Wednesday, July 22, 2009

21 July 2009 Dearborn County Commissioner Meeting Notes

21 July 2009 Dearborn County Commissioner Meeting Notes

Present: Thompson, President, Orschell, and Hughes
Also present: Pickens, Auditor, and Witte, Attorney

FIVE Council members were present: Ullrich, Lansing, Cheek, Morris, and Fehrman. ABSENT: Kraus and Barrett.

There were also numerous county officials present including the three judges, prosecutor, and probation dept staff. The sheriff was not present.


County Campus Plan reopened for a 1 hour and 40 minute discussion. Brett Dodd of RQAW presented a fifth option that he worked up with input from the last meeting. Scattering functions in 3 locales was an issue as was the costs of maintaining 3 buildings and concerns about technology being able to bridge the gap.

Option 5 eliminated the YMCA and put all adm functions at the Motorsports facility on Industrial Drive. This increases initial costs by about $500,000 and adds about 4 months to the time frame. [NOTE: Judge Blankenship and Prosecutor, Aaron Negangard, have been pushing for more space as soon as possible because of their issues in the old Courthouse building. There are several past meetings with Commissioners and Council detailing their concerns and needs. These needs have trumped the jail expansion apparently.]

Council members and commissioners were asked for comments first. Cheek asked about why increased costs when one building was cut out. Dodd said it was new construction costs. Morris asked if future expansion costs were figured. Dodd said no, though they would be lower to shell out the rest of the building all at once. Ullrich thought option 5 would not put additional burden on the taxpayer as it was close to budget of $10 million. He also wanted to be sure all the different departments who had been out of the loop for a while were called back in to determine details of needs before moving forward. Ullrich said we’ve got to move forward.

Thompson reiterated that this plan was limited to less detail to see if there was consensus on what to do before spending more. Hughes was concerned that removing the jail separated the plan into pieces that would avoid referendum. He wants the voters to decide if we should spend the money. [NOTE: Referendums cost money too. IF the space problems are severe enough, the judges can mandate the construction. How does that affect the referendum law?]

Cheek asked if RQAW had done comparisons on cost and size with similar sized counties. Cheek asked: “ Did we say we need space or did we say, this is what we need and what will it cost?” Dodd said they did do comparisons in our population range and staff sizes etc, in the 2004 report. They also looked out 25 years to get the concept phase. Example: Superior Court uses about 6200 sq ft and Circuit typically uses 8000 sq ft. Cheek said it is hard to look an out of work taxpayer in the eye when talking about expansions and spending money. We’ve laid off highway workers- that’s an important county function. Do we need to tighten our belts.
Orschell said no one wants to increase taxes, but needs have to be met. The sooner we fix this- the sooner we fix the jail problem.

Thompson noted that Cheek had been involved all along and that the purpose was to create a master plan for the entire campus so it could be worked on as needed and not waste money. We need to know if Council will fund this. If not, we drop it.

Hughes said we can’t assume gambling revenue will continue.

Morris prefers the campus attached and on High Street and not scattered. This would affect the city if we moved this much out.

Fehrman asked the commissioners, if Council said yes, what would you do next?

Thompson said , we’d choose an option and THEN MEET WITH DEPARTMENTS TO GET THEIR NEEDS. Then we’d look at purchase of land and buildings. We want Council to help decide the option.

The three judges ( Humphrey, Cleary, and Blankenship) and prosecutor ( Negangard) stood at the podium together:

Humphrey said that in the last 10 days he received several different plans and the sheriff had contacted him about the YMCA being used for work release and juvenile detention. Humphrey was not happy that HE had not been consulted about the juvenile as he’s in charge of that. We want to be able to talk to RQAW and we were told it had to be at a public meeting! We want to know who is making these plans and why. We want to be a part of this. [NOTE: When you talk to a consultant, it costs money. Several different plans from each judge and prosecutor have been discussed over the years and there are now a ridiculous number of options because of it. They have been invited to the public meetings. Blankenship particularly has been adamant at several commissioner and council meetings (since she became Superior Court II judge) about her space requirements. Their comments have been heard and handed over to RQAW to incorporate into revisions.]

Blankenship said we need to be consulted. The Adm. building has about 30,000 sq feet now and in the new plan they have about the same- so they aren’t getting any more. I am concerned about his and the jail overcrowding. Issues are with probation too. Not sure if the new plan is contemplating more restrooms for drug testing. I would like to work with anyone on this. [NOTE: The Adm Bldg inhabitants do NOT need to move. It was only an option to try to keep the courts and legal services together for security purposes. Maybe they should leave Adm Bldg alone and just move the non- secure portions of the courthouse to a new building. ( Like probation and prosecutor, for example, could be moved across the street.)]

Cleary said this was an important night and he was there more as a citizen than as a judge. He had to tell a local citizen after church when asked about what was happening at the courthouse, that he had no idea. We want to be asked so that we are sure we do this right. You shouldn’t build just knowing the cost, unless you know what is in the 4 walls. Perhaps the jail should be the first priority.

Negangard thanked the commissioners for trying to do something. He said Lusby couldn’t be there due to a family emergency. All the plans provide sufficient space for the prosecutor. He thought there was a proposal from RQAW to do a charette- and we could all have input in that process. We want something long-term- not just Industrial Drive- way out by IVY Tech. [NOTE: Haste and cost are issues and perhaps the judges and prosecutor have now realized that in pushing for something fast, they have created a plan option that they don’t really want, but is in the budget.]

Humphrey, in a rare display of temper, later took Thompson and commissioners to task for not inviting them to these meetings. It was determined that Humphrey was on vacation for one of them. [NOTE: Communication between these departments – only a building apart- seems to be getting skewed by certain political factions. As a taxpayer who has been at these meetings for 14 years, this technique is nothing new. What each office holder, including judges, needs to remember is that the buildings and spaces being created are NOT THEIRS! They belong to the people of Dearborn County. The office holder is only there as long as he is elected to hold that office. So individual needs and egos need to checked at the door before these charettes are held. Public SERVANTS need to remember whom they SERVE. And who is paying for all of this.]

Gus Grote said we shouldn’t build another EC- where plans for indoor tracks etc had problems. He also asked if Lawrenceburg money would be available for this, as it is the richest little town in the U.S.

Mayor Cunningham- The commissioners have asked us about land available in town and we want the employees to stay in our town. We would prefer NOT to use Industrial Park land for this as it takes it out of the tax base. But we have enough trouble running our own government, without trying to run the county too. The county has used the large amount of money we’ve given it wisely. We will assist- not sure how much. Pickens noted it was $50 million that the county received from Lawrenceburg. Cunningham laughed and said- it would continue as long as the Republican governor works with this Democrat mayor. Thompson reiterated how helpful Lawrenceburg has been. [NOTE: Many of the arrests and jail and court costs result from the Riverboat “activity.” It is appropriate for Lawrenceburg to help with this increased burden on the county.]

Paul Messmore- Bright (former administrator Bryan Messmore’s father) went off on a tangent about Thompson saying the county didn’t have enough money to remove a couch left on Henderson Road. His point perhaps was that there wasn’t enough money to do the necessary functions???

Mike Rozow- noted 3 things: Service is important for citizens- and shouldn’t be broken up into too many areas. The interaction between departments is important. There is a concern with the loss of daytime traffic to local restaurants etc. if we move several offices out.

Charlie Fehrman- in the absence of the Pres and VP of Council moved to use up to $15,000 of the contingency fund with a 45-day window to meet with all the stakeholders to come back with an option. Ullrich 2nd it- all 5 Council present voted Aye. All people are allowed to attend these charettes or meetings at their discretion.

The commissioners are to get an agreement from RQAW to do this. Commissioners tabled the plans until the charette is completed.

Meeting recessed for 10 minutes until 8:50.


Mary McCarty SIRPC presented the Child Advocacy Grant, which will be signed pending the appropriate documents getting to Witte for certification of the process. There were apparently several items that were not in the paperwork and were required for attestation.

Two other items were signed earlier due to deadlines and ratified by commissioners on Justice Assistance Grants for the Special Crimes Unit ($177,673) and the Jail Chemical Addiction Program for Cognitive Behavioral Therapy.

Ed Opp of EMS Alliance met in Bright and wants to put together a task force of EMS and Fire to look at how to cover the county in the future with volunteers decreasing and population needs increasing. The exploratory committee will address funding, staffing, etc. and look for a sustainable way to fund this. [NOTE: That probably means tax money will be needed. Projected needs may tell us how much.]

Rick Anderson and Al ?? of Perfection Group gave a pitch on performing energy conservation facilities work- in the smaller range. Pickens told them we’d done this 10 years ago in the courthouse renovation and it was a problem.

Animal Control Euthanization recommendations were tabled for the commissioners to review. There was some discussion with 3 members of the board in attendance concerning part of the items being about staffing and not about procedure. Apparently staff falls to commissioners and procedures to the board. Pickens noted that he had done the Animal Control Budget for them for the Budget hearings in August, as they have no director now.

Pickens- Claims and minutes signed.

Witte- Attorney reported that he had given Negangard the notice of suits involving the Special Crimes Unit and filed a copy with Pickens. He noted the county was dropped from one of the suits.

Hughes asked if there was a problem with Pickens being HR rep and being at Animal Control. What if they file an HR claim regarding him. Pickens said- then Jessica handles it. Witte weighed in and said even in HR Dept’s they get another person to handle it if the director is involved. Pickens just would recues himself. Hughes was satisfied with that response.

Orschell asked about noise ordinances as Gus Grote had a problem with them. Bottom line was Witte noted there was no decibel rating in the ordinance- just a reasonableness clause. There were exemptions for one time events. Grote is hosting an outdoor cage fight at the trading Post on Aug 15. I did ask about the idea of time as a factor in the ordinance and Witte said that would be under the reasonableness section. People do need to be able to sleep.

Thompson asked about getting more insurance coverage for document restoration as Jefferson County used $500,000 to get theirs done after the fire. They are considering it. Many of our files are copied and in a cave for storage in Utah already per Pickens.

Vera Benning wanted it noted that High Ridge Drive was included in DCRSD’s sewer coverage per the commissioner’s request.

NO Public Comment

Meeting adjourned at 10:10 PM

Christine Brauer Mueller
Lawrenceburg Township

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