Tuesday, December 21, 2004

Open Letter rebuttal : October 29,2004 letter by Ralph Thompson, "The Suburbanization of Dearborn County"

Dearborn County Regional Sewer District
215B West High St.
Lawrenceburg, Indiana 47025
(812) 532-3223

December 20, 2004

Re: The Dearborn County Regional Sewer District (“District”)

To Whom It May Concern:

This letter addresses various statements by Mr. Ralph E. Thompson, Jr. as published in The Register on Thursday, November 11, 2004. Ralph Thompson in this article entitled “Suburbanization of the County Coming” makes several false statements regarding the District. This letter will set the record straight regarding the true events so that residents are truly and correctly informed.

1. Throughout the article, Ralph Thompson states that the District is about helping developers and real estate agents get rich at the expense of County residents. This statement is not true. As District Board Members have repeatedly indicated, the District is not about development. The District is about public health and safety. Testing has been performed in the District area by both the Health Department of Dearborn County and the District. These test results indicate that the District is a public health hazard and that hazard is not limited to High Ridge Estates. There are test results indicating raw sewage throughout the District boundaries. The area within the District needs immediate attention. Therefore, the Indiana Department of Environmental Management (“IDEM”) established the District by its Order. IDEM did not create the District for development. IDEM charged the District with providing sewer service to properties in the District. Therefore, the District is obligated and required to provide sewer services to all property owners – whether they are developers or not. The Dearborn County Plan Commission gives approval for subdivision developments. The District does not. If the District is economically capable of providing service to a property owner, whether that property owner is a developer or not, then IDEM requires that the District provide service.

2. Ralph Thompson also states that the “board indicted [sic] it would stop all development . . .” This statement is not true. The Board cannot stop subdivision development. Only the Dearborn County Plan Commission has authority to limit subdivision development. The District Board has indicated, in its public meetings, that the District Board will require developers to contribute to the cost of the sewer system such that residents’ costs are decreased.

3. Ralph Thompson also wrote that the District Board was in “a rush to sign a contract to provide sewer service to developer Ralph MeierJohan, Ameritek Custom Homes, Cincinnati.” Again, this statement is not true. The Board was not in a rush to sign a contract with Ameritek. After long deliberations and negotiations with Ameritek, the Board signed a favorable contract with Ameritek. In the contract, the Board refuses to provide immediate service to Gabbard Estates until the District is prepared to take on the subdivision users. The contract requires the developer, Ameritek, to pay for a lift station and various sewer lines to service a particular area of the District. The Board believes that this contract will economically benefit all residents of the District by decreasing costs of construction of the entire sewer project. Ameritek agreed to pay for lines running from Aurora to Gabbard Estates and this will save the District significant money and it will benefit residents beyond Gabbard Estates. The District has authority to approve the design and construction of a large chunk of the sewer system under this contract and the developer pays for this, which will benefit all residents in the District. It is better for the developer to pay for the lines servicing the entire District than for the residents to pay for them.

4. Ralph Thompson, in his article, implies that real estate agent Brett Fehrman has a conflict of interest by sitting on the District Board. This is not true. The District Board has opinion letters from the Indiana Attorney General’s Office and the Dearborn County Prosecutor stating that a real estate agent dealing in the District area lacks a conflict of interest and may sit on the District Board. These opinion letters have been discussed in prior public meetings of the District Board. If Ralph Thompson had attended these public meetings, then he would be aware of these facts.

5. Ralph Thompson writes that the District will be $2 million over budget and will bill residents of the District $70 to $75 a month. This statement is misleading. The District Board has discussed at its last several meetings decreasing the cost of the project by $2 million and arriving at a monthly bill to users of approximately $60 per month. The District has repeatedly indicated its intent to bill District users approximately $60 per month and the District Board intends to limit the monthly cost to $60, plus the cost of water.

6. Ralph Thompson also writes that the “residents of the District are being forced to pay for the very development they may not want.” This statement is inaccurate. If residents of the District do not want the development of subdivisions in the District, then those residents should voice objections to the government body which approves or denies subdivision development – the Plan Commission. The District is, and remains, neutral with respect to subdivision development. However, the District must provide sewer service to each and every property owner in the District including subdivision owners as long as it is economically feasible. The District cannot legally deny sewer service because it is against development. In that event, the District would be in violation of IDEM’s Order.

7. Ralph Thompson writes “Our “real estate agent” commissioner . . . is working to help developers and real estate agents get rich at the expense of County residents.” This statement is a misrepresentation. Ralph Thompson frequently refers to Commissioner Vera Benning, who has and does work as a real estate agent. Vera does not sit on the District Board. Vera does not vote, and has not voted, on any issues before the District Board. Vera was not in a position to “help” developers. Again, the fact that a Commissioner is a real estate agent is not in and of itself a conflict of interest.

8. Ralph Thompson writes “There are four more sewer districts in planning.” This statement is untrue. The Board has not discussed any other additions to the District along Indiana 1, Indiana 350, Indiana 48, or in New Alsace.

Ralph Thompson writes in his letter that he is an engineer. As an engineer, Ralph Thompson requested in a public meeting to perform engineering work for the District’s initial planning phase. His services were not retained. One imagines whether Ralph Thompson’s negative, misleading and/or false statements are fueled by this rejection.

The District Board agrees on one point with Ralph Thompson, however. The District encourages public involvement and public attendance at meetings of the District Board. These meetings are open to the public as required by law and generally are scheduled two times a month – the first Tuesday evening and the third Tuesday evening of each month at 7:30 p.m. As the Board recalls, Ralph Thompson has attended only one meeting. If he had attended more of these public meetings, he might have been better informed of the true facts and events involving the District.

Very truly yours,

Dearborn County Regional Sewer District Board of Directors

(Provided by Michael Hankins)

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