County Council Meeting Notes, Jan 17, 2023

we the people declaration and flag

Council Meeting Jan 17, 2022, at 6:30 p.m.

Context.  Brown County has a one-party monopoly on political power which contributes to a closed system. A closed system does not readily accept input from those outside the system and positive change can be very incremental. A closed system is also less transparent and is typically less effective.  Newly elected officials can often bring fresh perspectives for needed changes if they are not worn down by the advocates and defenders of the status quo.

County Council Meeting Agenda Jan 17, 2023

Personnel Policies. The Commissioners are responsible for personnel issues. The Council is responsible for job descriptions and pay policies (checkbook). The duties of the commissioner’s administrative assistant were separated last year into two positions – an HR director and a part-time admin assistant. For the HR Director position, supervisory oversight was assigned to a personal advisory committee (PAC) consisting of a commissioner, councilman, and auditor. Commissioner Sanders with input provided by the county attorney reinforced that personnel oversight is a commissioner’s responsibility and challenged the legality of the PAC . This issue to be worked out in a future meeting.

Redevelopment Commission (RDC).  Questions were raised regarding budget, value, and direction.

 Health Insurance. The need for an HR director with oversight of health insurance policies emerged as a result of out-of-control costs that per councilman Redding, nearly bankrupted the county. After several years of costs exceeding budgets by several hundred thousand dollars, changes were finally made last year that may get costs under control.

Spending.  Assessment of the status of the 3 million dollar loan. Councilman  Dave Redding identified the need for the State Board of Accounts to review the types of expenses charged to this fund regarding infrastructure costs as opposed to covering operating expenses.  Note that in addition to the recurring 3 million dollar loan (it was 2 million), commissioners suggested another 700K may need to be borrowed to fund courthouse additions.

Comprehensive Plan.  Councilman Jim Kemp raised the issue of the value of the Comprehensive Plan and suggested an update starting with an assessment of demographics.

    • Draft 1993 Plan over 90 pages – not approved.

Commissioners are responsible for reviewing and approving the plan which require several public meetings. The Planning Department is the lead office.  The 14- page Comprehensive Plan of 2011 meets the “minimum” state requirements for managing zoning.  Zoning identifies the types of development desired which in turn, establishes an economic base.  The current plan is intentionally vague that allows just about anyone with the right connections and influence to get the approvals needed for their projects. Citing alignment with the comprehensive plan, good arguments can be made for or against a project. This grants appointees to the APC/BZA with too much discretionary decision-making which is rarely challenged by the commissioners. The comprehensive plan should represent the “voice” of the citizens as to what they want and do not want as opposed to the special interests. The plan should also address the community’s desire for the expansion of sewers, economic development, and tourism-related developments, including tourist rentals.

Brown County’s Yellowstone?  Preservation vs development issues. County issues are similar to the popular series Yellowstone – those who live here, love and want to maintain the land as-is as opposed to those that want to exploit development for personal gain.  The lovers of the land, which are the too-silent majority,  represent the economic base for the county.

Topics of future interest include: Funding sources for the courthouse renovations (new bids are due Feb 15). The BCMC Admin Agreement and CVC budget and the responsibility of the council and commissioners in determining revenue distributions. More frequent updates on the status of the 2023 budget – planned vs actual expenses (especially health benefit-related costs). Capital improvement (asset management) plan and budget (this would be “new). The timely posting of meeting agendas and audio recordings. Identification of internal controls for offices, departments, boards, and commissions – identifies those things that must be done per statute to avoid mission failure (this would be new.)   Review of updates to the County Comprehensive Financial Plan??  Indian Hill RR Crossing – Right of Way (Commissioner issue/re-opening and legal costs (council issue).

Other: Council has provided funding for planning by the Helmsburg RSD and Brown County RSD to expand sewer service.  There are risks associated with these projects.  Joint projects are estimated at over 30 million (40 million with inflation).

Brown County Leader Network. Methods and tools that support improvement.

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