Wednesday, November 24, 2004
Present: Charlie Fehrman, Chairman, Aaron Negangard, Tom Cheek, Bill Ullrich, Bo Lansing, and Dennis Kraus. Absent: Mark Mitter (on vacation) Also present: Cary Pickens, Auditor, Vera Benning, County Commissioner, and Phil Weaver, Treasurer.
1. Travis Miller- Planning Director- requested an additional $2500 of the $6000 left tabled from April’s $12,000 request to finish out the year on legal fees. Ullrich motioned, Cheek 2nd. All ayes, APPROVED.
Miller also requested council’s blessing to enter into the previously discussed OKI contract to provide $9100 of GIS services at OKI’s cost. Council had granted $51,000 in the budget for the match to the total $205,000 grant that will be decided in early December. If the grant is approved this $9100 will come form the grant dollars, if not it comes from the $51,000. Miller anticipates the grant being approved.
Per Cary Pickens- in 1998 the commissioners approved an ordinance where each dept. is it’s own purchasing agent, so Travis can do this anyway. Fehrman appreciated Travis coming in and sharing the info anyway- like a “a breath of fresh air.”
Vera Benning didn’t want there to be a contract that the new commissioners didn’t review. [NOTE: Fox and Hughes were in the audience observing this meeting. They raised no objections.]
Kraus didn’t want to disrespect the commissioners. Fehrman asked Vera if she was offended. She said no as long as it wouldn’t come back to haunt the commissioners. Cheek reiterated that this was not intended in any way to disrespect commissioners. Ullrich motioned and Cheek 2nd. 4 ayes. 2 nays (Negangard and Kraus) Approved. Negangard stated his nay was because he didn’t believe a vote was even needed.
Travis Miller advised Council that he’d advertise and in January he was requesting a fee schedule change in his office to cover printing fees for the master plan ($60 each or free on the internet) and a deposit of $20 for signs on properties requesting public hearings at the Plan Commission or BZA.
2. Youth Services Fund aka the County Benevolent Fund.
Marilyn Bauer of Dearborn Highland Arts Council requested a ONE TIME grant of $1000 to help fund scholarships to the Children’s Youth Choir ($60 each tuition), until they could get on the cycle with the DC Foundation grants.
She also requested $1000 for supplies for the arts classes for children.
Cheek motioned and Negangard 2nd All ayes. Approved.
Phil Kenton of the Panther’s Homeschooler Basketball team- 28-30 kids- needed a one-time grant of $1000 to help with uniforms. Negangard motioned and Cheek 2nd. All ayes. Approved.
Ruth Ann Batta did not appear- her request was not heard.
3. Brett Dodd and Joe Mrak of RQAW gave a 30-minute presentation on the jail expansion and space study. (25-year study) They looked at each area in 3-4 ways to build a consensus of the needs. The juvenile center is still being analyzed- they didn’t have a full idea yet of their space needs.
Part projected population at 89,000 in 2029; they thought a more conservative estimate would be 64,000. [NOTE: in 1870 the census of Dearborn County was 24,100. In 2000 it is about 48,000.]
RQAW used 4 counties to compare our needs. Bartholomew, Grant, Morgan, and Warrick. If these counties did not add judges, they were surviving on extra staff, magistrates, and senior judges.
Space needs- projected as 137,000 sq ft. Currently we have 84,000. Our current 311 parking spaces are adequate!
They presented several options for space reallocations and included the Shumway/Fortune Mgmt Building. In the jail there are about 200 beds (double bunked) with 26 jailers. With the new arrangements 200 beds would require just 16 jailers. (Projecting needs of 400 beds for 2029) Bartholomew County has 2 courts and 203 staffers. We need 3 courts and 250 staffers. 80% of jail is double bunked now. Women are not.
4. Sally Blankenship- Prosecutor- requested $13, 015.27 from the 4D account to pay to make a $7,000 part time clerk into a full timer. She has all covered except for the insurance. She said she’d find that in another account. Kraus motioned and Ullrich 2nd. All ayes. Negangard abstained (he’s ass’t prosecutor). Chair voted to get 5 ayes for a salary change. Approved.
5. Loans Discussion:
Randy Hillenbrand brought one of the Welfare Dept’s main creditors (Gibson from WITES (sp?) program for Residential and Family Services) who is owed about $400,000 currently. Currently Welfare Dept. is in the hole to the tune of $1.2 million again. Tax collections are creating problems. Charlie will pursue 3 options: an extension of the UCB loan, the bond bank, or the 197 account, which requires 7 votes from council to spend. If they have to use 197, they will schedule an emergency meeting in December.
Solid Waste loan – BJ Ault was not present. $150,000 was to be paid back 2 months ago. (It was due whenever 03 taxes were collected) The solid waste att’y’s contract had it for 04 collection. Apparently Batta signed the Solid Waste att’ys contract as pres of the Solid Waste Board, but that contract was NOT the one used for the final decision. They used Lisa Lehner’s version) [NOTE: Vera Benning stated that she had nothing to do with this, etc. etc. etc.] I mentioned at this point that when they entered into that agreement I had asked BJ after the meeting if it was with or without interest. She said it was WITHOUT interest. I wanted them to know that BJ Ault probably had a different understanding of the agreement than the one they were stating tonight. Kraus motioned and Negangard 2nd to call the note in as specified in the contract. All ayes. Approved. [NOTE: Council thinks this means $150,000 plus interest.]
6. Mike Davis- Hwy Director- found that the state budget cut $212,814.27 from the MVHA funds. In order to make that up they will use money from the $800,000 left in the bituminous account per Cary Pickens. Cheek motioned and Lansing 2nd to use $213,000 from the 147 account to finish out ’04. All ayes. Approved.
They also need $77,000 to improve 5 slips from the 147 account. Cheek motioned and Kraus 2nd to approve IF THE COMMISSIONER’S ARE OK WITH IT. All ayes. Approved.
7. 911 needed $25,000. (for what???) Cheek motioned and Ullrich 2nd All ayes approved.
8. Bill Black- Emergency Mgmt Director- gave a presentation on the 800 system. There will be 4 transmitters in the county. One will be built by the hwy garage on US 50. the other 3 will be co-located. All to be complete by March.
Lawrenceburg (Tom Steidel met with them) officially committed to helping as much as possible but wants token buy-ins by each entity involved. Dollar amounts not decided on that yet. In theory it will be a grant loan program so that nothing will be paid back till “06. Rough figure for the county is $700,000, not counting dispatch. Black stated that $200,000 in grant money is committed already. A couple years ago L-bg agreed to pay the county for dispatch services and nothing has been paid to us yet!!!
It takes 6 months to get equipment from Motorola. Ohio County is doing this system also and covering it for 300,000 (smaller county). Surrounding counties are all going to the 800 system.
Ullrich motioned and Cheek 2nd that the county commits to be an active participant in the 800 system for the good of law enforcement and EMS. All ayes. Approved. [NOTE: Charlie Fehrman voted on this also]
9. Dave Lusby- Sheriff- updated Council on the crowded conditions of the jail. We took 16 to Richmond to temporarily house them at $35/day. Four women were in a padded cell over the weekend also. Judges and prosecutor are working to alleviate the problem.
10. Courts needed $20,000 for a public defender. Council called Judge Witte to see if that was the figure. (Apparently less was advertised in county general). Used contingency fund so there was NO NEED TO ADVETISE this request. Lansing motioned and Cheek 2nd. All ayes Approved. Ullrich motioned and Cheek 2nd to deny it from county general.
11. Coroner- $5,000 for autopsies. Negangard motioned, Lansing 2nd All ayes. Approved.
Commissioners $6700 for workers comp. Ullrich motioned and Kraus 2nd. All ayes. Approved.
Chamber of Commerce $25,000 contract signed by all of Council also. (Commissioners already signed.
12. Crowe Cizek making ANOTHER effort to collect money ($29,000) from the county on their cancelled consultant work. Their total would then come to $46,000. They were charging $56,000 originally and RQAW is doing work for $23,000 per Fehrman. [NOTE: Background history- RQAW was going to charge approximately $46,000 and REBATE THE STUDY MONEY, if they got the contract to do the engineering also. Commissioners allowed Lorie Howard to put it out to bid with no rebates and got the figure to the current $23,000.]
Council is NOT going to pay this additional request because the last time they paid them was to be the final payment.
13. Charlie will be negotiating for the County Extension Office rental space with Aurora in January.
Sound system was fixed by Cary and Lorie and the headsets work, so we are now ADA accessible again. There were still some issues at Plan Commission Monday night- but that may be due to 7 mics for 9 members and also the distance factor with all the plats on the front desks.
Software patch suggested by Gayle Pennington and hardware to cut down posting time for taxes will be installed for the treasurer to the tune of $11,000. $5,000 of this is hardware expense that would be needed anyway. The $6,000 is “extra” to speed things up. Auditor’s budget will pay for this. Cheek motioned and Kraus 2nd All ayes. Approved.
14. Vera Benning presented the 2 contracts for EMS services ($73,000) and fire services ($10,000) with Harrison to cover portions of Northeastern Dearborn County. She stated that Tracy McIntosh and Dino Schmaltz were upset that Harrison was getting all this money. She wanted to go with a per diem fee. Charlie stated that he “didn’t have a dog in this hunt.” He also stated that Bright had been offered the money and they refused to do the coverage. $80,000 –100,000 is budgeted for the EMS services in each of the townships. The $73,000 figure was in line. Trustee covers the fire portion. The three-year contract she was worried about has a 30-day notice cancellation clause, so Council had NO PROBLEM with the COMMISSIONERS entering into it. Negangard stated that it was “entirely up to the commissioners to decide this.” Vera and Charlie are both going to notify Lorie of this “decision.”
The IRS assessed a penalty because the taxes on over $100,000 of payroll were not paid the same day as required by law. Longevity put this figure over the $100,000 limit last month. Penalty is $2000. Negangard motioned and Ullrich 2nd to pay it. All ayes. Approved.
Penalty on the fuel taxes was worked out per Cary Pickens.
Meeting adjourned at 10:30 PM
Christine Brauer Mueller
Tuesday, November 23, 2004
Present: Rick Pope, Acting Chair, Mike Hall, Patrick deMaynadier, Tarry Feiss, Roger Woodfill, Dan Batta, and Nick Held.
Absent: Mark Mitter (on vacation) Also Present: Arnie McGill, Attorney, Travis Miller, Planning Director, and Mark McCormack, Enforcement Officer.
Old Business to be Re-opened:
122 lot Stonebrook subdivision on 132.882 acres on Residentially zoned land on US 50 in Washington Township. Owner Gabbard Estates/ Ralph Meierjohan of Ameritek. Jeff Talker, PE, presented for the owner.
Public speaking: Kathy Holscher Dobbs, Ron Seaver, Jeff Wachnach (sp?), Sharon Benham, Ralph Thompson, and Dan Lyons. Issues centered on sewer availability, problems with Aurora Sewers and IDEM, County district not being up an running yet, drainage and environmental issues, property value considerations, rural character of adjoining properties, Case # 2004-1410-W Stacy Tucker investigator for IDEM on Aurora Sewage violations, potential sewer ban, master plan issues, issue of who gets first dibs on the sewer lines- the NEW development or the properties that are already in trouble.
Plan commission board discussed the need for a 2nd entrance onto US50, sewer commitments, bonding the plans, emergency access as a 2nd entrance so that INDOT will agree. (At this point Roger Woodfill asked for Jeff Talker’s PE license #102-00256. He was disturbed with INDOT’s Mark Brunner’s response to the entrances along US 50.)
Roger Woodfill made a motion to deny the subdivision that failed for lack of a 2nd.
Patrick deMaynadier motioned to give primary approval explicitly stating that no construction begins without IDEM approval of Aurora or the DCSD. There are to be no package plants. There is to be an emergency access to US 50 through Lot 121, geotech analysis, reduce the lots to 25 on Morgan’s Run cul de sac, granted a variance for Brookside circle and Fawn Hill Court, relocate basin #4 to the south, provide access easements to all detention basins, provide a bufferyard A to all lots on US 50, and no lots along US 50 can have direct access to US 50- they have to access through the subdivision street. Dan Batta 2nded. All ayes, except Roger Woodfill Nay.
1. Terrill Acres- 2-lot subdivision, Manchester Township on 4.005 acres zoned Ag. Jeff Stenger presented for owner Michael Terrill. Lot is to be for family- mother moving next to daughter.
Public speaking: Lawrence Schuh who thought they needed to acres for septic there and didn’t understand why they couldn’t access Collier Ridge rather than SR 48.
Dan Batta motioned to approve with access to Collier Ridge Rod across from the driveway for lot B and a variance for a small lot in Ag to be used for residential resale and the access to a collector road. Septic approval is required prior to final plat. Roger Woodfill 2nd. All ayes- Passed.
2. Farm View Acres – 4-lot subdivision on Texas Gas Road in Clay Township on 19.834 acres zoned Ag
Owner Randall Le Duc – Archie Crouch presenting.
No public spoke on this.
Plan commission was concerned with the configuration of the lots and the size being less than 5 acres on 2 lots in Ag district. Archie Crouch stated they would do a 50-foot strip access to the lots even though it will be a shared driveway and not an actual road.
Dan Batta motioned to grant approval combining lots 1 and 2, combining driveways, granting an access easement to Geyers, and granting a variance on the frontage of one of the created lots.
Roger Woodfill 2nd. All ayes- Passed.
3. Golf Green Manor- replat for a 6-lot subdivision on 19.834 acres an Ag zoned land in Miller Township on Fairway Drive. Owner: Ralph Weis.
Roger Woodfill abstained and left the room.
Weiss stated this was primarily for tax purposes to separate the buildings, though the easements and access were quite convoluted.
Neighbors speaking: Ralph Hoffman, John King, and Sammy Gutzwiller. Issues with garbage pick/up, rats, maintenance, and lack of buffering were discussed. Fears that a new driveway and another building were going in also were brought up.
Patrick de Maynadier motioned to approve with restrictions that no access road would be built on lots 94 or 99, that 95 is a non buildable lot, flag lot variance, and provide documentation of a permanent easement for 94 an 95 across 98 and 99 to Fairway drive.
Nick Held 2nd. 3 ayes and 2 nays. Motion failed. No other motion was made so the application is effectively DENIED.
FIVE-MINUTE BREAK TILL 10:25 PM
4. Blossom Hill 142-lot subdivision Phase 1 on 101.87 acres in R zoned land in Miller Township. Owner Don Brandt and Ed Pope, Landhill Development. Applicant Joe Farrugia- Classics Properties.
Rick Pope Abstained and went to the hall (his father is Ed Pope)
Dan Batta was acting chair for this application.
This application has 141 single-family lots and a 24.14-acre condo site for future development plus a daycare and pool. Daycare and condo are to go to BZA if this single-family plat is approved. All of this is on the 101.87 acres with one access to Stateline Road and on a 3,550 ft cul de sac!
Traffic study wasn’t in packets and applicant provided an ABBREVIATED STUDY for the meeting. There is to be a HOA and architectural standards to control home types in the $180-300,000 range.
Public speaking: Sheila and Dennis Merk via fax letter, Sammy Gutzwiller, Judith Niemeyer, Debbie McQueen, Linda Mitchell, Jim Maupin, and Kelly ?? (The sound system was troublesome for several in the audience)
Issues discussed: VRUC lawsuit with Greendale alleging that Greendale is in their applied for territory from Stephens Rd North. (Sugar Ridge development), (Sammy Gutzwiller also stated that as a realtor she was not against this development), others wanted a fence around the lake, larger lots, child care center issues that close to Stateline, transportation figures were deemed inaccurate and inadequate, Stateline Rd has LOS E and is failing, it is only 18 ft wide and should be 20 ft. wide, single access road is unsafe, bordered on several sides by working farms, ridge runoff and erosion problems for farm land below, liability exposure with kids and farms, perimeter should have security fence, approximately 75 petitions presented and reminded of the nearly 1000 signatures they had at the last presentation of Blossom Hill several years ago, when TWO commissioners (Vera Benning and John Kyle) overturned the recommendation of the plan commission and rezoned this to R. School issues and stats on crowding of classrooms and scores decreasing, sports programs and aides being eliminated. Mr. Farruggia’s 19 lawsuits in the past 15 years in Hamilton County were submitted as evidence of the kind of business he runs (former partner (Ryan) in 2002 suit stated things like breach of contract and fiduciary issues with payments. (Batta questioned whether pending lawsuits should be considered, but the board decided to allow it)
Fire and EMS services were also discussed. Expenses to the taxpayer seemed to be a big issue and lack of services as the community stretches its budget to cover more and more residents.
After MUCH discussion from the plan commission, Roger Woodfill motioned to deny the application because of the cul de sac length violation of Section 305N, the density being too great for the infrastructure, the drawing had several errors in it on adjoiners, and there was no firm commitment from anyone on sewage.
All Ayes. Application DENIED.
Working session set up for December 8th at 7 PM, Christmas dinner December 10 at 7 PM. Annual Report to be presented to them this month.
Travis Miller asked their opinion on his requested letter to Strand Engineering, Inc. on the SR1 SR48 Connector. Many board members were unaware of the meeting last week on this for comments. Batta stated they were backing into it without a US 50 Corridor study, Hall stated it goes nowhere and doesn’t solve the problems; Woodfill said it shouldn’t be unlimited access. Other issues were that INDOT had road dollars left on the table and Strand wanted to spend them rather than send them back to the state and feds. (Lawrenceburg signed off to release the money under their name) Board recommended that Travis word his letter even stronger in its criticism.
Meeting adjourned at 12:20 AM
Sign and mail to Strand Engineering, Inc. 629 Washington St. Columbus, IN 47201 Phone: 812-372-9911 or email Leslie Trobaugh at email@example.com
We oppose the SR1- SR48 Connector project for the following reasons:
1. The second crossing of Tanners Creek is not suited to the traffic patterns of the populated areas of the county. It ends nearly 2 miles from the hospital.
2. System connectivity in the county already exists between 275, 50, 1, and 48. We have several collector roads that are being improved and widened by the county. (Pribble Road, Kaiser, and Yorkridge) Use these existing county connector alignments that are not as steep as what this connector goes through.
3. The alternative route for local and through traffic that wants to avoid US 50 is already causing a bottleneck at the 275 Belleview interchange in Greendale, where this starts.
This project could potentially increase congestion near 275 and 50 rather than decrease it. Not studying that interchange as part of the project seems very shortsighted and counterproductive. Plus it increases traffic pollution at this point.
4. This road costs almost $6 million/mile and will likely be more expensive than that before it is finished. There are better ways to spend tax money such as adding bridges across Tanners Creek and creating frontage roads along US 50.
5. This is a contrived plan. It doesn’t fulfill its stated purpose and in fact will further damage the existing road infrastructure at its two endpoints. Just because taxpayer money has been set aside doesn’t mean it should be wasted on a study that is being pushed by consultants and not the local jurisdiction.
6. The only accesses to US 50 on one end are Scenic and Wilson Creek Rd. They are already deficient and any extra traffic will be costly to the county. Wilson Creek has several road slips in constant need of repair and Scenic is not even two lanes, with a windy hill accessing Wilson Creek to US 50.
7. This plan violates the land use plan in the county and destroys the character of the land (flood plain, steep, unstable hillside, productive farm land, ancient Indian burial ground) and communities it cuts through. There are very few farm properties left in our county that are intact under original family ownership. These represent some of the most stable residents of the community.
8. This plan is so poorly researched that it has mismarked roads, missing homes, and missed large ponds. It totally neglects the costs to improve the infrastructure that actually tie it in to its stated connector goals. (I-275 and US50)
Thursday, November 18, 2004
Hidden in the legal ad’s I found a story that should have been front-page news. South Dearborn Community School Corporation is borrowing over eight million dollars to meet operating expenses. This will include $2,141,135 for the debt service fund. Great, money is being borrowed to pay back borrowed money.
This new debt could cost South Dearborn tax payers $260,524 to $521,048. This is the equivalent of five to ten full-time teachers or four to eight new school busses. The cost of this debt is not likely to result in higher taxes. It does result in unacceptable levels of student service.
The financial situation in Dearborn County is out of control. 2003 taxes were collected this summer and watching the legal ad’s, I haven’t found evidence the schools have been paid.
Today is November 11. Yesterday was the typical day for the last tax collection for 2004 property taxes, and we have yet to receive the bill. Do we expect it the week before Christmas or next July? Meanwhile, South Dearborn is borrowing money it anticipates paying back with 2005 tax receipts. When will 2005 tax bills be sent? Will it be February 2006? These fiscal practices are not acceptable. I believe these practices are the result of unqualified individuals having stewardship over financial matters in our community.
Major changes must happen at all levels of Indiana Government. The offices of Treasurer, Auditor and Assessor are not appropriate for elected personnel. Nor are the offices of Surveyor, Coroner, Attorney General, Prosecutor, Judge, Superintendent of Public Education, or Sheriff. These offices ought to be appointed by the executive branch and approved by the legislative branch at each level of government.
At every level of government, including the School Corporation, treasurers and auditors must be certified public accountants with the appropriate college degree. Every appointed official must have the appropriate credentials.
Protecting taxpayers necessitates better oversight in spending. Schools, hospitals, prisons, roads and etc. must meet the needs of those they are intended to serve. As attractive as local control sounds, local boards are often not appropriately qualified and bad decisions are made. For example, the state board of education must be involved in school finance and building projects. After qualified individuals in the Department of Education approve projects and budgets, it is then appropriate to send them back to the local level for approval.
The Department of Local Government Finance ought to be eliminated. Currently, local officials tend to transfer their accountability to that department. How often do we hear “the tax board said we have to spend this much money for capital projects”?
Speaking of capital projects, the definition of capital is “Wealth or property that is invested to produce more wealth.” Salaries generally do not belong in any capital project fund, nor do insurance policies. Capital Projects provide new building and equipment. Normal maintenance of existing property is not an investment of capital.
Our family finances are constantly squeezed by higher health care, food, fuel, utility and tax costs, while we are anticipating a ten percent reduction in wages. I hope individuals in government will have the courage and selflessness to fight for Indiana Citizens. Indiana does need a new constitution. Common sense must be exercised and the needs of the people must prevail. Please stop wasting our money.
There has been a lot of talk about economic development lately. Politicians are promising jobs for our county and state. I don’t know how much any one politician can do for the economy. I believe it takes more than good infrastructure and low taxes to attract employers to any community.
Employers look for excellent schools when they choose a new location. They look at cold hard statistics. They want high graduation rates and SAT scores that are above national average. While Dearborn County schools certainly have pockets of excellence, our high schools are performing too close to average to make Dearborn County attractive to many employers.
Currently our three county school corporations serve over eighty-seven hundred children. Lawrenceburg serves nearly 1500 students, South Dearborn High School serves over 3000 students and East Central High School serves over 4200 students. Unfortunately, Dearborn County’s best graduation rate in 2003 was less than 92% and this is below state average.
Over the last two decades much research has been done on how school size relates to academic achievement and social outcomes. Smaller schools often enjoy higher graduation rates, higher attendance rates, higher academic achievement, and fewer behavior problems. The researchers have found small is not enough, but small is essential. The ideal size for an elementary school is 300-400 students. High schools of 400-800 students are best for secondary students. Additionally, recent trends favor grade configurations of 6-8 and 5-8 for middle schools.
Lawrenceburg High School is the only appropriately sized secondary school in the county. But the elementary school feeding into Lawrenceburg has been too large. Recently, that school has been split into a primary and an elementary school. While this is an improvement, it is still too easy for students to fall through the cracks when there are over 100 students in each grade level of the school.
The only appropriately sized elementary schools in our county are Manchester, Moores Hill and Dillsboro. Aurora, North Dearborn, Sunman and Bright are all too large. Some have argued that it isn’t the size of the school that matters, it’s the number of students in the classroom. Unfortunately, there are far too many classes with 25 students and more in this county. Elementary class size should be 15-16 without an aide and with an aide class size shouldn’t exceed 20. Secondary teachers should not be assigned more than 100 students. And teachers should be planning in teams.
Administrators often claim they can not hire more teachers because prime time only applies to grades k-3. Prime time grants are intended to keep student teacher ratios between 15 and 18 students. No state law prohibits schools from attaining these ratios in higher grades. There simply are not grants to help schools with the expense.
Schools set their priorities when they set their budgets. The Department of Local Government Finance approves the budgets and the tax rates, but local boards have the option to determine whether their priorities are facilities or student services. Once the corporations have acquired debt for building projects, tax rates must be set to pay that debt off. This is true even if they choose to use lease rental agreements to finance these projects.
Currently, Sunman Dearborn and South Dearborn have huge building projects planned. Together they will spend over 80 million dollars on building additions and renovations. Most of this money will be spent on their secondary campuses. Both districts will have improved facilities, but it is unrealistic to expect any academic or social improvement.
South Dearborn High School serves three communities with elementary schools that are ten miles or further from the main campus. East Central High School serves two communities with elementary schools that are more than eleven miles from their main campus. Dearborn County high school students are served by a Vocational School that is over twenty miles from the schools.
Dearborn County’s 2850 high school students would be better served with five, rather than three high schools. And ample opportunity for vocational education should be available in each of these schools. Additionally, an equal number of 5-8 or 6-8 grade configured middle schools would be better for our students than the current and planned two grade configured intermediate and middle schools/junior high schools. These smaller schools do not require three or four principals. A principal and appropriate guidance councilors are needed in each building. A high school and its sister middle school should share an activity director. Janitorial costs can be reduced if current staffs are split and assigned to new schools and students are hired at minimum wage to complete the staff.
South Dearborn’s elementary attendance boundaries can be gradually realigned to achieve four appropriately sized elementary schools. Sunman Dearborn really ought to be building two new elementary schools in appropriate locations and it would be beneficial for S-D to work with Lawrenceburg Schools to draw more appropriate attendance areas.
There has been talk about creating one Dearborn County School District. While school and community leaders should be looking at how the schools can work together for the good of Dearborn County, further school consolidation will create more problems than it can ever solve. The three districts should be looking closely at appropriately changing attendance boundaries and sharing vocational programs. Further collaboration in the adoption of calendars, graduation standards, grading scales, teacher improvement plans and special education services would be beneficial.
At a recent athletic event a mother from Batesville commented “Indiana schools have buildingitis. I’ve lived enough places to know children can get a good education in old buildings.”
Last spring a local board member stated with regards to the hiring of an architect, “you can always erase a line, but you can’t erase a building.” I pray our school boards soon begin erasing some lines.
Bricks and Mortar are necessary, but they aren’t enough. Small neighborhood schools, low student teacher ratios, team planning, high standards, teaching to mastery, promotion of healthy habits, character education, quality arts and activity programs, inclusion rather than selection, and a commitment to help every child succeed regardless of their home environment are all essential elements of excellent schools. Excellent schools will bring economic prosperity to our community.
Tuesday, November 16, 2004
Present: Dan Batta, Acting Chairman, and Vera Benning. Absent: Karen Shell, recovering from surgery.
Also present: Cary Pickens, Auditor, Lorie Howard, County Administrator, and Lisa Lehner, Attorney.
1. Dan Batta announced that the commissioners had a special meeting prior to this one in which they supported Lawrenceburg trustee Tony Gilb’s actions regarding a decision on Poor Relief. No other details were given.
2. Lorie Howard- County Administrator, presented several items below and all were approved:
Employee Handbook and Personnel Policy approved for January 1 effective date.
Annual Chamber Contract for $25,000 to be used for research for EDI or for Redevelopment Commission itself. [NOTE: Does this mean the EDI contribution from the county comes from somewhere else in the budget?]
HRA- Health Reimbursement Arrangement between med Ben and the County was signed.
Commissioners decided to send separate written comments on the SR48-SR1 Connector to SIECO/Strand because Benning did not want to send a board statement.
Lorie will review the contract for repairs in the courthouse dome and Eric Hartman is approved to sign it after her review. Two quotes were from McCool for $5896 and Flannery for $4775.
The 2005 Bids will be open from now to November 29th. Stephanie Disbro contacted all the people to let them know to submit annual bids for commissary, vending, prescriptions for jail, gasoline, fuel, culvert pipes, and asphalt, etc.
The 2005 Holiday schedule was approved so that the judges could set their court calendars.
3. Transportation Department- Mike Davis presented several roads fro review to be included in the county maintenance lists.
Because of the controversy on this issue, detailed comments are below:
Heather Benning Rump and residents of Pruss Road and surrounding properties were present under two items listed as approval to abandon Pruss Road and Approval to Accept Rump Road. During the discussion, no one knew how this item got listed on the agenda and Heather Benning Rump stated that she had put it on the agenda. Neighbors in the audience had copies of a June 2004 letter from Mark Seiler, which stated in part that there was to be some consideration of abandoning Old Pruss Road and removing it from the maintenance lists. Mike Davis presented that he didn’t want to ABANDON it- just remove it from the maintenance list. He said that because of the condition of Old Pruss the county had put in a new access road and accepted the first 100 ft. of that road. (Mark Seiler is on his honeymoon per Davis said Mark is the expert on this) The survey and ROW acquisition is not completed on this new road yet. Per Vera Benning - there is a RUMP LANE in Dillsboro with a brown sign- so it is a private lane. (Therefore they could name the county road Rump Road and not be in conflict)
Vera Benning clearly stated that at this meeting she wanted to make it perfectly clear that her brother in law Dean Benning and daughter Heather Rump and son-in-law Devin Rump were involved and that she herself won’t realize any personal benefit from this, and that the people of the county elected her to make decisions like this.
She acknowledged all her neighbors there- Gray, Pruss, Burke etc. She stated that Old Pruss Road didn’t even have a nameplate on it and hadn’t been maintained for the past 20 years. [NOTE: Vera Benning has been commissioner for the past 6 years of that 20-year span]
People noted that you can’t vacate the old Pruss road or people would be landlocked. Lisa Lehner clarified that Davis only wanted to take in the first 100 ft. of the new road for the county as ROW. Vera Benning wanted them to transfer the maintenance from the Old Pruss Road to this new road.
Claude Burke- Taking the first 100 ft in to the county has no relevance for us- the fire dept. still can’t get back there.
Dan Batta- we have 100 roads like this in the county. We have to do what is fair and equitable for the county. It is not fiscally sound to arbitrarily take in the maintenance of new roads.
Claude Burke- we are not worried about other roads. I have spent $8,000 of my own money trying to maintain this road.
Terry Pruss- presented the June 2004 letter from Mark Seiler. Pruss owns property on both sides of Pruss Road. States that now it’s a playground for beer, shooting, 4 wheelers. He offered to gate it off.
Bob Gray- Doesn’t want Old Pruss abandoned but he uses the new road to access his property.
Dan Batta- suggested that the county look at it comprehensively through planning and zoning.
Another neighbor who doesn’t live there- just owns land- asked why abandon a road that’s been there all along.
Greg Davies- gave a comprehensive overview of the road issues from 1982 on. He owns the farm north of Burkes. Told of the new bridge going in around 1982 and that his father and Mr. Burke did a lot of calling over the years to get gravel etc on that road. They walked the road with Hon, the county eng, and the adm. at the time and took 3-4 years to get an answer- but still nothing was done.
From 1995-2002 they kept going to different engineers and we sat down with the engineer in 2002 [NOTE: Rich Shelley was Hwy Director- not an engineer] They put together a price of $60-80,000 to put Old Pruss Road together again. They decided it would be easier to do a new road than Old Pruss.
Dan Batta stated that this was good and all news to the board.
Vera Benning indicated that this was not news to her and that she was at this meeting and decision.
Greg Davies stated that he has no preference to which road is chosen to maintain.
Vera Benning asked Dean Benning if he had anything to say. He stated that it was better to use the new road rather than Pruss Road because of the curve and the hill.
Heather Benning Rump stated to questions regarding how this item ended up on the agenda without all the paperwork, that she had put it there. [Note: Normally commissioners are in charge of their agenda]
Vera Benning also asked Jay Droege to come up and say something. He stated that he was there to see if the survey had been completed. He also stated that he didn’t know how you could take one road away unless you replaced it with another.
Vera Benning said that Jeff Stenger was there doing the survey because he was stung by a bee and had to get first aid at her house. She seemed sure that the survey was for the whole road and not the first 100 feet only. [NOTE: The county apparently hadn’t paid Stenger and so the survey had not been turned in. Stenger was not county surveyor at this time- so his work should have been contractual.]
Vera Benning stated that 100 feet gets Benhams covered but the people in the back get nothing.
Bob Gray stated that he had 120 acres in the back and he (and the three owners) would like to be able to do something with it.
Terry Pruss likes the new road better because it eliminates the hill.
Vera Benning motioned to table this until January. This motion failed for lack of a 2nd.
Chris Mueller- suggested that they consider applying to Planning and Zoning in the meantime so that the road could be legally accepted.
Vera Benning stated that she couldn’t remember my name but that she remembered reading somewhere that I’d been researching and attending meetings for about 9 years. She thanked me for instructing Dan Batta and stated further that they had legal Council.
Chris Mueller- stated that it was a suggestion only and that they should check with Lisa Lehner but that it seemed to be a shame to make the people wait till January before anything is pursued.
The neighbors on Pruss Road were worried about notification of meetings, and some stated that it would be cheaper to fix Old Pruss Road. Planning and Zoning notifies adjoining landowners and also posts signs.
In framing the results, Lorie Howard stated that some people want the old road, some want the new road, and some aren’t sure. She thought that defining the alternatives and what their lengths and costs would be would be the best approach.
Commissioners made NO DECISION about how to continue at this point.
Fox Chase, Deer Run, and Piper Landing were all tabled. Vera Benning wants to see what Planning and Zoning has on them first.
Mike Davis asked to go to Council to request money to fix some more road slips in house. Cary Pickens strongly stated that the well is dry- there is no money- the county is using it to make up the shortfall from taxes. He went on to say there would only be 4 Council meetings next year because there are no extras. [NOTE: If there is no money for basic repairs, how can the county council be considering a jail expansion?]
Vera Benning would not approve going to council. Dan Batta stated they would discuss it further at their Thursday Adm. Focus meeting.
Lorie Howard was approved to sign off on contract changes on Whites Hill after review. They hope to finish up by thanksgiving.
Phase 2 paving is proceeding toward completion.
4. Lisa Lehner -County Attorney- nothing new
5. Cary Pickens -Auditor presented claims and minutes
6. Vera Benning- conferred with Lisa to see if she could present the fact that she had spent county dollars and had two employees spend county time (Lorie Howard and Mike Davis) going out to each of Vera’s daughter’s and son’s driveways to prove that the county had not paved them. Benning said she did this because of a rumor that was circulating. Davis and Howard reported that the county had paved none of Vera's family's driveways.
[NOTE: County activists heard this rumor and checked it out 2 weeks ago FOR FREE. It was clear to us that the rumor, as is often the case, got distorted in the telling. Apparently, the issue that was originally reported to commissioners was not about paving, but that an actual gravel “driveway” of about a half mile was created to access 38 acres of land that Devin and Heather Benning Rump had (have) purchased from Mr. Burke. This new roadway which neighbors in the area reportedly refer to as “Vera’s Road” has a proposed name on county paperwork of Burke-Benning Road, but on the agenda tonight showed up as Rump Road. On old maps of the county as far back as 1870 Pruss Road shows up as a connector road and looks like it is one of the main roads in that area. It runs along Droege Creek. The county needs to look at Pruss Road from both a cost and functional viewpoint for the landowners and anyone else who uses it. Perhaps the new road should join Pruss at a more functional point and basically be a re-routing of the lower end of that road.]
Meeting adjourned at 9:20 PM
Christine Brauer Mueller
Wednesday, November 03, 2004
Present: Dan Batta, Acting Chairman, Karen Shell, and Vera Benning. Also present: Cary Pickens, Auditor, Lorie Howard, Administrator, and Lisa Lehner, Attorney.
Register Publications reporter was not present at this meeting.
I apologize for the delay in posting these notes- I took some family time after our son’s wedding last weekend.
1. Jim West- Dearborn County Economic Development Initiative Director- came to introduce himself to the commissioners. He gave no presentation and stated he had no information to share yet.
2. Bill Ewbank- Veteran’s Officer- reported that they have enough drivers to accommodate 4 days per week now. He also announced that on November 11th at 11 AM the Aurora VFW would host the service at the Veteran’s Memorial. It would be followed by a free lunch at their meeting hall on 2nd St. in Aurora.
3. Bill Black- Emergency Management- passed out the blank release forms for any group wishing to pick up the hoses that PSEG donated. He reminded the commissioners that they need to fill out their surveys for Tri-State Emergency Management so that they can assess needs in our area.
Road closing for emergencies and weather are now being determined by the Transportation Director, Bill Black, and the Sheriff. They are standardizing the media notification for this to coordinate with tri-state.
800 radio system is proceeding with good feedback from Lawrenceburg on the possibility of bond bank funding.
4. Sandy Leptak- Health Dept. Requested the reappointment of two board members. Gerald Miller and Dr. Harban S Gill were reappointed to the board.
5. Mike Davis- Transportation Director stepped aside to allow Mark Seiler to present today. Mark read the written report. They want to get a list of roads prepared for widening and paving next year. Jeff last name ?? and Terry Crouch from THE SURVEY COMPANY, the engineering company doing the oversight for the White’s Hill Road project, presented the current status of the project along with some changes necessitated by the discovery of sewer laterals and lines in places other than described on St. Leon sewer documents. They are going to relocate part of the road to avoid the sewer line altogether near the retaining walls. This may decrease the size of the retaining wall. They plan to install a 48- inch culvert inside a mixed culvert (a structure with a mixture of pipe and a 72 “ concrete box.) They intend to fill the gaps to secure the inserted pipe. They estimate a $25-40,000 change order on this. They intend to continue to do the engineering study to remove the hump on the hill as well. The Survey Company will help Lorie Howard and Mike Davis negotiate with O’Mara to present three packages on these changes.
Commissioners voted to authorize the design changes and negotiations with O’Mara.
Piper Landing (first 350 feet only- the rest is private) and Fox Chase Subdivision roads requested to be taken in to road inventory. Taken under advisement by Commissioners.
Deer Trails Subdivision from 1996 requested that two roads of about 400 feet each be accepted. Taken under advisement by commissioners.
Old Pruss Road replacement off Grelle Road which was completed in July 2002 under Rich Shelley and the county highway department without the authorization of at least two commissioners was presented. (Vera Benning was in charge). County minutes indicate that they accepted the first 100 ft. of road but not the rest. Several large culverts were installed and the road was graveled at a materials cost of about $30,000. Labor was provided by the Hwy. Dept. The new road has not had a name assigned to it. Right of way was never acquired, Jeff Stenger, county surveyor did not get paid, so the survey was not turned in. Claude Burke signed a paper with Rich Shelley to get the culverts done. [ NOTE: In 2002 Jay Droege, an adjoining landowner, was in dispute with the county over this road. He insisted that the road was actually built on parts of his land.]
Devin Rump also presented that he had recently purchased 38 acres from Claude Burke and stated, “Me and my wife want to build a house back there.” [NOTE: Rump’s wife is Heather Benning, Vera’s daughter] He went on to talk about his neighbor, Esther, giving them some easement to get to the land he bought. [NOTE: Esther is Esther Benning, Vera’s mother –in-law.]
Batta asked how they could transfer land without an official improved road to the property. It was determined that he had a 50 foot access through his original flag lot that he owned prior to the additional land purchase.
The commissioners were advised about the Droege claim on the ROW issue.
Mark Seiler sates that commissioners should consider: abandoning the old Pruss Road and the inaccessible 1980 bridge, get a survey to resolve the ROW issues, and name the new road to accept it.
Commissioners took this under advisement and requested a Planning Commission report also.
[NOTE: It appears that this new road was created for the benefit of Commissioner Benning’s relatives. Claude Burke no longer lives there, he has moved to the eastern side of the county.]
6. Lorie Howard- County Administrator – presented the amendment to the Health Benefit Plan which was approved for the Wellness Program.
The annual chamber of commerce contract regarding the Redevelopment Commission was tabled to determine how this was supposed to work in relation to the Economic Development Initiative. Commissioners remembered Bill Ritzmann saying that the county didn’t have to contribute anything extra because their $25,000 was already covered in this contract with the Redevelopment Commission. (There is also a $50,000 fee from the Tourism Bureau to redevelopment and an $18,00 fee from Tourism to the Chamber.) Lisa Lehner thought that the $25,000 was for other projects that Redevelopment might have.
The employee handbook is still in need of some input and Lorie is redoing the section on the appointing authority to keep the commissioners working together. This was a direct result of an issue in the hwy dept. where the director refused an action and it still happened. They are now having both the director and a foreman have to sign before a disciplinary action occurs. They might have Lorie Howard sign off on it also after she has reviewed it. Benning said that the Board of Commissioners is doing this now. The other commissioners indicted that this was temporary, until they could get the handbook revised.
Jewell DuBonis, one of the county lobbyists, is meeting county officials and cities too at the Chamber of Commerce on Nov 4th at 1 PM to discuss new legislation regarding 5000 new slot machines in various parts of the state.
Lorie Howard will be facilitating the annual bids for sheriff and hwy depts.
She was also directed to contact Al Werner regarding his desire to retire.
7. Lisa Lehner- County Attorney- Commissioners signed off on the Hardintown Street vacations from last month.
8. Cary Pickens- Auditor – claims and minutes were signed.
9. Dan Batta- suggested a series of improvements in policy regarding agendas and meeting organization. He particularly thought there should be a deadline to be on the agenda so that materials could be in commissioners hands in enough time to review for the meeting. He also mentioned that commissioners should have details under their names- particularly if they bring anyone in requesting a decision. He cited the problem of bringing in a room full of people to lobby the board without telling the other commissioners it was coming up. Vera Benning took issue with this citing the Outer Loop (SR 101 Corridor) group that she said Batta brought in. [NOTE: That group was brought in by the original activists fighting the path of that road in the county.]
10. Vera Benning - wants information at each meeting regarding exactly how much money is available in each fund from the auditor. Cary Pickens stated that he’s not managing the hwy budget, etc. Vera stated that the commissioners are blind to knowing what they have to spend. Cited was the $25,000 approved for the Chamber for example. Vera also wants the State Board of Accounts report on how we are running our “business.”
Meeting adjourned at 11:25 AM
Christine Brauer Mueller