Wednesday, January 21, 2009

20 January 2009 Dearborn County Commissioners Meeting Notes

[NOTE: This is a long set of notes-the bulk of them are on the Bright FD District request]

Present: Thompson, President, Hughes, and Orschell.
Also Present: Pickens, Auditor, and Messmore, Departing Administrator.
ABSENT: Witte, County Attorney (previous commitment)

American Farm Products Manufacturing- (Hall Farms)- Thompson reported that Katie Rademacher, Zoning Enforcement Officer, had inspected the operations and found it to be in compliance with Article 9 Section 910 #9 of the Zoning Code, which means it is allowed in that zone.


Margaret Minzner- GIS- briefly stated they were having issues with the parcel project, due to many parcels needing correction. Sidwell, the vendor, may not meet the July deadline. She is requesting more money from Council to hire more part time help to get the parcel data corrected to finish the project.
Pickens actually upped her request to $60,000 instead of $48,000 for Council to review Thursday. OK’d to go to Council.
Commissioners TABLED the data sharing agreement with Fountain Town Gas until they could get Witte’s opinion.

Jewell DuBonis of Lewis and Kappes- Lobbyists for the County- reviewed their lobbying activities. She passed out a list of challenges for the county in 2009. They have someone at all the hearings. She listed several bills such as SB541, SB 30, SB289 as affecting our Riverboat Revenue potentially and Lawrenceburg’s local agreement with the boat as well. She mentioned Tax assessment of flood plain areas (that the boat is in) and winery bills.

Orschell asked her how a new official such as himself could help with this.

DuBonis said that getting the information out that the streets are not paved with gold here (Pickens said- Close- they have salt on them (referring to the high price of salt). DuBonis said the sharing plans that L-bg has for their revenue in the region is helpful too. She recommended he get the word out on what it COSTS to have a boat here with courts, jail space, patrols, the new bridge, etc. [NOTE: Perhaps the county should add changing the forced sewer hook-up laws to the lobbyist’s activities…]
Later in the meeting, the Commissioners signed the annual agreement with Lewis and Kappes.

Carl Fryman- Building Department- was approved to go to Council for $11,000 for part time help to cover increased inspections at Argosy etc. They are self-funding, but apparently need this to get staff up front. He is hiring Tony Murray (sp?) Argosy takes about 4 hours per day and about 3-4 days a week.

Nancy Weldon- CASA -received signatures on their proposed budget and grant list. For their funding ¼ is adm and ¾ is grants to the community for prevention and treatment of substance abuse and education.

Jeff Bittner- INDICOM- presented an $8,025 telephone upgrade proposal for ISDNPRI digital trunk line replacement. He said it would save the county about $15,000 or more a year in phone costs. He received approval for this. There was nothing in this request that indicated new phones or equipment would be necessary for this upgrade.

Darryl Sears- PAWS Animal Shelter Contract- was tabled until Witte could review the REVISED contract. Pickens said he had their first invoice for $30,420.

Mark Gillespie- Bright Fire Dept- request for a Bright Fire Prevention District. strong>>[NOTE: Several people mentioned this as a public hearing for their fire district. The only notice they said they had given was in the Bright Beacon. The largest circulating paper in the county is Register Publications and without a legal notice there, I don’t believe this meeting “counts” as the public hearing. It is possible that to get to the public in that area, that the Fire Dept and EMS needs to put notices in both monthly periodicals as well – Echoes and the Beacon, and perhaps the Harrison Press, as many in Bright read it as well. Notices sent through the schools and signs in prominent traffic locations would be helpful. The commissioners hope to have a public hearing in the Bright area.]

Gary Theurer - Fire Chief-presented information- he is on Bright FD since 1985. The meeting room was full of Bright Fire and EMS volunteers in uniform and other county EMS volunteers. (approximately 60 people, some non- volunteers) Reedy and Peters were the accountants hired to look at financials and Steve Bushman was the lawyer. New Trenton was covering the Bright area for them tonight.

The area to be covered in the proposed district is portions of Miller, portions of Logan, and portions of Harrison Townships. They estimate 22,000 people there and 54 square miles. The FD has 50 members and two paid people on staff. They pay $7.50/ hr for emt volunteers when called out. They are trying to get the 4-6 minute national standard, but cannot accomplish it during the day with volunteers often. The national fire standard is to get 10 firefighters within 10 minutes of the call. Most people take their FD and EMS for granted. They plan to keep their volunteers and pay them for training and responses. They currently have 23 at firefighter levels 1 and 2.

Their expenses have gone up 12% and they cannot balance their books. They cannot upgrade the newest place in Logan, their equipment is aging, and there are no replacement funds. Last week it cost $5,000 to fix their 15-year-old fire truck. They want to be there on time and have 8 daytime and 6 at night- on site. They plan to reduce the insurance rates from a 6/9 to a 4/9. This would save about $36 on a $200,000 house in annual premium. There is no paramedic service in the county. The hospital doesn’t want to support it, even though there are trained paramedics on some units. [NOTE: This needs to be checked into- are there insurance issues or staffing issues at Dearborn County Hospital?]

They want to also do extra services for the county- like smoke detector inspections, CO inspections, child safety seats, CPR training, and school visits. They spent a lot on consultants (heard a $20,000 number, but that is not verified) the cost of this in taxes would be about $240 on a $150,000 home assessed value. They give and receive mutual aid in the county and this can’t be a levy in IN like OH does. They want the commissioners to approve this, as they have no other options to keep the people safe. The days of people doing this for free are almost gone. Most homes need both incomes and leaves little time for volunteers. Consider this as a realignment of tax money as other taxes drop off, instead of considering it as a new tax.

JEFF PETERS- the accounting firm of Reedy and Peters- experienced- 14 years doing this kind of work. Used to work for DLGF (formerly the State Board of Accounts). Peters went into the concept of 3 funds to create- the General fund, the Cum Cap fund, and the Debt fund. They looked at the property tax impact and used Bargersville where Peters lives as a comparison. The Fire Dept, has some debt rolled into these figures. There is an assessed value of $750 million in this district. [NOTE: Did they draw the lines for biggest value or for density? Does the boundary of this district change easily, once created, like the county sewer district did?]

Of the assessed value- the breakdown by their share of the district was:
Harrison Township $ 118,812,770
Logan Township $132,887,240
Kelso Township- $353,000 (small)
Miller Township- $ 499,181,510
Total- $751,234,520
[NOTE: Why is Kelso figured here? They didn’t list it as part of the district before.]

Growth factors varied from over 2 to 4 %.

Tom Orschell asked numerous questions after all three commissioners thanked the Bright fire and EMS:
Who was at the meeting in INDY on Fire Districts? Mark Gillespie.

Bright FD took a vote to do this. What was the vote? No number given, but the majority is on board now.

What will you pay the full time fire chief? $65-70,000

For the 18 full timers you hire, what will the pay be? $50,000 each

How will they schedule them? 6 persons per shift- working 24 hours on and 48 off. All benefits paid.

In 2008, there were about 350 FD runs and 775 EMS runs. This is different from the 911 call numbers.

Three trustees would have to be appointed. Fire district would generate about $2.3 million in taxes per year.

What is your debt? $960,000 on the property for Logan station 3- their reserve was built up to satisfy that debt but it disintegrated. There was discussion of whether they could pay old debt off with the new tax- legally. Apparently, they don’t consider this township debt, so legal per code IC 36-8-11-20.

When you split these townships up, how do we know who gets taxed? Go address by address. [NOTE:That is time consuming for the assessor.]

How did you get the population estimates? By the district lines, not by township. (so they went address by address?)

Harrison Fire and EMS covers areas of Harrison Township for $92,000 a year. Will Bright do this area? No, they cannot get to them I the standard time desired. Harrison Township covered by Harrison will not be taxed for Bright.

The tax rate is a fire tax only? Yes and the district will get COIT tax.

Will Agricultural lands be taxed too? Yes

Hughes asked at this point- Will you continue to get the $40,000 for two EMS? Yes.
Orschell went on with questions- He had asked about figured for a $200, 250, 300, 350, 400 thousand dollar house and taxes. They said it was NOT linear- it was a graduated tax. Orschell said that means using your rates that a 200,000 home pays $381, 250 pays $506, 300 pays $632, 350 pays $757, and 400 pays $882 a year? They didn’t have the actual numbers available…

The budget in 2008 for Bright FD was $585,850 with income of only 465,850. For 2009 they project a budget of $625,669.

STEVE BUSHMAN- attorney for Bright FD and EMS- has been in practice 34 years, taught a class on this recently and passed out the materials he uses for that to commissioners.

Focus on 2 things- the checks and balances in this and the procedure to set it up.

He gave 5 checks and balances: fire districts are governed by a board of trustees, one per township or municipality involved. 1. They are appointed to a 4-year term by the board of commissioners. 2. You cannot appoint a person that serves the fire district as a trustee. 3. The district is appointed by commissioners and county council must approve the budget. 4. The fire district must set a levy in the beginning and are under the same rules and levy controls as everyone else. They can’t get unlimited money. 5. There cannot be a duplication of taxes, so a fire district will not pay a township fire levy, but will pay a civil levy (??) This is NOT and open checkbook.

Bushman said the procedure is that up to Jan 9 a petition was required. Now it isn’t due to an IN Supreme Court ruling on Saunders vs. Brown County 892-NE 2nd 1249.
From any time on tonight, you can adopt the ordinance establishing this. [NOTE: NOT IF THIS WAS NOT A PUBLIC HEARING LEGALLY!] We want you to do this by March 1 so they can collect taxes in 2010. They have 600 signatures now. The provision in the law states that it takes 51% of the people to get a remonstrance.

There are 25-30 districts in IN and 7-8 territories.

Thompson said- I see a lot of fire and EMS people here. Was this advertized anywhere besides the Beacon? NO.

Orschell- I am compassionate to fire people but I have to be a good steward of the people- I want the people in this district to know- let them all know what is going on.

PUBLIC COMMENT: (summarized)
Mike Cushman- lived here 16 yrs- 14 years on FD. Volunteered to get 30 homes signed. About 1/3 didn’t want extra tax- but later did sign. Spoke passionately about getting to some scenes too late etc. Wanted to provide top service. Was originally against the idea- but now is for it.

Dan Bole- (sp?) 18 years in IN – wanted to know about the EMT/Paramedic gap. Paramedics can give drugs, read a strip, override a defibrillator, etc. The intermediate EMTs or advance EMTs can push a few drugs and do finger sticks. There are no paramedics in Bright dept. There are some throughout the county squads apparently. Some confusion on this- can they even function without hospital back-up?

Stephanie Ketcham- is a paramedic- wants hospital to support the paramedics.

Connie Keens- Paramedics save lives and EMTs save paramedics. She is a former paramedic with Colerain Township. She received an email circulated by Commissioner Jeff Hughes saying the Bright FD wants to raise their taxes significantly. This is tantamount to yelling FIRE! Thompson stopped the accusations at this point and wanted them to get back on point. [NOTE: However- the people do need to know about this tax increase.]

Unknown man- asked about billing for EMS services- they bill for transports but not for calls where they do not transport anyone. [NOTE: But they did have to make the run to the home- perhaps bill a reduced rate?]

Mr Keens- wants to see paramedics

Gary Hessler- was a former Ham Co fire chief in a 1 sq mile area of 7500 people.
Unknown man- Concerns with other depts.- would like to get some of the $40,000 that Bright gets if they don’t need it any more.

Lonnie Baker- Have lived my whole life here in IN and I cannot afford to pay any more taxes, people need this service, but expenses occur as they do in L-bg- some BIG expenses occur, like $100,000 heating systems. Do the taxes increase to pay for that? It cost $1600 to transport his 2 daughters after a wreck. With the economy being what it is, I don’t think we should do this without asking. Did a tour in the military and I understand what these people have to do- the volunteers. Please don’t take all my money in taxes- find another way to pay for this.

Craig Beckley- My township is the only one with a fire cum assessment. All the money in there may be dumped on you if townships go away- and you will be responsible for it.

End Public discussion at 9:30 PM

Hughes- read a statement from Mitch Daniels- Governor- on no tax increases, esp. in a recession. This will be a significant tax. This one public meeting isn’t enough. Just went through a campaign, where all I saw was inaccurate info. I don’t want that to continue- I speak straight out. I want to put a task force together- the March 1 date is fast.

Orschell- I am for the FD, but there are delinquent taxes out there- There are 323 delinquent in Miller for $446.204; 81 in Logan for $131,988; and 71 in Harrison for $178,692. These people could be taxed out of their homes. The County HWY Budget is reduced to $2 million and we had to lay 2 more people off. You want a $2.3 million budget- which is more than the hwy dept gets now, and they cover the whole county. You won’t be able to put out many fires with no roads.

Thompson- familiar with Bridgetown/Mack FD and how they went public. Overwhelmed with all the data that needs to be reviewed. I would like to see what people think out there. Maybe we should consider this county wide.

Pickens- get the rest of your signatures- can use them as ammo. Told them what to include so he can verify them.

TABLED for further info and to schedule more public hearings. [NOTE: This will be a good test of the public process and public access to information about services and taxation policies that will affect them. It may also open the door for other solutions for the county as a whole.]

9:50 PM- brief recess

Todd Listerman- HWY updates- Got the Triple Whipple Bridge supplemental agreement signed- not to exceed $14,000. Also informed commissioners they laid off two workers effective Feb 6. They have $140,000 less revenue than expected.

Pickens- Claims and minutes signed. Interlocal agreement signed with Sunman for 2008 and 09 Fire/EMS and signed L-bg and Aurora’s. Lewis and Kappes lobbyists signed at this time also.

Messmore- Departing Administrator- gave the update on Hylant Insurance and the 2009 property and casualty renewal- which noted rates being flat but an increase in costs due to 18 vehicles added and an increased value of $867,000 including the mobile command unit and hwy trucks. The renewal is 7% increase from 2008. $291,293. They commissioners decided against another $5,000 for nuclear attack insurance. [NOTE: I didn’t make this up- that was for real!] Commissioners signed the statement of values, declined nuclear attack insurance, kept the terrorism coverage. Messmore advised a 2% per year increase for budgeting for insurance and to get bid specs out in June 2009 for the next contract.


Thompson brought up redoing CVTB and PTABOA board appointments per the code. Maynard Barrott will be left for Council to appoint to CVTB and Commissioners affirmed Hartwell and Neff to PTABOA using Hensley as their exemption for certified member. That leaves Booker and Madden for the Council to appoint if they so choose. Booker is certified and they need one certified.


Doug Taylor gave out numbers on Aurora’s dispatch volume for the past several years ranging from 2906 to 3203 in 2008. He stressed that commissioners should hire enough personnel to cover the heavy call volume times- esp. weekends. If we get MTVs on our laptops, the police can do license plate checks in their cars and not call dispatch.

Phil Darling asked about SR 1 at Yorkridge to get guardrail fixed- Listerman will check with INDOT.

Pickens said they need to get redone figures on Bright FD and Messmore suggested they get Bright Elementary for a meeting.

Mark Hall addressed Hughes directly concerning his business – American Farm Products that Hughes had turned over for possible zoning violation at the end of 2008. Hughes told him he brought it up because people asked how he could have a manufacturing operation there and not them. Hall asked who. Hughes said- he wouldn’t say- they were afraid of reprisals. Hall said- In this country, I thought we had a right to face our accusers. Thompson said at this point that they should continue this off the record. [NOTE: See the last meeting of Dec 2008 for the original record of this. Hall appeared to be upset, as Hughes had gone after his family farm business.]

Meeting adjourned at 10:30 PM

Christine Brauer Mueller
Lawrenceburg Township

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