All posts by Tim J. Clark

Road and Bridge Maintenance Information

Local Technical Assistance Program (LTAP) – Purdue University

LTAP is an established nationwide system of technology transfer (T2) centers, some of which are located in universities, with others in State highway agencies.  Each center develops a mix of technology transfer tools and information to effectively address the needs of the local highway community.

Asset Management Plans — Pavement, Bridge Priority, Pavement Inventory and Conditions, 5-year plan, cost analysis …

Assessment Procedures for Paved and Gravel Roads -LTEP Purdue,  Indiana Local Technical Assistance Program (LTEP), Purdue University School of Civil Engineering

 

Clear-cutting at the Overlook

Issue: Disappointment and anger over clearcutting at a popular overlook.

Who is responsible?   (1) The citizens (voters) for not demanding a strategy for managing county-owned land. This would be included in the county comprehensive plan.  (2) County commissioners and council who appoint the majority of members to the Parks and Recreation Board. Commissioners also are responsible for ensuring that county attorneys review all contracts. (3) Parks and Recreation Board who oversee the management of the Parks and Rec Department.

A Way Ahead? Let’s just not forget and move on. Review the policies, processes, and timeline that contributed to the decision and the current situation, share results with the citizens, and make the appropriate changes to prevent a reoccurrence. For voters, include “what happens next” as part of the criteria you use in selecting candidates in the 2020 county elections.

Timeline

April 16, 2019. Overlook litigation still possible; Nature Conservancy makes offer to manage  Commissioner Diana Biddle told the audience at the April 3 commissioners meeting that the county had received a “threat of litigation” and correspondence from legal firms representing local property owners. … According to online court records, no lawsuit has been filed.

April 16, 2019.  Letter: Forestry organization: 135 logging was not a ‘clearcut’ A true clearcut is a harvest method sometimes used by professional foresters to regenerate a stand of trees while also providing diverse wildlife habitats across a given landscape. 

April 7, 2019. BCM – Facebook Post.  Additional research identified the clear-cutting was in violation of the terms identified in the transfer of the property from the state to Parks and Rec.

  • See “Commentary” below on the systemic nature of the issue.

March 18, 2019.  WTHR, Indianapolis. Residents, visitors raging over tree debate in Brown County, by Kevin Rader.  A debate is raging in Brown County over this. A clear cut of trees along State Road 135.

March 15, 2019Indiana Audubon Statement on Brown County Logging Cut  Since the news of the recent clear-cutting of a swath of property in Brown County reached the Indiana Audubon Society’s Stewardship Committee, we have been following the events that led up to this unfortunate error (made either on the part of those entrusted by the public with the scenic property there …  While our primary concern is for the area’s nature itself, we are also perplexed by the causation of the event. We feel the communication between the invested parties (Parks Board, logging contractors, and community members) was flawed. Factors include:

  1. There was undue haste to complete the project, ergo crossing a line into the appearance of impropriety.
  2. There were no efforts to seek out or accommodate public input prior to the action.
  3. The contract was not devised to insure the protection of wildlife habitat, nor the public trust. Seen holistically, this indicates an alarming degree of irresponsibility or at the least the appearance of such.
Feb 26, 2019. BCD. GUEST OPINION: Overlook clearing: ‘See what it will becomeBy DAN SHAVER, guest columnist

Feb 13, 2019. BCD.  Residents wonder what happened at overlook By Poor communication led to more trees being cleared than planned

Feb 4, 2019. Brown County Matters. by Cheryl Ferguson.  178 comments, 1 share as of 3/19/2019.  Has anyone else driven out 135 toward bean blossom.?There across the road from the overlook is a valley of hell, all trees removed deep into that valley. Will anyone come to brown county if the leaves don’t have trees to hang on come October? What about the erosion that haircut is going to cause. Anybody know what’s going on? 

COMMENTARY – “If you fail to plan, you are planning to fail!”

This incident is another example  on the results from ignorance on the importance of planning – a point reinforced by Ben Franklin – “If you fail to plan, you are planning to fail!”

“IF” you expect the efficient and effective use of county assets and tax dollars “THEN” each government office, board and commission need to have a basic plan. In the case of Parks and Rec, to develop a plan, you need to know what you can and cannot do with the land you have been deeded. 

Planning would prevent the crisis and initiative de jours which appears to be the preferred course of action as evidenced by the ad-hoc approach that is taken on major projects in the county by our single-party autocracy – Stellar, Maple Leaf, Bean Blossom Sewers, “Proposed” Justice Center, Salt Creek Trail (Highway Bridge)… 

The result of “ad-hoc”? The visual on the clear cutting of the overlook is pretty obvious. What is not so obvious yet is that the ad-hoc approach will be leading to higher property taxes which is great if you benefit from development and churn in the real estate market. Not so good if you are in the low to moderate income level where an increase in property taxes and cost of utilities is a hardship. 

Development may eventually lead to an increase in the tax base but more income often results in more government spending.

BCRSD Board Meeting, March 12

BCRSD (BCRSD)  – Brown County Regional Sewer District

Status? The BCRSD Board has been given assurance by the State that the Bean Blossom project will be given a high priority for approval and funding is available.  Information on approval of the application will be known in the June/July timeframe.   They offered a caveat that approval was not a certainty and would likely be dependent on validating the need and acquiring the needed easements.

The justification for the project:  The “age” of systems (they are using an “estimated average life” of 25 years.  This information was included in the letter to residents. They are also using the results from the Health Department’s review of records. This 25-year estimate is contradicted by the EPA and Presby Environmental.

  • Useful Life of a Presby System.   If the system is designed, installed and maintained properly, there is no limit to the life expectancy of Enviro-Septic® Technology. In the event that the System malfunctions due to abuse, AES or Enviro-Septic® may be rejuvenated in as little as 72 hours, eliminating the need for a replacement.
  • EPA Septic Systems (Onsite/Decentralized Systems): Conventional septic systems are designed to operate indefinitely if properly maintained.  However, because most household systems are not well maintained, the functioning life of septic systems is typically 20 years or less.”

Residents will be sent a questionnaire along with a request for them to identify the location of their system. At an audience members request, residents to will be provided with the opportunity to identify if they want or do not want sewers and the Board will total the responses and share with the public).  (Note that the RSD does not require resident approval).

Information Sheet. Bandy Russell is working with councilman Dave Redding on a general information fact sheet regarding septic systems and terminology. Information will also be added that will provide residents with cost benefit-related information.

Residents will also be asked to approve an easement.  No details were provided regarding compensation or eminent domain.  On the easements granted by homeowners affected by the Salt Creek Trail under threat of eminent domain, payments included $176,000 for .259 acres and the school recently received $161,000 for less than three acres.

An RSD can require hook-ups to sewers and can grant waivers. The state code was referenced regarding guidance on waivers.  Indiana Code Title 36. Local Government § 36-9-23-30.1

  • The process:  “The property owner, at the property owner’s expense, obtains a written determination from: (A) the local health department; (B) the local health department’s designee; (C) if subsection (f) applies, a qualified inspector;  or (D) if subsection (g) applies, the board of the local health department; that the septic tank soil absorption system or constructed wetland septic system is not failing.”
  • The first waiver is for 10 years followed by up to two 5 year extensions for a total of 20 years.

The RSD is working to acquire grants that can be used to develop a county-wide wastewater treatment strategy.

No firm dates yet on when to expect the results from any testing of water.

On the option of running a line to Helmsburg and limiting the area to be served to just Bean Blossom, the Project Engineer (Gary Ladd) stated that this was not a cost-effective option (not enough customers) that the State would approve. The option of expanding the Helmsburg plant to accommodate the 240 Bean Blossoms customers was not discussed.

BCRSD board member discussion regarding current and past efforts to work with Helmsburg have not been productive. There was conflicting and inaccurate information exchanged between the various representatives.

MISC.

  • Council members present Dave Critser, Dave Redding, Bill Hamilton, Darren Byrd. Commissioners present Diana Biddle and Jerry Pittman.  RDC President Jim Kemp. Republican Party Reps:  Mark and Robyn Bowman.
  • The audience was directed to limit their questions/statements to 3 minutes.   Appears that the new “word” to be associated with individuals with questions and concerns is “negative” ….  a step up from naysayer?   🙂
  • Several invoices were approved.  Government representatives acknowledged that obligating expenses (approving work) prior to budget approval is not a common practice.

Further information on the history of the project:

 

RDC Meeting – Mar 7, 2019 Sewers, Septics, Economic Impacts

Notes 🙂 No formal agenda – open format. Topics included expanding Economic Development Areas (EDAs) in Jackson and Hamblen townships, purchasing/selling properties, affordable housing options, clean up of blighted properties, the importance of understanding culture when considering changes,  the history of dumping in rural areas to include Brown County, regional sewer districts (RSDs), and Helmsburg Revitalization.

Jim Kemp (President of the Redevelopment Commission (RDC) mentioned that he is taking the online certification courses required for installing Presbys and is reviewing the county required certifications tests.  His motive is to learn more about the process and requirements.

Brown County Matters – Facebook Post

On the topic of Helmsburg Revitalization, Barnes and Thornburg identified new requirements for buying and selling properties (?) that were not included in the initial  Economic Development Area (EDA) related resolutions and forms.

Helmsburg Revitalization and Waste Water Treatment Strategies

  • Jim Kemp suggested that one RSD for the county may/could be more efficient.  He had also talked with the Helmsburg RSD Board member who stated that Helmsburg did not want to assume any debt to accommodate Bean Blossom customers.
    • The Bean Blossom to Helmsburg option has been perceived as being among the better options as opposed to expanding the Bean Blossom Project to include other areas – Woodland Lake, Freeman Ridge, Little Fox Lake.
  • RSD members are appointed by either the council and/or commissioners. I could not find any information on the process and appointments on the county website.
  • Unless there is significant development around Helmsburg that leads to more customers, how does their $90.00 rate not continue to increase?  Gnaw Bone was helped out by the Forest Hills apartments that reduced rates to around $50.00 (?)
  • Along with the Bean Blossom sewer project, is the window open for funding from the state?   Would Helmsburg RSD  support any changes needed to support Bean Blossom (to include new debt) “IF” the costs to Helmsburg’s current customers would not be increased and may even lead to reduced rates?
  • If no significant development is expected in Helmsburg, then as mentioned at the meeting, a plan could include Helmsburg customers beings served by the BCRSD and (phase out the Helmsburg RSD?).   This would very likely lead to decreases in the monthly rate.
  • “Now” may be a good time to make any needed updates to the Helmsburg Economic Plan to include documenting the decisions regarding the future of the Helmsburg RSD.

New Economic Opportunities – Septic System Inspection and Installations

Not specifically addressed in the meeting but current efforts by the Brown County Regional Sewer District (BCRSD) and the Health Department “may be” leading to creating a significant financial opportunity for individuals that are interested in septic system inspections and installations. This also results in economic impacts on residents.

The Market: Data provided by the BCRSD identified that there are approximately 8,400 households in Brown County, and only about 700, or 8 percent, have sewer access. Out of the approximate 7,700 residences with septic systems, about 4,000 of those systems were installed before the state code was developed. As a result, many of them might not be in compliance with current codes.

The BCRSD in their letter to potential customers identified an “estimated average” useful life of a septic system at 25 years. (Source: Purdue extension service. I have not been able to find the analysis that provides the supporting detail for the “average.”)

  • This 25-year estimated average is contradicted by Presby Environmental and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
    • Presby Environmental: If the system is designed, installed and maintained properly, there is no limit to the life expectancy of Enviro-Septic® Technology. In the event that the System malfunctions due to abuse, AES or Enviro-Septic® may be rejuvenated in as little as 72 hours, eliminating the need for a replacement.
    • EPA. Conventional septic systems are designed to operate indefinitely if properly maintained.  EPA also identifies an assumption that most household systems are not well-maintained thus estimating the functional life of septic systems at 20 years or less. EPA Septic Systems (Onsite/Decentralized Systems)

The Health Department is updating its files regarding septic system records. They are identifying that in many cases, there are no records, records are incomplete and some records indicate that systems are not meeting current codes. More info on the status of septic system records – pages 3-5:  20190225 BCRSD Council Presentation Dec 17. 2018

The Health Department is also in the process of developing an update to the Septic System Ordinance.  The prior two versions have indicated increased requirements for inspectors and installers.  An economic impact study of the cost of any new changes on residents should be included with any proposed revision.

The unknown (to me) at this time is if the Health Department can require an update of records and/or inspections of existing systems.

“If” new ordinances and/or enforcement of existing septic system related laws and ordinances can identify a significant number of systems requiring updated records, inspections, repairs, and replacements, can the county contract for volume discounts? Financial support would be another issue.

Examples: Capital Improvement Plans and Budgets

Brown County Government does not have a Capital Improvement Plan or Budget.  They were required in 2018 by the State Board of Accounts (SBOA) to develop a capital asset “policy.”  An asset includes buildings, land, and infrastructure (roads, bridges, water, fire protection).

Facebook Post  Brown County Matters. What do you think? NO new county DEBT or increases in TAXES until the county publishes a 10-year plan and budget for maintenance, repair and replacement costs (funded and unfunded) of existing buildings and grounds (land) and other infrastructure costs to include roads and bridges. ..

Examples

Capital Improvement Planning & Budgeting Resource Center – Government Finance Officers Association (GFOA).  GFOA recommends that all governments regularly engage in long-term financial planning that encompasses the following elements and essential steps.

  • A long-term financial plan should include these elements. … Time Horizon. A plan should look at least five to ten years into the future.

Multnomah County, OR  County Roads Capital Improvement Plan – Video 2 minutes – 20 year look total of 270 miles of county paved roads

Durham County, North Carolina, Capital Improvement Plan – Fiscal Years 2014-2023

Test your knowledge – Questions and Answers – Capital Budgeting – 49 Terms

MANATEE COUNTY GOVERNMENT Fiscal Year 2018 – 2022 Capital Improvement Program

Stearns County, MN Capital Improvement Plan

Proposed Justice Center and Historic Courthouse – For the Record

Project Description

  • Build a new justice center including a courthouse and government offices. (Approximately $10 million).
  • Convert the second story of the historic courthouse to offices for our “part-time” commissioners.  First floor TBD.  Total Costs TBD.

Remonstrance Process.

Timeline

April 16, 2019We have to look at a solution’: County commissioners, council continue to look at future of courthouse  (Shared on Facebook – at Brown County Matters).

  • Commissioner Biddle. “We have those issues that we need to address. We either address them collectively or we start addressing them individually. Either way, it would cost us more money,”  … “I don’t care how we choose to fix the problem, but there are problems that aren’t going to go away. We have to look at a solution.”
  • Commissioner Jerry Pittman asked about any other large projects that might be “looming out there” that would require a $10 million bond like this one. Biddle and council Vice President Dave Critser both mentioned bridge work. … Last August, USI Consultants presented a report stating that Brown County was looking at more than $9 million worth of bridge work that will need to be done in the next nine years.
  • Councilman Dave Critser: Critser told commissioners Biddle and Pittman to move forward. “You just need to go ahead and move forward with this project. That’s all there is to it,” he said.
  • Pittman said he was still willing to have public meetings to get input on the plans and ideas on how to address space needs, especially at the Brown County Prosecutor’s Office where employees are getting sick due to the condition of the building. … “I don’t like the idea of borrowing $10 million, obligating my children who are living in this county and grandchildren who continue to. But honestly, does anybody have a more cost-effective solution than building a new facility? I’d love to hear it,” he said.

April 4, 2019. DLZ and Umbaugh (now called Baker Tilley) provided the same presentation to a “working session” of the Commissioners and Council that was made last June to a standing room only audience. NO ACTION has been taken since last June to address citizen concerns with this project. These were captured in my Letter – “Consider other ways for project to proceed” following the meeting.

Following this meeting was a presentation of the first ever five-year financial plan by Baker Tilly.

  • “Illustrative Financing” – Options for Financing the Proposed Justice Center. This was presented “before” the presentation on the Five-Year Financial Plan.
  • County Five Year Financial Plan and Projections (2016-2021).  Taxes will need to be increased to overcome projected deficits.  The plan did not include all of the fund accounts, the health insurance account,  and most funds (exception innkeeper’s tax revenue fund and riverboat fund) were projecting more costs than revenues. Further, the report did not include a:  Capital Improvement Plan and Budget to identify:
    • Projected capital improvement expenses (roads, bridges (9 million), maintenance, repair, and replacement of existing land and buildings,
    • Proposed new 10 million dollar debt for the proposed justice center and one million (+) plan for courthouse repairs and renovations) that would have led to increases in projected deficits. The report did identify the amounts that could be generated by higher taxes.  The key assumption was no change in the tax base.
    • Proposed new coroners office (50-100k?)
    •  Indiana Trial Court Statistics by County 
    • Brown County CourtTrends 2010 – 2017 
    • Brown County Population Projects – through 2020 – 2050 – Stats Indiana Brown County Population Projections

March 12, 2019. BCD. Discussions resume on future of Brown County Courthouse by Suzanna Couch.  Brown County Matters – Facebook Post

February 20, 2019.  Commissioner Meeting.  Commissioners identify the intent to push forward on this project.  Facebook Post-  Brown County Matters. Commissioner

June 26, 2018. BCDLetter: Courthouse project should be done thoughtfully, by Roy Graham, Bloomington. I have followed the issue of expanding the justice needs by way of a new building in Brown County carefully. … The Democrat has done an excellent job of covering this. … I am unsure if the following idea has been proposed, but before spending millions of dollars, I have a simple suggestion

May 29, 2018, BCDLOOKING BACK: Constructing the first Brown County courthouse by  Pauline Hoover, Brown County Historical Society

May 2, 2018.  Consultant Presentation:  New Courthouse and Government Offices  – AKA  – Brown County 2018 05-02 DLZ Justice Center Feasibility Study

  • Note that DLZ can bid on any projects that are generated from the study.

May 15, 2018. BCD,  Agency recommendation after study: Build new justice center, by Suzannah Couch

    • May 2 presentation to commissioners and council
    • An agency hired to examine the future of the historic courthouse in Brown County has offered two suggestions to the Brown County Commissioners and Brown County Council.
    • Those are to move court offices to a new building that would be built next to the Brown County Law Enforcement Center and move some county employees into the current courthouse after it is renovated.

May 1, 2018. BCD,   COUNTY NEWS: Courthouse feasibility study presentation set; money approved for courthouse security officer

 

Jan 23, 2018. BCD, The people’s court: Courthouse project needs public input, firm says by Sara Clifford

  • The agency hired to study the future of Brown County court operations wants to make two things clear:
    • No. 1: The people need to drive this project, and; No. 2: Whatever it ends up being, it needs to be something taxpayers can afford.
    • “I can’t stress this enough: The solution at the end of the day can’t be that we’re going to build this huge facility that’s going to meet the community’s needs for 50-plus years, but we can’t afford it,” said DLZ principal architect Eric Ratts

Jan 6, 2018BCD, Courthouse feasibility study kickoff meeting date set . by Suzannah Couch. A group will meet to discuss the next steps in what to do about the historic Brown County Courthouse next week.

Oct 17, 2017. BCD, Another annex? New study being done on courthouse future. by Suzannah Couch. For the fourth time in eight years, a study is being done on making changes to the historic Brown County Courthouse. This time, the study also will look at building a new, separate county annex building somewhere in downtown Nashville.

  • Biddle said that Umbaugh, the county’s financial consultant, said the “ideal time” to bid out a project would be at the end of 2018, get a bond and start construction in 2019.
  • The Brown County Commissioners and Brown County Council went ahead with plans to borrow up to $8.25 million to build a 17,400-square-foot addition. But taxpayers soundly defeated that proposal with a remonstrance, and citizen committees began studying other options.

Indiana Public Media: wfiu, npr, WTIU

County Website – General Information – Including previous Courthouse Studies and Proposals: