Friday, January 23, 2004

Dearborn County Sewer Board - A call to action.

The new seven member Dearborn County Sewer Board is currently being set up.

I attended a county commissioner meeting Jan 22nd at 9AM where the county commissioners attempted to make their appointments. The commissioners are allowed to pick a citizen from district 2 and one from district 3. Their 3rd member can be a commissioner OR ONE OF THEIR DESIGNEES.

Because District 1 is so populated and also has the most development, there was discussion about using the commissioner spot for a citizen member in district 1. The suggestion was Greg Vollmer. Vollmer has been active in the county wherever there have been questions regarding sewage. He has no conflict of interest - it is not part of his livelihood. He became interested years ago through Community Planning Advocates in Bright, when there were issues with sewage treatment there in his community. Unfortunately things deteriorated at that point, because Commissioner Benning, who has served on the advisory board to set up the district wanted to be appointed. This would give 2 appointments from the commissioners for people who live in District 3. The mayor of the city of Aurora also has an appointment- he gave a letter to Commissioner Benning requesting Brett Fehrman of Fehrman Realty. That letter was given to the Health Board as Aurora's appointment. This would make three appointments to District 3 out of a 7 member board.

I attended the meeting along with Butch Jansen, Mark Hall, and Cliff Eibeck. Bob and Brett Fehrman were also in attendance as was Mike Manford, a citizen who had hoped to be appointed to the board from District 3. The newspaper covered the meeting as well. I spoke at the end of this discussion about the need for geographical balance as well as a diversity of backgrounds on the board. I also spoke about the concern for conflicts of interest regarding board members, particularly related to development issues. I mentioned District 1 being an area of large development and hoping they would have at least two board members.

The only appointment made from commissioners was Barry Pruss for District 3 at Commissioner Benning's suggestion. She had Mike Manford as an option and Patrick Holland (from Sparta- an area seeing sporadic unplanned development) as another option. Her reason for turning down Holland was because he worked outside the county - he's a teacher in Ripley County. I'm not aware of any reason regarding Mr. Manford, except that perhaps he was new to the board and they didn't know much about him from his faxed request. He spoke later and stated that he was a resident in the area slated for sewers and in fact wanted them for his home. The appointment from District 2 was still open, though a couple members from Manchester Civic Association were being considered. Manchester is an area seeing development coming in a piecemeal fashion, so this would be a good choice for an area needing representation.

The commissioners left it with the idea that the Health Board OR THEIR DESIGNEE was one appointment, and Council has 2- one from District 1 and one from among their council OR A DESIGNEE. They wanted to wait to see if these boards would help balance out the board. I contacted several council members via email requesting that they use one of their appointments for Greg Vollmer. Apparently Commissioner Benning did also, because she thinks that is the only way she will be able to get on that board.

Of significance after the meeting, Commissioner Benning is claiming that she is being discriminated against because she is a realtor! It was mentioned in the discussion that she was a realtor and that there already was one realtor on the board. A balanced board would imply that people with several different backgrounds should be appointed. I would wonder if two-thirds of the county could claim discrimination because they WORK OUTSIDE THE COUNTY! Perhaps there needed to be some guidelines on board member qualifications! Relying on common sense may have been foolish.

Why care?
- Well- a county-wide sewer district is a big responsibility. Sewer infrastructure will in a sense determine where development will go. A board needs to be free of conflicts of interest in order for the public to have confidence in their decisions. I am concerned because of the undercurrents behind this selection process and the distorted reasoning I have witnessed so far.

Tuesday(Jan 27 at 7:30PM) the County Council meets, Wednesday (Jan 28th) is Health Board. Both meetings are open to the public and in the county adm. building. Call 537-1040 to double check on their times or weather cancellations)

The Commissioners meet again at 9:30 AM on the first Monday in February (Feb 2) and will probably attempt to make their remaining appointments then. This Board can affect the future planning of this county- we need to see to it that the members are well-versed in the areas and issues they will have to contend with.

Christine Brauer Mueller
Lawrenceburg Township

No comments: