Thursday, February 26, 2004

February 24 County Council Meeting Update

At the February 24 Council meeting – in 4 hours the following additional appropriations occurred:
1. Dillsboro Civic Ass’n (Dave Wendelman)- $2000 toward the Homecoming Festival- same as last year.
2. Clerk of Courts (Gayle Pennington)- $500 appropriated from county general toward computer maintenance agreement of $1000 total for Midwest Data Services. The clerk stated Midwest Data charges nearly $298 for the first hour of support if you do not have a service contract. She will get the remaining $500 from their Repair line item.
3. Lorie Howard, the new County Administrator, is preparing a proposal for IT to present to the commissioners at their regular Thurs morning administration meeting. When asked if this appropriation would interfere with the IT plans being presented, Commissioner Benning reiterated several times that it would be no problem to for the Clerk to have her support contract with Midwest Data. Midwest Data built the clerk’s voter registration server.
4. Sheriff Lusby- received $80,000 from county general to cover the medical expenses and prescriptions for inmates at the jail. Last year they spent $138,000 on prescriptions alone. Apparently $15,000 from the pension fund may be returning to the county- it was over appropriated last year.
5. Solid Waste (BJ Ault) requested a property tax rate increase from .0103/$100 to .034/$100. The state average is .068/$100. The request is based on the growth in the county and resulting needs for recycling. Council voted to table this item until they could see exactly what the property tax assessment would be for Dearborn County. Deadline is May 1 for Solid Waste to get their request to the state.
6. Transportation Dept.- (Mike Davis) – March 18th 7PM at Tate St. is the final presentation of the Transportation Assessment study- all invited. $48,000 came back to account 203 (special projects). Because of extra road miles, $4,000 was appropriated to pay for the assessment of those extra road miles.
$4000 was appropriated for an extra computer and the training of one person who can then train the others on the use of the GIS based system for road inventory.
$1500 was appropriated for 5 GIS handheld units to keep the inventory updated. Health Dept. and Planning and Zoning and Building can also use units. The vote on this item will need to be redone at the next meeting- it requires a majority of the whole board and only got 3 votes instead of 4 required. (Negangard and Kraus wanted less units- thinking that the staff could drive back and pick them up as needed)
$18,000 was appropriated from 203 special projects fun to repair the slip on Pinhook Rd. Other roads need to be itemized and prioritized before Council will approve. Some bridge kits are being utilized with in-house installation in order to save money. CPI Culverts is supplying the engineering for “free” and then selling the county the bridge.
Charlie Fehrman stated that he and Cary Pickens last year wiped out a bunch of old unspent money and put it into county general…
State inspector found a buried tank at the highway garage. $4240 appropriated from 203 – special projects- to remove the tank using a certified inspector.
7. Planning- (Travis Miller) tabled from last month- took nearly 40 minutes of discussion- but finally received approval (one Nay from Kraus) from 203 special projects fund for $21,400 for software to unite the data sharing for 4 offices (Planning and Zoning, Health, Hwy, and Bldg. Inspector). This will eventually lead to one stop shopping for people seeking permits.
Approval also to sell burned CDs of zoning and subdivision ordinances for #10 total.
Approval also of a fee schedule increase for tech review on certain certified surveys.
8. Water Rescue (Steve Jackson) $3200 for equipment to locate underwater prior to diving was denied- Charlie to seek aid from Argosy and Lawrenceburg instead.
9. Conquerors Boy’s Club (Dan Weisbrod) approved $2440 for equipment (tabled from last month.
10. Health Dept. (Doug Baer)- approval to hire employee at $32,900 – and continue that salary into 2005. Baer to write up salary ordinance for entire dept.- needed to be signed next month.
11. South Dearborn Babe Ruth (Dave Burris) – no money granted for JV field repair at South Dearborn or for Dillsboro Field. He’s to check with the school and also with the Park Board.
12. Manchester Athletic Ass’n (Steve Wolfer)- $2400 for fence to keep kids from running into County Farm Road during baseball games.
13. Charlie Fehrman reported that Haag Ford is prepping leased cars for the sheriff department for $200 each rather than the $400 they previously had done. This is to keep business local rather than driving two deputies to Indy each time and paying for all that to get the “free” preps.
14. $1580 approved to clean up the personnel manual.
15. A second shared lobbyist was hired. County share is $56,200 and the municipalities share the other $56,200. The entire amount is appropriate from the county and the reimbursements get paid back to the county from the municipalities. (One nay from Mitter)
16. Commissioners received additionals for gas, mileage, oil lube, repair, tires, and travel. Total $15,605.24
17. Aaron Negangard asked to be appointed to the Lawrenceburg School Foundation and was approved.
18. Negangard reported that the 3rd court requested was killed in House Ways and Means. He is to head up a committee now to look into extra space or building and the costs for adding more prosecutors and staff for this court if it gets granted eventually.
Adjourned 11:40 PM
Christine Brauer Mueller
Lawrenceburg Township

Monday, February 23, 2004

A Response to Many Questions - Many Answers To Be Sought

Mr. Thompson:

We will take the time to do our best. Hopefully that will mean we do it correctly. I have not seen the 1994 study for the proposed sewers. I would like to. I did not see your guest column in the Register. I would like to. I am not aware of the petition of the citizens within the proposed Sewer District. I would like to and they were not presented. I have read the Indiana Code IC 13-26, and I have questions about it as it applies to me and the Sewer District. I sat next to Brett Fehrman but did not have a chance to discuss his solution, nor know to ask him for one. My letter as to my Conflict of Interest was on file at the Commissioners office prior to my appointment. The official document required will be on file with the County Clerk before the next meeting. Your concern about Ms. Vera Benning may be founded, I don't know, but she is an advisor to this board with no vote. Her input, as well as yours, will be considered, and I intend to not be influenced more by one than the other.

I know more about wastewater treatment than 99.9% of the people in Dearborn County. I have 50 years experience in the business. I try to keep up with the current issues in the County. I am aware of the limitations of small treatment plants and how to remedy those issues. I am familiar with the surrounding counties and states position on package sewage plants. I know nothing of the Gabbard development. I will inquire.

As for the retired residents, who you say cannot afford to pay for the monthly fee, I don't have an answer for that. It is obvious that the Federal Government, the USEPA, and the State of Indiana, as well as the Sierra Club, Ducks Unlimited and all the other concerned environmental advocates feel that EVERYONE needs to pay their fair share to protect our environment from degradation by the viruses, nutrients and bacteria that are discharged from untreated sewage. We did not make the laws, although we agree with them, and choose to abide by them, they are for the betterment of all.

It is my intention to explore expanding this Sewer District to a County wide organization so as to serve the whole County. There are many complicated issue that must be addressed. I am not aware of your proposed countywide sewer district plan. I would like to see it. I am also not aware of the Planning Advisory Committee activity, but I will be soon.

You ask a lot of questions, good questions. How about some solutions to the REAL issue, how do we keep from degrading the environment and keep everyone happy? Septic tanks are reasonable, if they are maintained, but therein lies the problem. Everyone wants to flush their john and forget about it, especially if it is going to cost more money. I am, also, aware that everyone, EVERYONE has an agenda in this issue.

Please be aware, I am not commenting as a spokesman of or as the official position of the Dearborn County Regional Sewer District.

Pat Hanlon
Member of the Dearborn County Regional Sewer District

Sunday, February 22, 2004

Citizen Dialog with the Sewer Board continues

Mr. Hanlon:

I hope you take all the time you need to do this correctly.

Have you seen the 1994 study for the proposed sewer projects along the thoroughfares from the municipal areas? This should be available at the Lawrenceburg library. This is what the current project is taken from. The updated study was only available at Doug Baer's office in lieu of a public forum (like the library) and only then because of the efforts of Stepanie DisBro and only on the last day for public comment.

Have you read the guest column I wrote in the Register Publications?

Are you aware of the 150+ petitions by citizens of the currently constituted Sewer District presented to the commissioners at the second Commissioners' meeting in January after the District was constituted? They were not presented at the last meeting in December before the district was constituted, because that Monday evening meeting was postponed at the last minute to the Thursday afternoon following when most of the citizens were not available. These are allegedly on file with the auditor and were to have been presented to the Board for its first meeting.

Have you read Indiana Code IC 13-26 relating to the formation, functions, duties and powers of a sewer district?

Have you talked to Brett Fehrman about his proposed solution to the problem?

I checked with Gayle Pennington, County Clerk, Friday to see if any Conflict of Interest forms had been filed as required by Karen Shell. As of Friday none have been.

The citizens of the district have a concern about Vera Benning's involvement in any form because of past actions by her that have been uncooperative, overbearing and in direct contradiction to statements made by her and the other two Commissioners. Please talk to Commissioner Karen Shell.

Have you looked beyond the limited set of options and out of hand dismissals of options in the GRW report? Are you aware that the proposed system is similar to that already in place at Walstons Mobile Home Park, that is not in compliance on a regular basis and as late as November of 2003? (The current reporting is only available through December 2003). The proposed system is also similar to that of Hidden Valley Lake. You should check with them to see about their current problems and the plan to extend a line to Greendale to eliminate the package plant requirement.

You might also want to look at the problems of Butler and Warren (and Clermont) counties in Ohio with regard to development and utilities, including sewers. This proposed system will allow development of the Gabbard estate (and others) at up to four houses per acre. I was told repeatedly by Ms. Benning (on the record of several public meetings) that this was not about development. I told the Commissioners at the Commissioners' meeting the property was sold pending the incorporation of the sewer district. After the District was in place, Mr. Dennerline indicated at the first January Commissioners meeting, that the property had been sold to a developer.

Are you aware that a number of retired residents, who have their houses paid, will be facing a tap in fee and a monthly bill that they may not be able to afford? You may want to look at the petitions and contact some of the citizens affected.

You should also determine where this District can function. Is it only in the district? (Read IC 13-26).

Are you aware of a proposal I submitted to all the Commissioners for a real countywide sewer district?

Are you aware of the Planning Advisory Committee meetings taking place now, regarding among other things land use? (Greg Vollmer and Brett Fehrman are also participating in these meetings).

I wish you luck in resolving a "hot" issue.

I would be glad to meet with you to discuss any of these issues (or any others for that matter) as would a number of other citizens of the area.

If you wish further information or have questions, please feel free to contact me.


Ralph Thompson, PE

Saturday, February 21, 2004

The County Ballot for May 2004 Primary

The following are the names on the county ballot at the close of election sign ups on Friday Feb 20. All are Republicans.

District 1 Commissioner- Karen Shell (incumbent) vs. Jeff Hughes

District 2 Commissioner- Mark Hall vs. Rick Fox

Council at large (3 to be elected) - Mark Mitter (incumbent), Charlie Fehrman (incumbent), Bill Ullrich (incumbent), and Brad Schwing

Treasurer- Gayle Pennington (current clerk) vs. Amanda Pennington (former recorder)

Clerk- Phil Weaver (current treasurer)

County Surveyor- Dennis Kraus, Jr. vs. Roger Woodfill (incumbent)

Coroner- Wesley Holt

Friday, February 20, 2004

Report from the Sewer Board

Mr. Thompson:

I am Pat Hanlon, member of the Dearborn County Regional Sewer District. I was in attendance of the first, what I would call "an organizational", meeting of the DCRSD. I can't tell by the tone of your article if you were there of not. If you were we heard different information.

First, Rodney Dennerline did not have Vera Benning appointed. He offered a proposal to the Board and the Board vote to accept Vera as consultant. Vera accepted and was an observer with little to say at the first meeting and with absolutely no voting rights then or in the future. Doug Bear proceeded to layout all that has been accomplished in the recent past.

There is a sense of urgency due to availability of government funding, and the real issue, the impact of environmental degradation. You allude to proceeding without investigating the study. This totally false. I made it a point twice that we will be evaluating options before any decision is made, at least by me, on what is the most appropriate and/or most cost effective option. I did not hear 100% participation was necessary. It is obviously desirable to have 100% in order to keep the cost per household as low as possible, but it is not necessary. I'm not sure what "grants" are but what I heard was land owners would have the opportunity to participate initially, as well as householders.

As for who is in charge, I am certain that on this Board Mr. Dennerline will have one vote like all the rest of the members and that Ms. Benning will never have a vote while she is in the position she is in.

I don't know all there is to know on this subject yet, but I will assure you it is my intention to arrive at a win/win solution for everyone. We are not going to make everyone happy. Progress is sometimes painful. Give us an opportunity to get grounded and up to speed, and continue to comment.

I would like to meet you. You obviously have some credentials. Let's talk at the next meeting.

Pat Hanlon
Manchester Area Civic Association

Thursday, February 19, 2004

Open Letter to the Commissioners

In the first board meeting, Rodney Dennerline had Vera Benning appointed as special consultant to the board. The board was then told that 90% of the residents are for the sewer system as proposed (the petitions were not presented).

They are proceeding with Stewart Road and Cole Lane. They are also proceeding with the proposed system without investigating the study (as was discussed in the Commissioners' meeting). Per Doug Baer they need to proceed to get the easements in place, 100% participation is required and while the are not planning to require residents living more than 800 feet from the line to connect, they will not tell them, because they need 100% participation to pay for the system. Also land owners (without houses) will not be listed apparently, even though they will probably be able to obtain a dead-end tap for future. They have no grants.

Who is governing Dearborn County? Are the Commissioners in charge or is it Benning/Dennerline? In the Commissioner's meeting Dennerline was reprimanded for proceeding without authority; but, seems to be back on track. The Commissioners indicated there would not be a Commissioner on the Board, so now we have a "quasi" board position? Was any of what the Commissioners told the citizens at the Commissioners' meeting true or accurate?


Ralph E. Thompson, Jr., PE, CPE, NSPE

Wednesday, February 11, 2004

YMCA proposal/request at Bright Meadows Park

At the Feb. 11 monthly meeting of the County Parks Board representatives of the YMCA presented a proposal for the establishment of a YMCA facility on two acres of land adjacent to Bright Meadows Park at the corner of State Line and Einsel Rd. in Bright. In exchange for easement for access and utilities, the YMCA has offered to add parking in the park in the area furthest from State Line road (the back of the park), perform ordinary maintenance (mowing, grooming sports fields, trash management, open and close bathrooms, etc), and provide a single point of contact for scheduling the use of park facilities. The advantages to the YMCA in this matter are clear, allowing their patrons to have access to park acreage for jogging, organized sports, etc. without having to dedicate funds to purchasing additional land and making the appropriate improvements.

This proposal is in it's earliest stages of consideration. The Park board is, however, inclined to look favorably on this arrangement, as it will increase use of the park by citizens of Bright in particular and Dearborn County in general, as well as expand the range of options available to people engaged in the sort of activities the park naturally promotes. The board intends to retain the right to direct the YMCA in matters concerning scheduling of the park to ensure that citizens continue to have unimpeded access to use of the park without regard to their association or lack of same with the YMCA.

What is your view on this arrangement? Is this a naturally synergy that should be encouraged or an unacceptable entanglement of public facilities with private (albeit non-profit) operations? Do you think the YMCA will manage use of park facilities (ball fields, picnic shelters, etc.) appropriately?

Unfortunately, County administration has not yet established any e-mail accounts for use by the Board for feedback to the members on issues such as this. Therefore, please post your reactions using the 'Comments' link below (or submit your own article!!). Thank You.

Steve Walker
Dearborn County Park Board
Steward for Gladys Russell Park
Manchester Township

Tuesday, February 03, 2004

Commissioners Make Sewer Board Appointments

At the Feb 2, 2004 Monday Morning Commissioner Meeting, Health Board Chairman Rodney Dennerline recommended that commissioners appoint Vera Benning to the Sewer Board citing that the current Sewer district was in her Commissioner district.

Commissioner Karen Shell thought that the board should not be political and didn't want any commissioner appointed to that. She wanted to use the commissioner designee option.

Following some discussion, wherein Commissioner Benning reasserted her request to be appointed (citing her work to get the district in place and efforts shepherding the GRW consultants through the process of getting it set up), the commissioners made their two remaining appointments.

Commissioner Dan Batta made the motion to appoint Pat Hanlon from Manchester as the District 2 representative (term ends 12/31/2004) and Pat Holland from Sparta as the Commissioner designee (term ends 12/31/2006). Chairman Karen Shell seconded the motion, because commissioner Benning would not. It passed two to one, with Vera Benning voting Nay. She did wish the two chosen "Godspeed."

The commissioners revoted the District 3 rep - Barry Pruss - to make it "legal" because the original vote was at a meeting where one of the commissioners was present on speakerphone. Vera Benning commented that her choice, Barry Pruss, may not want to be on the board now as he has been medically advised to avoid stress.

That means this appointment may need to be changed...

Christine Brauer Mueller
Lawrenceburg Township

Sunday, February 01, 2004

MACA Recomends Appointee to Sewer Board from District 2

A county wide sewer system may be far in the future but planning for it is starting now. Each district of the county should be represented by someone who lives in the district. District 2 is lucky enough to have an expert on sewage treatment living in the district. His name is Pat Hanlon (not to be confused with Patrick Holland from Sparta). Pat has been part of the backbone of the Manchester Area Civic Association (MACA) since its inception. MACA was his idea and he is an active member and past president.

I think he would make a perfect member of the Sewer Board and, knowing his dedication to the welfare of Dearborn County, I believe he would accept an appointment to the Board. How do we go about pressing the case for his appointment?

Sue Weldon
President, MACA