2022 Commissioner Meetings

brown county indiana

2022 – Expectations for County Government

Feb 16, 2022. Commissioner Meeting – 2:00 – 3:45. 39 participants.  Post at Brown County Matters

o. Commissioner Tax Increase – Cumulative capital development tax rate. The commissioners desire for a tax increase was raised in May 2021 but they missed a key deadline. They will be posting the required legal notice, the public hearings schedulted for Mar 16 with a final vote to approve on Apr 6.

    • May 21, 2022Cumulative capital development tax rate change delayed. “Moving to the max would put about $56,000 more into the cumulative capital development fund, which pays for mostly county buildings and grounds upkeep, maintenance and IT services.”
    • Note: The county recently borrowed $3 million for infrastructure related expenses and to pay operating expenses that exceeded what was budgeted. Note also on any tasx increase, the “spin” is typically that it is just a “few dollars.”  The county doubled the income tax rate in 10 years, maxed it out, and shifted to relying on property tax increases to fund the addition to spending. The justification is always generic.

o. Community Corrections – Joshua Bales. Request for 20K and Letters of Support for a grant to support of a plan to “break the cycle of substance abuse and build strong families.” The program modeled on a sucessful strategy referred to as  the Martinsburg Initiatve.com.

The initiative is based on the science of Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) that shows how early childhood experiences shape the lives of adults. By creating a dynamic partnership between police, schools, community, health, and education, The Martinsburg Initiative strengthens families and empowers communities by providing a long-term solution to the problem of substance abuse.” https://themartinsburginitiative.com/tag/substance-abuse-prevention/ARP funds can be used to fund the grant.  Excellent presentation – plenty of “facts.” For more info, Check out the Community Corrections website.

Helmsburg Stormwater Project. Approximately $148, 633.91 is required to pay the current invoice. The funds will come from the $3 million capital improvement loan. The balace of costs are funded by OCRS.

 Health and Wellness – Fitness Trackers. Commissioner Biddle proposed that taxpayers fund half the cost of new fitness trackers for employees. Cost of the Trackers is 18.00. The proposal was approved by the commissioners.

Lawncare/Landscaping Contract approximately 16K.  Per commissioner Biddle, service contracts and other service under 50K do not have to be competed.

Employee Retirement/Savings Program. County has to drop the “My Choice” option due  to higher costs than expected.

Highway Department Update – Mike Magnor.  See their website for updates on Road Plan, report an issue, and updates. The Feds have changed the process for CDL certification that will add more training time (3 weeks) and costs.

Request for Information. Link to my list of questions. I received no response from the commissioners. I ‘ll be submitting  requests through the Public Access Counselor

Feb 2, 2022. Commissioner Meeting. 2:00 – 4:00. 65 participants (many of which were county employees wanting information on office closures.

NEW Meeting Process.  Meetings will be streamed on YouTube.  Any questions you may have will have to be submitted to the commissioners via email. A meeting will also be available via ZOOM but only those on the “agenda” are allowed to speak and ask questions.  On emails, my experience is that they document the timeline and when they don’t respond, you can re-submit via the Public Access Counselor.  This buys them another 30 days or more to provide a response.

Restricting and eliminating questions during a public meeting contributes  to a misuse and abuse of power. Power corrupts and some people are more susceptible to the “Drug” than others. It also  indicates a fear of the more outspoken members of the community, and a contempt for all the citizens. Citizen input is a needed  step for working to develop the best solutions for the county.  On complex decisions with long-term consequences,  public hearings should be held. Unfortunately, when public hearings are held, the pattern of the elected officials  is to acknowledge and then ignore the input.  Key decisions seem to be made in advance which is why you  typically see little if any serious questions, discussions and  debate.  

Government decisions should result in outcomes where everyone benefits, or at least are not any worse off in the long-term This requires that you involve citizens in the process to include the feedback they need to assess results. Here is a link to an outline of an alternative  county decision making process.

Sewer Projects – ARP Funding.  Helmsburg RSD is requesting 515K – which makes sense – They have a valid need and should be the highest priority in the county. Lake Lemon residents support sewer expansion to their area.

The Brown County RSD requested 300K – which was interesting.  Two RSDs serving the same customer base?  Note the BCRSD previously received 270K, from the County Council, spent about 220K and was not able to acquire land for a plant in Bean Blossom. They were never held accountable for their mismanagement and wasted money. Nor did they have customer buy-in. Their Letters of Support were from 1998. Clint Studabaker mentioned total project costs to support sewers from Lake Lemon to Bean Blossom would be around 3O million. He repeats the same misleading information that the commissioners never question or seem to understand.  E-Coli tests indicate some human caused contamination in the Bean Blossom Area.  What is not known is how many inadequate systems may be contributing to the problem. What are the other options for repairing and replacing inadequate systems? Is a 30 million dollar solution the best course of action for the county?  The BCRSD received a grant to develop a wastewater strategic plan. This has not been completed or shared with the public.

Motivation:  Development interest continue  to push the projected sewer mandates in the Bean Blossom area. Sewers will increase the cost of living and the long-term maintenance costs tends to increase over time.  Given a low to moderate income level in the county at 53.1 %, (2017 statistically valid survey), what is the impact of a higher cost of living on residents that haver functional systems?  Will higher costs of living contribute  to county gentrification?

County Council Meeting – Feb 21, 2022?) Presidents Day. The county council will also need to approved the ARP Funding for the Sewer Projects. On the BCRSD situation – an option  is to convert them to an advisory committee – maybe aligned with the Health Department.

Employee Buyouts – extended.

Request for Information. Link to my list of questions. I received no response from the commissioners. I ‘ll be submitting the requests through the Public Access Counselor

Jan 19, 2022  Commissioner Meeting – 2:00-3:30 – 16 participants. Facebook Post at Brown County Matters    Updated Jan 21, 2022 

Officers. Jerry Pittman re-voted president. Chuck Braden nominated himself for VP which surprised the other commissioners, but it was seconded and he is now VP. Diana Biddle was the previous VP.

Brown County Website Overview. An overview of the website was provided by Laura Winett of IT. Each department (if they so choose), now can upload their own minutes, agendas, recordings, and current news, links to their Facebook account, etc. Website includes information on job postings.

Nashville Bicycle/Path Master Plan –County funding. Diana Biddle committed $20K (or more) to development of a plan that is speculated to cost 100k. Other partners include Nashville, YMCA, Foundation, Parks and Rec. The “justification” was that in addition to Nashville, this “could” support other areas in Washington Township. Nashville’s population is about 1,000. County population around 15,000 with many areas that might benefit from funding for trails.

Highway Department Update – Mike Magnor.  See their website for updates on Road Plan, report an issue, and updates.

Definition of a Plan. Commissioners Biddle’s definition of a plan describes a concept or idea which explains her insight that past “plans” end up on a shelf.  The professional definition of a “plan” includes objectives, method (plan of action with milestones), risks, and resources (time and money).

Bonus – 1,000, Elected Officials. The money is coming from an excess in the life insurance fund, not the wellness fund.  This excess was not identifed during the budget hearings.

Annual Facilities Walk-Thru.  No specifics as to what this entails.  Should include an inspection, review of maintenance schedules, plan as to repairs and replacements, e.g., a foundation of a Capital Improvement Plan and Budget.

Board Appointments. An issue was raised regarding the criteria that could be applied in selecting candidates. The Commissioners reinforced they can appoint anyone they believe can do a good job.

Website – Boards and Commissions. The Brown County Website does not include Boards and Commissioners or a listing of appointments and expirations – current and historical.

Salt Creek Trail For the Record. Nothing too new. The trail from the State Park to the YMCA is “funded” with fed and state money. The proposed route from the Red Barn to the YMCA may have been identified. The State handles land acquisitions.

Personal Commentary. With a one-party monopoly on political power, candidates selected for elected and appointed offices generally pose little risk to the status quo. This is reinforced by an electorate that accepts the status quo. The county voted around 64% for Trump in 2016 and 2020.  Democrat candidates typically are not competitive and candidates with social media posts that denigrate conservatives, Trump and his supports do not lead to more votes. Covid policies have reinforced the political divide nationally as well as locally.

Transparency. Knowledge is potential power and why share it if you do not have to? Lack of transparency leads to inefficiencies and corruption. Corruption defined as the inability to distinguish between right and wrong.

Legal – Barnes and Thornburg. NSTR.

Request for Information (RFI). I follow up every meeting  on my requests for more information. I estimate it would take about an hour to provide the information.

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Jan 5, 2021. Commissioner Meeting, 2:00 p.m. In person and Zoom. 20 participants.
Facebook Post – Brown Countyt Matters

    • Health Clinic. Will be expanding hours for testing and vaccinations. Grant money from the state will cover overtime.
    • Board Appointments. Commissioners approved appointments to several boards. Number of applicantes/re-appointments matched vacancies.  A brief discussion regarding the statute appointing members to the Convention Visitor Commission (CVC) – 3 of the 5 members must be “be engaged in the hotel or motel business within the county.” (IC 6-9-14)
    • Health Savings.  It was reported that the change in provider (s) of prescriptions saved: $329,785.
    • Employee Buyouts. Only 3 employees accepted the 15K buyout offer – 1 in propbation and 2 in the auditors office.  The expectation for budget purposese was the number would be higher.
    • Highway Department (website). Milestone was selected as the low bidder.
    • In 2022, I am also posting and consolidating all the meeting notes at Indep Voters – included the link to the RFIs. Request for Information (RFI).  I followed up on a few of my requests. Also requested more information on the Music Centers financial condition.   
    • Additions:
      • County Attorneys Barnes and Thornburg. Contract was renewed, not advertised for other bids. Anecdotal testimony as to the value-added.
      • “Fire District.”  The Fire District exists on paper.  Would allow the District to tax residentes to support fire protection to include paid firefighters.  This was a contoversial issue a few years ago and ended up in court.  Commissioners implied this may be more acceptable now.

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