD as an Advisory Committee would make recommendations to the county elected officials who would then decide on the appropriate courses of action.

Potential Abuse of Power. An RSD can wield a significant amount of power. They can force “mandates” for sewer service. Any waivers are temporary. They can charge potential customers a monthly fee to support construction costs. They can borrow money. The ONLY control county elected official have is on appointments to the board and choosing to provide funding.

Balancing Power – Elected vs Appointed Board Members. The Gnaw Bone RSD opted for board members to be elected by the customers as opposed to being appointed by the Commissioners and Council.  This can lead to more transparency and accountability.

Dec 8, 2021. ARP Funding – Commissioners – Decision Criteria Needed

BCRSD – Cover memo and funding request for American Rescue r Plan (ARP).  County receiving about 1.4 million.  BCRSD is asking for $300,000.  The priority for the county is and has been Helmsburg, Trevlac, and Lake Lemon Areas.   The need (as opposed to want) for the Bean Blossom area has not been validated and lacks evidence of community wide support.

Since 2018, the BCRSD spent over 200K of the 270K they received from the county council on plans for a new plant in Bean Blossom. They determined this was the highest priority in the county. After 3 years, they have been unable to acquire land.

July 16, 2022.  Justification for placement on a “Watch List”
  • TOO MUCH POWER WITH NO COUNTY OVERSIGHT. A Regional Sewer District has the power to force everyone within 300 feet of a sewer line to pay the hook up fees and monthly utility charges for service. Charges could range from $65.00 a month. Any waivers for customers with functional septic systems are temporary and at the discretion of the RSD. The only power county elected officials have over this board is appointments and re-appointments. They can also choose NOT to provide any local funding. The BCRSD could still receive funding from other sources. Power always corrupts. Oversight and transparency are antidotes.
  • Lack of Transparency.  No frequent updates on their recently developed (2021) website to include agenda, minutes, reports, contact information for Board members, and recordings of their meetings. The promise of development of a website and support for communication and transparency were made at their “June 2018” meeting. This was the meeting where they announced submission of an application for funding for a new sewer plant in Bean Blossom.
  • Mismanagement and Lack of Oversight by County Officials. The BCRSD applied for funding for a new plant in Bean Blossom in June 2018. They spent over $220,000 of the 270K provided to them by the County Council. They have not acquired land and their attempt to acquire county parkland was rejected by DNR. They have not validated a need. Nashville has identified that they can provide service to Bean Blossom at less cost that building a new plant. And it is becoming more apparent to all that a regional plant in Helsmburg may be the best option for the area.  They have yet to publicly comments on the status of the Bean Blossom Sewer Plan other that to say “all options are being considered.”
    • An independent audit on the efficiency and effectiveness of the BCRSD should be initiated by county officials.
  • Overstatements.  In this week’s Democrat, Mr. Studabaker stated they had $30 million worth of projects. This is an overstatement. He was basing the “estimate” on findings from a regionalization study that identified rough estimates for a variety of projects IF a NEED could be validated. Further analysis is needed to determine the most feasible of options. Further, Studebaker claimed human causes e-coli contamination that could be due to failed septic systems.  He was referring to a water samples containing pharmaceutical waste – which per the Democrat, cannot be filtered by septic systems OR wastewater treatment systems.
  • Plans and Strategies.  The BCRSD initiatives that led to the acquisition of grants for the development of a Regionalization Study and Wastewater Strategic Plan are value added. These “Plans” and strategies can be maintained by the county planning office. The current planning director is retiring within a year and a new director with the required skills can provide the oversight on ALL projects  that involve county resources and infrastructure.
  • Dissolve the BCRSDThe Platform for the 2020 County Democrat candidates for office included the objective of dissolving the BCRSD. This should remain a consideration.
    • We believe there is no useful purpose served by the existence of the Brown County Regional Sewer District, and it should be dissolved. No proof supported by observation of empirical evidence shows good cause to force county homes and businesses off of septic systems already installed. The Hometown Engineering report determined that no new sanitary sewer system is economically feasible without wide-scale hookup.
  • False Premise.  The BCRSD was established based on a false premise of an “environmental nightmare” in the Bean Blossom area due to failed septic systems. This has never been validated. Current possible projects supporting Helmsburg and Lake Lemon can be administered by an expanded Helmsburg RSD with contracting support.

IF water sampling does indicate human caused contamination, next steps would be to confirm the scope and extent of the problem. 

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s