All posts by Tim J. Clark

Twin Lakes Regional Sewer District – A model for Brown County?

The situation,  history, and talking points, regarding the issues within the Twin Lakes Regional Sewer District in Monticello, IN is similar to what is now occurring in Brown County.

Twin Lakes Regional Sewer District (TLRSD) Monticello Indiana, White County District

  • History. … Poor water quality, failing septic systems, poor soil conditions and other septic system problems ….
  • In 1995, the District territory was expanded to include the Tippecanoe River, and the Lake Shafer and Lake Freeman corridors from the north White County line to the south White County line. In 2000, per request of the Carroll County Commissioners, the District territory was expanded to include the east side of Lake Freeman from the south White County line to CR 725 N Carroll County.
  • Tax Liens and Sales. Google:  Twin Lakes Regional Sewer District tax liens, tax sales, foreclosures

Dec 2014 Article – Regional Sewer and Septic Strategy – Outdated Septics, Water Quality, Terrain and Installation Challenges

  •  Low Pressure, High Profile. Milestone pressure Sewer Installation completed in Twin Lakes, IN
  • The article describes the need for the system and conditions for installation. The focus was on systems at risk for polluting water in lakes, creeks, and streams.
  • The conditions covered by the Twin Lakes Regional Sewer District (TLRSD) appears similar to Brown County. In addition to our waterways, major lakes include Cordry and Sweetwater, Woodland Lake, Lake Lemon, Lake LaSalle, etc.

Sep  23, 2009.  Legislative panel hears sewer district complaints Indianapolis Recorder Newspaper

  • Mike Mettler, director of the State Department of Health’s environmental public health division, said Indiana has about 800,000 homes with septic systems and that a quarter or more of those are failing or were improperly installed. … “These systems have a finite life,” he told the panel. “They don’t last forever.”
  • Legislators studying Indiana’s regional sewer districts heard complaints Tuesday that some of those districts are abusing their powers as they push forward projects to extend sewer lines into rural areas. At least one district head called the criticism unfair.
  • Carroll County resident Pat Robertson told members of the Environmental Quality Service Council that the Twin Lakes Regional Sewer District in northwestern Indiana has been heavy-handed, secretive and “a perfect example of government gone wrong.”
  • Robertson said the district has forced residents around Lake Freeman about 75 miles northwest of Indianapolis to shutter what in some cases were perfectly good septic systems and pay a $1,000 connection fee to use the city’s sewers.
  • Ted Stubbs, the president of the Association of Regional Sewer Districts, told the panel that sewer systems attract controversy because they are among the most expensive public infrastructure projects.
    • But he said sewer extensions have improved water quality, eliminated public health threats and boosted property values across the state.
    • “This has not happened without controversy or problems, but it has made many areas of Indiana a better place to live, work and play,” he said.

Sep 18, 2008Carroll County citizens hope Governor will stop sewer district Topix, Carrol County News

  • A group of Carroll County residents hopes the governor will step in and stop a sewer district from including more than 1,000 homes around Lake Freeman

Aug 31, 2009.  Tensions run high at TLRSD meeting, as Phase IV plans are discussed with affected residents.

  • The goal of the TLRSD is to eliminate septic systems near waterways, thereby reducing the amount of pollutants from leaking sewage and waste.
  • But as Phase IV approaches, many of those who will be affected are worried about the possible one-time and monthly costs.

Aug 8, 2008.  Residents preparing to sue sewer district, Pharos-Tribune, Logansport, IN.

  • Hundreds of angry Carroll County residents are preparing to file a class-action lawsuit against a regional sewer district they say is abusing their civil rights for profit.
  • Under Indiana law, once a district gets approval to enlarge its boundaries, it has complete authority to increase its sewer lines and force nearby residents onto the system

July 9, 2008TLRSD: prepare for law suit Carroll County residents make threat of legal action against sewer district, IDEM following meeting.

  • “Over the past years commissioners of Carroll County have received hundreds of requests from citizens and property owners in northwest Carroll County hoping that we do something to curb what they see as the tyranny of the Twin Lakes Regional Sewer District,” Brown said.

May 28, 2008County leaders to meet with IDEM about sewer district, Carroll County Comet.

  • “It seems like somehow we have developed an institution with more power than we do,” George Mears said as he provided the second.
  • Other opponents at the meeting complained although commissioners said sewer district issues should be addressed by IDEM, the state agency indicated the problems should be solved at the local level.

 

 

2018 Median Property Taxes and Home Values – Brown County

Indiana Median Home Prices by County- Brown County —  5th Highest

This U.S. Census Bureau American Community Survey (ACS) five-year estimates data set includes information about median home values in a number of geographic areas ranging from statewide to census tract. The data set includes median home value data from 2009-2016.

Affordable Housing Discussions

Notification Facebook – Brown County Matters by Jim Kemp, President of the RDC — Meetings to Discuss The Affordable Housing Issue.

My summary of the discussions provided below.  I welcome the study sponsored by the Regional Opportunity Initiative (ROI) that covers all 11 counties in the southwest central (Uplands) region.

“Affordable Housing”  in Indiana often refers to available places to rent and purchase and generally is associated with those in the low to moderate income level.  However, “affordable” can also be defined as a mortgage and principal payment at 30% of monthly income.  So, with this definition, housing would have to be both “affordable” and “available.”

RDG Example Regional Housing Study Lake of the Ozarks

In addition to these meetings, an online survey will be available to county citizens. Input from these meetings and from the survey will be integrated within a market analysis. Ideas and suggestions will be presented to the community in early spring.

Dec 6, 2018 

  • 9:00 a.m. Local Business Community, Realtors, Developers, Builders, Lenders
  • 10:30 a.m. Elected and Appointed Officials
  • 1:00 p.m. General Public and Community Organizations
  • 2:30 p.m. City and County Staff
  • 4:30 p.m. Brown County School Corporation Staff & Employees

Overall Agreement

  • Maintain our Quality of Life – Country / Artist Colony of the Midwest  — they way it has been – and find the right balance.  This is the attribute desired by residents that were born here and attracts many new residents to the county.
  • When it comes to affordable and available housing, there is no “one thing” – many options are needed.
  • Infrastructure is a key component. We currently have three wastewater treatment facilities that have the capability to expand. These are located in Nashville, Gnaw Bone, and Helmsburg.  Another facility is being proposed for Bean Blossom.

PLANS.

  • If you fail to plan, you plan to fail — Benjamin Franklin
  • Plans are nothing; planning is everything — Dwight D. Eisenhower

The context for a housing plan with a focus on Quality Of Life can be provided by a county strategic plan, Comprehensive Plan and Economic Plan.

The Vision 2010 and 2020 Plans supported by the Community Foundation would be components in a county strategic plan.  Leading Brown County is the revised Brown County Vision 2020: A Vision for the Future that was updated August 2014.

The County Comprehensive Plan (see 2012 and draft 1993 plans) provides a context for the Housing Study as will the  Economic Development Strategic Plan that is in the process of being developed.

Local Business Community, Realtors, Developers, Builders, Lenders: 

  • “Affordable” is based on income — mortgage that is within 30% of income.  The housing also has to be available.
  • Need Credit Scores in the mid to high 600s
  • Need an inventory and eligible buyers (lack of savings and debt an issue for many millennials)
    • Under 125K not livable; 150-200K have issues
  • Rent – $700-800 is an affordable range, easy to keep rented – no more than a 2-month vacancy.
  • Principal and Interest on 150K, 5% interest, 30 years – $805.00 per month
  • Demand.
    • Employee Housing – tourism/ hospitality industry
    • Starting teachers ($30k year)
  • Rural Living – Utilities and other costs can be higher – propane, home maintenance, electric, water, sewers if available, fire insurance, individual road maintenance, may need a chainsaw.
  • Expansion of broadband is a plus
  • Great schools and Leadership supported with ROI Ready Schools grants.  STEM initiative another plus.
  • We are a bedroom community.  Residents commute to the better-paying jobs located in other counties.

Elected and Appointed Officials

  • Commissioner Diana Biddle stated we had an “availability” issue as opposed to an “affordable” issue and stated we had too many tourist homes.   The tourist home issue was discussed at the APC meetings – 184 tourist homes (8,512 total homes) and they are at the higher price range end -$240K and up which is NOT in the “affordable” range.  We also have a large percent (20%+) of second homes.
    • If you accept a new definition of “affordable” as being a mortgage payment at 30% of monthly income, then restricting tourist homes may result in more “available” homes at the higher end of the market. This is a “new” argument with pros and cons.  
  • Septic / Sewer Issues discussed with the point being more homes need to be hooked up to sewers vs septics.

 General Public and Community Organizations

  • What should be the target number for affordable homes?  If you want to add 2,500  people to cover the projected loss in population, need 1,000 homes.
    • Available land an issue – 53% of land federal and state-owned.
    • Clusters of 10-15 homes per a development may work
    • Population in 2017 at 15,035. Projected to peak in 2020 at 15,393 and drops to 13,821 in 2040 (-1,572) and to 12,785 in 2050 (-2,608)
  • There is no “one thing” … Likely need different options depending on the township
  • Helmsburg (Jackson Township) has 32 lots available if zoning variance approved.  Could build for $100,000K sell at $110,000.
  • Noone wants the vinyl village/box home developments
  • Want to maintain county as “Country / Artist Colony of the Midwest.”
  • Tax policy of low property high income contributes to higher land prices, higher median home values, and second homes.
  • Affordable housing can be attractive to just not the local residents but to potential new residents as well — the 55+ age group that may be looking for a retirement or second home.

City and County Staff (did not sit through all of this one)

  • Sewer Service – want more customers and have the capability to expand the plant
    • Septic System code introduced in 1977 … and half homes built before that would not meet current codes.
  • Maple Leaf will lead to more growth – Synder Farm ideal for more development.

Brown County School Corporation Staff & Employees

  • Declining enrollments and the impact on funding a major problem.
    • Open enrollment (no cost to parents for enrolling their kids in other districts) is a factor. Reasons are due to convenience/location.  Schools in other counties may be more convenient for parents who commute to work outside the county.
    • There is some recruiting. Other districts may also have programs not available in BC.
  • 30% of existing staff live in the county, others mostly live Columbus and Bloomington.  Many teachers start living outside the county due to limited available and affordable housing and over time, get established in other communities (schools, churches, friends community)  and choose not to relocate to the county.
  • Need affordable options for starting teachers — 30K salary.
  • The 2008 flood caused a loss of many families that could not afford to rebuild.
  • The Forest Hills Apartments (accommodated county residents) and did not lead to increases in enrollment.

Facebook Post of this Post – Additional Comments

  • Need to apply a “holistic framework” which includes economic, environmental and social dimensions in equal parts. Nor any mention of “smart growth” which would include, green building materials, utilizing southern exposure at building sites to capture solar energy. It is hugely important that we drive the direction of how when and where our community grows. I know it was mentioned in yesterday’s community portion about free market driving the needs of the people, but again market would not exist if it were not for the government. We must not allow the bottom line to drive community develope if we are to form a more perfect union. A holistic framework must be put in place in order to produce positive economic, environmental and social change. — JoAnne Highbaugh

 

 

 

Book: Principles: Life and Work, by Ray Dalio

Ray Dalio is the author of Principles: Life and Work and Co-Chief Investment Officer & Co-Chairman of Bridgewater Associates, L.P. His book Principles: Life and Work is an excellent guide that provides proven approaches for improvement.  Mr. Dalio posts articles on sections of the book at LinkedIn.

TED  How to build a company (ORGANIZATION) where the best ideas win | Ray Dalio  Note: This applies to organizations to include county government.

Principles For Success by Ray Dalio:  Video – An ultra mini-series adventure in 30 minutes and eight episodes.

Examples: Principles explained at LinkedIn.

Work Principle 1. Trust in Radical Truth and Radical Transparency Understanding what is true is essential for success, and being radically transparent about everything, including mistakes and weaknesses, helps create the understanding that leads to improvements. That’s not just a theory; we have put this into practice at Bridgewater for over forty years, so we know how it works. But like most things in life, being radically truthful and transparent has cons as well as pros, which I will describe as accurately as possible in this chapter.

 

 

 

 

Hot Topics – Climate Change – State and County Impacts

“One of the themes I’ve had from the pulpit for some time is that we’ve lost the ability to disagree with civility,” …  “A theme I’ve borrowed from someone else is that ‘Clarity is more important than agreement.’ That means let me understand your thinking, you understand my thinking, and my agenda isn’t to change your mind, and hopefully your agenda is the same. I think if we focus more on that as a society it would benefit us.”
— Benjamin Sendrow 

Adverse climate change can have effects on the State and County.  The post by Kyle Birkemeier on Brown County Matters referencing an article in the IndyStar titled:  ‘Substantial loss of life’: What the climate change report says about Indiana” reinforces the need and opportunity for a better way of discussing the tough topics.  Personal attacks or comments that are taken as personal attacks typically don’t lead to support for any needed solutions.

  • “Its time to rethink our forest management in brown county, we need to petition the state to start taking immediate action, imagine the hit on our county if we have mass die-offs of our forests, as the climate report is predicting. – Kyle B.

A process determines the result and on controversial issues, the process can be very predictable and too often, does not lead to a  constructive way ahead. The following observations incorporate suggestions for improvement in the process:

  1. People can agree on the ideal, e.g., a safe and healthy environment.  An ideal solution is one where everyone gains, or at least, are not any worse off in the long-term.
  2.  People can agree on the facts. If they disagree, they can identify areas of disagreement and then choose to work to identify the root cause of the disagreement.  If the issues is still unresolvable, individuals can respectfully agree to disagree.  Eventually, facts will come out.   Fact is that like the weather, the climate changes.
  3. Of all the causes of the respective problem, people can find at least one that they can agree that they can support and agree to resolve.
  4. There will most likely always be polarity (oppositive perspectives) on an issue – especially a controversial one where change affects many people.
  5. TRUST.  Motives of those driving any change will most likely always include those representing individual and special interests.  This leads to a “Trust” issue and lack of trust is probably one of the greatest barriers to contributions to a  conflict.
    • Given the scope of the problem/solution to be addressed/implemented, identify the stakeholders, their needs, desired and expected outcomes.
  6. There is a never a perfect solution.  Any alternative will have pros and cons.
  7. Any effects from an agreed solution once implemented, needs to be periodically reviewed. What is working, what is not, what additional action is needed?
  8. Example: Problem Resolution and Decision Making Process

REFERENCES

Nov 27, 2018. ‘Substantial loss of life’: What the climate change report says about Indiana “A global warming report released by the Trump administration predicts several severe outcomes for Hoosier health and economy.”

Purdue University –  Indiana Climate Change Impacts Assessment

  • Hoosiers and other residents across the Midwest can expect increased flooding that will strain infrastructure; warmer, more humid conditions that will increase disease and worsen air quality; and reduced agricultural yields caused by heat, pests and a shifting growing season.
  • Perhaps the most startling revelation from the report: The Midwest region “is projected to experience a substantial, yet avoidable, loss of life” by mid-century.

NASA – Global Climate ChangeScientific consensus: Earth’s climate is warming 

  • Multiple studies published in peer-reviewed scientific journals1 show that 97 percent or more of actively publishing climate scientists agree*: Climate-warming trends over the past century are extremely likely due to human activities. In addition, most of the leading scientific organizations worldwide have issued public statements endorsing this position. 
  • Footnote: *Technically, a “consensus” is a general agreement of opinion, but the scientific method steers us away from this to an objective framework. In science, facts or observations are explained by a hypothesis (a statement of a possible explanation for some natural phenomenon), which can then be tested and retested until it is refuted (or disproved).  ….  As scientists gather more observations, they will build off one explanation and add details to complete the picture. Eventually, a group of hypotheses might be integrated and generalized into a scientific theory, a scientifically acceptable general principle or body of principles offered to explain phenomena.

Note:  I would like to see more information regarding the conclusion that warming is “extremely likely”  due to human activities.  What are the assumptions behind the models?  How was the degree of certainty (extremely likely) determined? Wouldn’t you need to know how the “system” was designed to arrive at this conclusion?

Nov 27, 2018. The Hill.  Counter (conservative) perspective regarding government “predictions” on major issues:  Another government report is dead wrong on fragile state of our planet

Nov 28, 2018. The media got it all wrong on the new US climate report.  Bjorn Lomborg is president of the Copenhagen Consensus Center.

  • Yes, we need to speed up the transition from fossil fuels by investing in green R&D. Even so, reporting on climate change needs to be grounded in reality. Exaggeration is understandable but dangerous, because it risks wasting resources on the wrong policy answers, and gives ammunition to those who would ignore this real challenge. 

Nov 8, 2018. Professor Jordan Peterson on climate change and climate policy at the Cambridge Union