Tuesday, August 31, 2004

Plan Commission Unanimously Sends Favorable Recommendation for Master Plan

Favorable Recommendation for Master Plan

Plan Commission members present: Mark Mitter, Chairman, Mike Hall, Dan Batta, Rick Pope, Tarry Feiss, Nick Held, and Patrick de Maynadier.
Absent: Roger Woodfill and Dave Schmidtgoesling.
Also present: Travis Miller, Planning Director, Arnie, McGill, Attorney, and Karen Rolfes and Cathy Miller, Planning staff.

Last night (30 August 2004) was the final public hearing by the Plan Commission for the County Master Plan. There will be one more public hearing- probably in mid September -that the County Commissioners will hold before making a final decision regarding accepting the plan.

The public hearing was well attended by approximately 20 citizens plus several members of the advisory board and the Plan Commission. Travis Miller gave a thirty-minute overview of the plan and it’s components. There were also handouts on goals, strategies, and guidelines of the plan.

Residents present had several good questions; many of them were more focused on the zoning ordinances rather than the master plan. Board members explained that the master plan gives the guidelines to use when revamping zoning ordinances and also when making planning decisions particularly zone changes.

Some of the public comments are listed below.

Tom Osterman brought up questions on rural character vs. development and economic development and tax base issues.
John Rahe questioned whether anyone thought that SR129 had affected the rural character of Ripley County.
Rick Pope answered: Not yet, but it will.
Jim B ??? (York Township) – asked about when public facilities and infrastructure will actually improve in some areas of the county. He questioned the information regarding 18-34 year olds leaving the county. Many thought that was due to college and first jobs.
Jerry Benham – thought that the document pleases everybody where they are now. He saw a bias towards high-density housing. He wasn’t sure it gave enough direction as to where we should be going- specifically.
Mark Mitter responded that the DCEDI (Economic Development Initiative) would address some of the economic issues. He also noted that in 5 years when the plan is updated we might shift again.
There were comments regarding why the elected officials didn’t DO more.
Dan Batta noted that sometimes it seemed that the more an official does the less chance they have of being re-elected.
Vera Benning wanted to respond to that comment and stated that she was working hard to get economic development and jobs for our kids.
John Rahe thought that the flexibility of the plan was good. He also brought up the fact that federal transportation dollars are being used to rehab houses in Lawrenceburg, and meanwhile the Tanner’s Creek Bridge that needs work doesn’t have funding.
Rick Fox’s remarks were centered on lot size issues and that the rural areas are locked in unless sewage and slope issues are addressed. He noted that land equals equity.
EG McLaughlin- talked about economic development in the incorporated areas. He noticed that lately there has been more cooperation among the governmental entities and that it was something we haven’t really seen before.
I (Chris Mueller) brought up the concept that a flexible plan gives us more freedom to allow for creativity in development, particularly with mixed-use development. One of the biggest problems with development centers on a lack of creativity including a means to blend in with the character of the community.
Eugene Kuebel – talked about the economics of Ag uses and that they produce more while using less in terms of tax dollars. He cited that it takes 4 times as many dollars for business to equal the impact of one dollar of Ag investment.
Laverne Kolb cited the right to farm law and explained it to the group.
Public discussion ended.

Rick Pope motioned and Nick Held 2nded to send a favorable recommendation for the county master plan to the commissioners. All ayes. Motion carried.

Meeting adjourned at 8:40 PM.

Christine Brauer Mueller
Lawrenceburg Township

Tuesday, August 24, 2004

23 August 2004 Plan Commission Meeting Notes

August Plan Commission

For the official minutes visit http://www.dearborncounty.org/planning/.
Minutes are generally posted a month after the meeting.

Present: Mark Mitter, Chairman, Rick Pope, Tarry Feiss, Patrick de Maynadier, Roger Woodfill, Mike Hall. Dan Batta arrived late at 8:10 PM. Also present: Travis Miller, Planning Director, and Arnie McGill, Attorney.
Absent: Dave Schmidtgoesling and Nick Held.
(Register Publications reporter not in attendance.)

Charlie Fehrman was added to the agenda on Monday afternoon as “Charlie Fehrman to address the Plan Commission.” Fehrman spoke at the beginning of the meeting stating that the bylaws for the new EDI (Economic Development Initiative), a public/private organization had openings for a Commissioner and a Council appointee to the 26- member EDI board. (Lorie Howard, County Adm., is the Commissioner’s appointee) He wanted permission to ask Travis Miller to serve as Council’s rep.
I spoke regarding the possibility of an ethical conflict of interest, particularly when future issues regarding land uses or permits come up for a promoted business. Travis Miller and Lorie Howard are VOTING members of the EDI Board.
Rick Pope felt that Travis would step down as soon as a conflict of interest arose.
The Plan Commission unanimously voted to allow Travis Miller to be considered by Council at their meeting tomorrow for this position. Travis Miller indicated that he was willing to serve.

Old Business-
Zone change from A to R for 3- lot subdivision for Hapanowiscz on North Dearborn Rd. adjoining Harley Springs sub’n. No opposition from neighbors. Patrick de Maynadier made sure the 5 reasons for a legal zone change were addressed before voting.
Pope motioned with Feiss 2nd for a favorable recommendation on the zone change and allowing a driveway access variance for the houses, thus eliminating a central driveway. Approved.

New Business:
1. Travis Miller notified the applicant for Golf-View acres (Rollander Enterprises) on Soaphill Rd. that they wouldn’t be heard because their application had no changes that would address the causes for previous denials. Applicant indicated that they understood the reason to withdraw the application, per Travis Miller.

2. Vacating streets for Dearborn Gravel- an M-3 land use in Hardinsburg (Lawrenceburg Township by I-275) for owner Kurt Weismiller. Rick Pope stepped down for this application.
John Seymour- President of Oxbow had no objections as long as they had future access to their lands. Cell tower on the property was also addressed.
Purpose according to Weismiller was to get a clear deed to their lands. They were fixing old discrepancies in the past deeds.
Woodfill motioned and Feiss 2nd to give a favorable recommendation to vacate Elm, Walnut, Front, Main, and the connecting alleys and to work out an agreement with the cell tower owners so that they have clear access. Approved.

[Note: Batta arrived at this point in the meeting.]

3. Aaron and Edna Miller requesting variance for a driveway permit on North Dearborn Road in Kelso Township and certified survey approval. Dennis Kraus, Jr. presenting.
Motions had to be redone on this. Final motion was Batta motioned and Pope 2nd to grant 2 variances as presented. There were no additional driveways, just an altered access to be shared. The non-buildable lot was to be accessed by the shared driveway as proposed. Passed.

4. Prior to this item being heard, Mitter called Tom Kent to the podium to ask if he wanted Patrick de Maynadier to step down, because Patrick had been a remonstrator in the previous applications on this property as a citizen and it had gone to court. Kent said it was not a problem. De Maynadier indicated he was willing to step down, but Kent wanted him to stay on the board for the decision. Kent reiterated firmly that it was “not a problem!”
[NOTE: audience area was full for this part of the meeting and included developers unrelated to the application.]
Primary approval was requested for a 21-lot subdivision called Chapel Thorne Estates on Yorkridge and Geiger Roads in York Township. Tom Kent owner-applicant and survey done by Terry Crouch.
Kent began his presentation by thanking the board for all the work they do. He said that in the past three years he has learned a lot about what they do. He proceeded to agree with nearly everything that the tech review and staff had suggested. There were some issues regarding a lot that was less than 5 acres and Kent explained that it was to preserve a stand of pines surrounding an old pond bed. There was issue with access for one lot onto Geiger Road and Kent explained that it was to avoid tearing down a 50- foot swath of trees to gain access to the main sub’n road. He did not want to go for a zone change to R because he felt that this was an Ag area and he wanted to do something in keeping with that character. He strongly stated that he feels that it is wrong to put an R district out in the middle of Ag! He also mentioned that he wanted covenant #18 to stay to keep people from filling in the road ditches that were designed to preserve the road built. [Note: Since there is evidence that the area has a high water table, these ditches are probably crucial to maintaining a good road.]
He plans to keep the barn for Ag use but wants to fix it up and get rid of the yellow paint.
Not sure what they will do with the house that has been vacant for 2 years.
Patrick de Maynadier wants to be sure all lots are 5 acres or up. Kent stressed that he wanted to preserve natural features also.
Elisa Carr
– of Bonnell Road (below the development) thought 5 acres was too small- considering the character of the area. She also warned of changes leading to things like what happened to Fishers, IN.
Eugene Kuebel- a life long resident of Yorkridge and adjoiner read Sen. Nugent’s recent newsletter about farmland preservation. He gave a lengthy description of septic issues and water and creek contamination in the area.
Rosemary Schuck- wanted slower growth in that area and cited what happens when you get a bunch of newcomers to the farm areas- hunting issues and trespass.
Leo Neurohr was not opposed- he brought a sketch showing evidence of dumping in the creek from one of the existing farmers in the area.
Bill Mc? – wanted them to make a good decision for good streets and good homes.
Tim Trabel – Doesn’t want an R zone and likes the pond idea.

Tom Kent told the board there were multiple borings on this site for septic review.

The board then discussed their thoughts:
thought the pond and trees added to the rural character and was OK with one lot connection to Geiger Rd.
Feiss: agreed with Pope.
Batta: was OK with the lot situation, but had problems with R of this size in Ag. “What’s positive for one person is not always positive for another.” He cited a CatIII collector that was deficient in many aspects (Yorkridge), and the limiting aspects of the soil there with the high water table. He did not feel it was a good public health policy to put that many septic tanks there- too dense.
De Maynadier: wanted lots 17-18 combined or something to get to 5-acre minimum. Cited that this is Ag use as mentioned in Section 2700 then. Was OK with access to Geiger on one lot to save trees.
Woodfill: Wanted to redraw lots to get to the 5-acre minimum.
Hall: wanted 5-acre minimum, but was OK with Geiger access for lot 14, if the sight distance was OK.
Mitter: could combine and reconfigure to get the 5 acres. Had a major concern with soil, but the Health Dept. would have final say there. Road concerns were alleviated by a cut in density. OK with Lot 14 to Geiger.
Pope motioned to allow with staff comments being addressed and to include access to Geiger if sight distance approved. Feiss 2nd. Batta and deMaynadier Nay and Mitter either didn’t vote or said Nay. Motion failed.
DeMaynadier motioned the same but added that all lots had to be a 5-acre minimum. Pope 2nd. Passed with Batta being the only Nay.


Master Plan final hearing to be on August 30 in the Adm. Bldg at 7 PM.
Workshop on August 24th set up and several members attending that evening.
Miller gave a short demo of the GIS that OKI can help with for $9,000 instead of the $200,000 version.

Meeting adjourned at 10:15 PM

Christine Brauer Mueller
Lawrenceburg Township

Friday, August 20, 2004

Conflict of interest

Ms. Mueller's Note under item 7 (Aug 16 Commissioners meeting) "[Note: If Lisa Lehner is a member of the Initiative, she has invested money in it. If she is the attorney for it also, then should she be advising the county on issues relating to that organization?]" is very much to the point.

The potential for conflict of interest far exceeds that of Mr. Miller. Ms. Lehner, by having invested in the Economic Development Initiative, as well as being the groups Attorney would appear to provide an automatic bias for the actions of the Initiative and a potential conflict of interest with respect to actions which might be appropriate for the County.

Ralph Thompson, PE
A Citizen of Dearborn County

Thursday, August 19, 2004

18 August 2004 Master Plan Public Hearing

First Master Plan Public Hearing

The first of two public hearings for the final draft of the master plan was held at Lawrenceburg High School auditorium Wednesday night. Seven of the Plan Commission members were in attendance to answer questions from the audience, as well as half the advisory board.

Travis Miller gave a power point presentation of the process, components, goals, and strategies of the plan

Questions from the public included issues of road conditions, (particularly mentioning road slips,) which were viewed as impediments to development permits.

Plan commission chairman, Mark Mitter, and member, Rick Pope, (who also has experience on the Soil and Water Conservation Board,) gave detailed explanations of how development requests are evaluated.

Advisory Board member, Bob Sauerbrey, gave the background on slippage issues and explained some of the historical impacts of improper development of hillsides, referring to short term profits and long term problems” for the county. Hamilton County being built on seven hills and, specifically, Mount Adams was used as an example. It was noted that Cincinnati had the highest rate of slippage issues in the entire country. (Great views often on poor substrate.)

Warren County’s issue with unbridled development was also discussed, as was their current situation with having to use moratoriums on development.

Lastly there was a question about getting cooperation with schools so that they were not all clustered on one campus. Walkability to the schools and the actual size of schools for lower grades were both mentioned.

Travis Miller, Planning Director, saw cooperation as a two-way street. He noted that hopefully, the school boards and administration would see the county plan as something worth considering, particularly because it had input from such a large cross-section of citizens and special interest areas. The planning department, for their part always considers the impact on the school districts- requesting letters from the school superintendent as part of the packet for each development.

The meeting adjourned around 8:30.

Christine Brauer Mueller
Lawrenceburg Township

Tuesday, August 17, 2004

16 August 2004 Dearborn County Commissioner Meeting Notes

Dearborn County Commissioner Meeting

Present: Karen Shell, President, and Dan Batta.
Absent: Vera Benning
Also present: Cary Pickens, Auditor, Lisa Lehner, Attorney, and Lorie Howard, Administrator.

1. Planning and Zoning – Travis Miller – Clarification changes on connections of arterial streets for Article 3 Section 305 M were presented. Batta motioned and Shell 2nd. Passed.
Karen Shell also brought up a complaint by Mike Sizemore concerning dust control on the Sugar Hill Subdivision excavation project. Sizemore claims that Gehring Group doing the excavating is not using the water truck to control dust appropriately. Travis Miller has some language from the DNR regarding state codes on this. Shell asked him to have Plan Commission consider looking into adding it to the subdivision control ordinance, so that these problems can also be handled locally.

2. Lifetime Resources – Ellen Davis – Commissioner’s signed a letter of intent for IFHA owner occupancy rehabilitation grant worth $300,000. Council will be getting a request from Lifetime Resources for the 10% match of $30,000. There is a $15,000 max that can be obtained per house. Finals due in October.

3. County Administrator- Lorie Howard – reported that per Cathy Dils, the YES home septic repairs finished under budget of $15,000.
The IDEM/OKI, big businesses, and municipalities are meeting at the chamber at 10 AM on August 18 to discuss the air quality ratings for Lawrenceburg Township and how to remedy the situation.
Gayle Pennington and Judges are shredding documents per the records destruction ordinance.
Security issues in the Adm. Building – survey responses indicated the staff felt panic buttons were the best solution. Cameras and keypads were only voted on by 4 out of about 12 offices. [NOTE: This addresses personal safety issues of the employees during the day- but the original question seemed to be about access to the building, equipment, and records at night.] Commissioners OK’d panic buttons.
Barry Pruss – sewer board memberturned in his signed conflict of interest form- indicating NO Conflicts. Commissioners accepted it. It will be filed with Clerk’s Office per state law. Karen Shell asked if Rodney Dennerline’s form was in, because she has been getting calls regarding his statement in particular. Lisa Lehner said Dennerline’s was signed. Karen asked why it wasn’t on file at Clerk’s office. Lisa said probably because it had to be accepted by the Health Board first, since they appointed him. [NOTE: State law does not require the appointing board to be notified BEFORE the form is filed. Health Board frequently cancels meetings due to lack of a quorum. That should not hold up Dennerline’s official statement.]
Commissioners signed the contract for $4200 for American Tower (911 building) regarding wireless needs. Plans are to get out of that lease and move to a new 911 place “soon” because of costs.
For 2005 Health Plan- the commissioners OK’d Pinnacle to write up the plan agreement to include a wellness program and also a $1200 HRA for any employee opting out of the plan. The HRA is contributed at a rate of $100 per month- not a lump sum.

4. Highway Dept. – Mike Davis- no written report turned in. (Commissioners requested that at their last meeting) Verbal report on maintenance, line striping, small structures inventory, and mowing progress, included the opening of the Phase 2 bids.
Barrett- $1,238,875.58
Rohe - $859,608.35
O’Mara - $889,398.19

Commissioners will take them under advisement and Lisa Lehner will check bid documents prior to awarding the contract.
White’s Hill contract was passed, as was the notice of award. Contractor- O’Mara – will be required to turn in various submittals on a timeline created in the project. Supervising will be done by the SURVEY GROUP using a junior engineer for 20 hours per week and a project mgr. – Ted Cooley- for 4 hours per week. Cost is hourly rate with a not to exceed clause of $35,156. Commissioners voted to allow Mike Davis to sign this agreement when Lisa finishes the language changes to reflect the not to exceed agreement section.

5. County Attorney- Lisa Lehner- reported that the documents for George St. bridge walkway were finished and set for 5 year term to 12/31/2009. Charlie Fehrman signing them will mean the state attorney general doesn’t have to. The Aurora City Att’y will present this to their council now.
Short Ridge property owner agreement is finished and work can proceed now.

6. Cary Pickens- Auditor- minutes saved for Vera Benning to be available. Claims signed.

7. Commissioners – Economic Development Initiative had a meeting last week and passed their by-laws. Because the county donated money to the organization for three years, Council and Commissioners each get an appointment to the board. They can choose one of their members or a designee. Commissioners chose to send Lorie Howard, the County Adm. he will have voting rights. It was stated that Lisa Lehner is the attorney for the Economic Development Initiative also. [Note: If Lisa Lehner is a member of the Initiative, she has invested money in it. If she is the attorney for it also, then should she be advising the county on issues relating to that organization?]
Discussion included the idea that Charlie Fehrman for Council thought they could send Travis Miller, the County Planning Director. [NOTE: This would present an ethical conflict of interest for Travis Miller. The Planning Office is likely to be involved at some future date in land use or zoning regarding potential sites for economic development. Plan Commission is Miller’s “boss” and the appointment would have to be approved by them. Plan Commission already discussed this with Miller when he was questioned during the early development stages of this Economic Development Organization. It was their feeling that he should not be a member of that group, but could serve their needs, the same as he would for any other county business or citizen.]

8. Public comment – Phil Darling- asked when the county website would be updated to include minutes for commissioner meetings. Commissioners still want minutes to be approved before posting- not drafts. This significantly delays the public’s knowledge of what goes on in these meetings.

Meeting adjourned: 8:40 PM

Christine Brauer Mueller
Lawrenceburg Township

Friday, August 06, 2004

Retirement Benefits for Public Officials?

I hope the discussions of providing health benefits beyond the term office are simply idle discussions.

In the real world (non political) many people who have employment cannot even obtain health benefits through their company and for those that do have health benefits, their benefits cease when they leave their employment (service to their employer), except that they can extend their benefits for 6 months under COBRA, if they pay the full premium.

Why should employment as a public official be any different? Is this simply another way for public officials to gain advantage at the expense of the private citizens who pay taxes?

If elected officials leave their temporary employment with the government, they should be no different from the citizens who elected them to the temporary job.

If extended health coverage is desired for elected officials, why not a plan to provide health coverage for all the citizens of Dearborn County, who leave their employment or better yet all those who are employed and don't have health coverage. Silly suggestion, right?

Ralph Thompson, PE

Monday, August 02, 2004

2 August 2004 County Commissioner Meeting Notes

County Commissioner Meeting

Present: Karen Shell, President, and Vera Benning.
Absent: Dan Batta (mother’s funeral)
Also present: Lorie Howard, Administrator, Lisa Lehner, Attorney, and Brenda Hensley for Cary Pickens, Auditor, who arrived at 10:10.

1. Mike Kramer- Pinnacle Advisory Group- gave a report to commissioners similar to the one he gave to Council last week regarding possible ways to bring down health care costs for the county without cutting into benefits for the employees. The county had 36 claims over $5,000 and 16 claims over $10,000, which he referred to as “shock claims.” Two primary ways that Med Ben recommends are setting up wellness care programs for employees who voluntarily want help in maintaining or achieving better health care for their particular conditions (diabetes, smoking cessation, weight loss, etc.) and using HRA (health care reimbursement accounts) that THE COUNTY pays for with part of the money they save for an employee who opts out of family or single plan coverage. This is provided with tax-free dollars and can only be spent on medically related expenses defined in the plan. Vera Benning asked about the plan that some Argosy employees have. They get a check when they opt out of the coverage that they can spend on anything. It was explained to her that this was taxable income and so the employee would pay tax on the benefit and the employer has to pay social security also on it. Karen Shell wanted to wait for Dan Batta to vote on this at Thursday’s Administrative Focus meeting. Vera Benning didn’t want to vote on it till all the employees could be gathered for a meeting to discuss it. [NOTE: Because this is a plus and nothing is being taken away from any employee, it seems a waste of time to make them sit through an extra meeting during their day.] NO DECISION.

2. Bill Ewbank – Veterans Officer- reported that there was still no resolution to the veterans transportation issue.

3. Animal Control- Lorie Howard reported that Cheryl Lohmiller was on vacation and that Cheryl was using her vacation to paint the animal shelter!!

4. Bill Black- Emergency Management- reported that Dearborn County fared well in the storm last week.
He also reported that PSEG donated $14,000 worth of fire hoses to them to be distributed to county fire departments.
The commissioners signed the paperwork for the grant he’d been holding until the Drug Ordinance was passed. (see note later in this meeting)

5. Susan Craig – SIRPC – Got papers signed for the $30,000 grant to do a feasibility study of the first floor of the YES Home. Stephanie Disbro was slated to attend the Startup meeting in INDY with Cathy Piche and Susan Craig as the county’s representative.

6. Lorie Howard- County Administrator – reported that:
Commissioners and Harrison’s elected officials were meeting Wednesday Aug 4 at 5 PM in the Harrison Community Center to discuss EMS services to be shared with the county. Supposedly there is some discussion over fire services. Apparently West Harrison township has to contract for that themselves.
Tentative meeting set for August 18 at 10 AM at the Chamber offices to discuss how to get our status revised on air quality. AEP, IDEM, our state representative, senator, and other large companies are trying to get together to solve this problem.
The Drug Free Workplace Ordinance (refers to drugs and alcohol) was approved and signed after Lisa Lehner explained that it did NOT apply to elected officials. Cary Pickens, in jest, wiped his brow in a sign of relief.
The credit card policy will be included in the next revision of the HR Plan.

7. Mike Davis – Transportation – stated that Yorkridge Bridge was approved by council to come out of cum bridge. Cary Pickens corrected this to state that he was to advertise out of cum bridge, but that it was not necessarily approved yet.
Roads are being prepared for paving.
White’s Hill Project Bids were opened:
Rohe- Total $828,236.94 plus additional for rock removal, Holton Excavating- $806,768.12 plus additional for rock removal, and O’Mara - $754,240 with no additional for rock removal.
Project awarded to O’Mara pending verification of bid documents and bonds.
Commissioners requested that Mike Davis have a written report for them at their meetings so they had something to work with when people called about projects going on in the county.

8. Lisa Lehner- Attorney- is preparing an ordinance reflecting all county departmental fees in one spot.
She is also preparing a draft agreement to deal with the liability issues for the bike path to be attached to the George St. Bridge. Discussion stated that Barker’s engineering report states that the bridge can handle more weight that it’s posted for. They did actual steel samples from the bridge to verify this. [Note: Am not sure if this covers the connections, bolts etc.] She also stated that if Charlie Fehrman signs off on it for county fiscal body, then they do not have to get the attorney general to do so.

9. Cary Pickens- Auditor- holding minutes, but corrected the Siemen’s section at Vera’s request. Karen Shell was not present for entire meeting, so they will approve minutes when Dan Batta is available.
Claims approved.

Meeting adjourned 10:20 AM

After the meeting I was informed that there has been “some talk” of letting elected officials retire with the county paying continual health coverage as a “reward for all their years of service.” [Note: Yikes!]

Christine Brauer Mueller
Lawrenceburg Township