Saturday, February 18, 2006

Secrecy in Dearborn County

Secrecy in Dearborn County
Submitted by Alan Stanley Freemond, Sr.

There is a secret society in Dearborn County, supported by taxpayers’ money, as we will see. The meetings are closed; the time of the meetings is secret - even to Register Publications, which donated $1200 to the organization.

One wonders if something is being hidden. Taxpayers’ money of about $185,000 has been donated by Lawrenceburg, Aurora, and Dearborn County itself. Private donations have been made.

Private donations to a non-profit organization such as this one can be tax deductible for the donor. For someone interested in economic development for his business this makes it a business expense - again a deduction. The money that the donor saves in Federal and State income tax by making such a donation becomes the liability of the rest of the taxpayers since the State and Federal Governments have definite tax revenue demands that someone must pay. All of the above is absolutely legal. The question is in such a small county is there not a moral obligation on the part of the leaders to publish the dates of their meeting and open these meetings to the public. After all, regardless of the legal technicalities that do not require this to be done, what information is being withheld from the very people who are paying the organization’s expenses? The old chestnut of those demanding secrecy in regard to their “delicate business dealings” using taxpayer money doesn’t wash here, despite its apparent legality.

In a county with as small a population as Dearborn County’s is, the consequences for an individual taxpayer can be very expensive. However it is a secret organization that is proposing this.

It seems that names of the membership of DCEDI are secret. We have no say about the expenditures made by this organization nor the bonds issued for them by officials of our county that may adversely affect the taxpayers of our county. From what are these movers and shakers of Dearborn county hiding?

Again from whom are they hiding - a Dearborn Countian who gets up at 5:00AM to hang drywall in Cincinnati, a man who get us at 5:00 AM to drive a semi half way across the United States. Welcome to looking through opaque lenses into the Dearborn County Economic Development Initiative, known as DCEDI and the various boards and commissions who are clandestinely planning to ride to riches on the backs of the unsuspecting Dearborn Countians. This organization plans to develop industry in Dearborn County and hopefully increase the tax revenue of the county.

We have learned that the members of the Dearborn County Regional Sewer Board do not have to file a conflict of interest form. It is so easy to do. Why don’t these people show that their exposure - if any - to a conflict of interest is non-existent? Or is it non-existent? From whom are they hiding? Are any of those board members also members of the secretive Dearborn County Economic Development Initiative?

Why do we need all of this increased revenue? The answer is simple. Over the past 15 to 20 years there has been for all purposes a zeal for uncontrolled housing development. This intense zeal for further housing development was demonstrated recently at a county Planning Commission meeting during which a well-educated, prosperous County Commissioner, in his enthusiasm for development, momentarily suffered a memory lapse. He forgot that, according to statute, one cannot subdivide a little over 7 acres of agricultural land into two housing lots for residential use only. He wished to do so.

For schooling alone, not including paying the interest and paying off the school bonds issued for new buildings and renovations of the older buildings for 10's of millions of dollars, it costs approximately $8500 to educate a child for one year in this county. Statistically a new home brings in about 2 children. That would be an educational cost of close to $17,000 a year per family, hence the forced need of industrial development. Yes, the state pays a large portion of educational cost but this state is not in a financial condition to pay increasingly larger sums for education and we pay state income taxes also to support the schools.

Thus a land speculator, the house builder, and the house salesman make large sums of money by developing subdivisions while the neighboring people are deprived of some of their privacy, some of their cherished lack of noise, low crime rate and less environmental pollution than the larger cities. Essentially they are deprived of their elbow- room, and peace. In addition property taxes go up. The old canard that if one follows these plans property taxes will not go up is poppycock.

An example of arrogance on the part of the county, in relation to housing development, is the ridiculous attempt by the county to abrogate the first amendment rights of a widow lady. She had placed a sign in her own field protesting a planned subdivision that she and her neighbors had reason to believe would destroy the nature of their rural/agricultural environment and perhaps be a health danger because of the development’s sewage.

The county ordered her to remove the sign. Her lawyer disagreed. The lady prevailed. The county had to hire a well- known Indianapolis law firm to argue their losing side. That firm was or will be paid by Dearborn county taxpayers. That is an expensive law firm.

In a recent interview with the Dearborn County Register the hired man of DCEDI recently remarked that developers for industrial sites want sewers. Well, we didn’t need sewers in the agricultural/rural areas and we didn’t need the Dearborn County Economic Development Initiative (DCEDI), until we became overloaded with housing developments, where houses are packed so closely together that a septic system is not feasible. The massive influx of people fleeing the high taxes of crime ridden, deteriorating Cincinnati required taxes from industry to overcome the deficit created by each of these new houses in the subdivisions. Each house requires more in dollars worth of county services than it pays in taxes to the county and the state.

Now neighbors of mine are being forced by court proceedings to destroy their perfectly functioning septic systems that had cost them thousands of dollars. By court order they will be forced to hook up to the St. Leon Sewer System. The cost? A minimum of $4000 per hookup. $4000 represents a little more than 10% of the average Dearborn Countian’s annual income before any taxes are taken out of it. To the affluent, and politically well connected of the DCEDI, this is an insignificant sum. To most of this county it is not an insignificant sum. The court forced sewer hookups are a “tax” on the people to accommodate housing developments.

Beyond the hookup fee of $4000 there are further large costs, some greater than the mandated $4000 connection to the sewer system. There is an increased use of electricity. It is known that an individual’s water bill increases when on a sewage system. Then there is the maintenance of the grinder. If it becomes stopped up or stops functioning it is the responsibility of the individual whose grinder it is to repair it. Can’t you imagine on a cold snowing day an invalided Dearborn Countian having to go out to repair the grinder for the sewage system onto which he didn’t want to be hooked up in the first place?

No one has mentioned the considerable cost of the excavation on one’s property to connect to the sewer system. No one speaks of the cost of the grinder that each must purchase by the court ordered connection to the St. Leon Sewer system.

Certainly the president of the DCEDI, who works at a bank, would loan these folks the money needed to conform with the court ordered connection to the sewer system. It would still be all that money plus interest.

Good people in the northern Townships have become angry about the court enforced sewer hookups. At a recent sewer board meeting in our friendly, calm St. Leon a harmless gentleman anxiously questioned why, by a court order, will he be forced to hookup to the sewer system at a cost of $4000 plus his own expenses to make the connection. This man was told to stop his questions or (as the policeman threatened him) “or you’re out of here!”

A policeman was ordered along with a sheriff deputy to be present at a meeting in St. Leon? Really! It was more appropriate for a Cincinnati Over-the-Rhine neighborhood meeting.

All of this is to aid the wealthy, politically well-connected professionals, industrial tycoons, merchant princes, and the Donald Trumps of Dearborn County. The threatened man described above has about as much political clout as a slug under a rock in Tanners Creek.

At a later date we’ll have to explore, more, the secret organization, DCEDI.

The hired hand of the organization has barely described to the newspaper vague terms how these Tax Initiated Financing districts as shown in aerial photographs in the December 22nd issue of the Dearborn County Register will be financed. The plan of these initiatives will on the surface appear to make money and tax revenues out of thin air. These plans may very well make for our shakers of the county money out of thin air. The chances are great that the ultimate burden of all this will be on the Dearborn County Taxpayer.

It is impossible to reverse all these years of development and the spoiling of our Elysian fields. We can bring these changes to a halt during which we can catch our breath.

Which of our townships will most closely resemble Colerain Township, Hamilton County, OH? Thereafter will we be a rival of Florence, KY and its Mall?

Does no one care? Are our elected county officials looking after the welfare of their long-standing electors and friends or whom?

Alan Stanley Freemond, Sr.
Jackson Township

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