Tonight’s County Council Meeting (2012-01-10)

After a rather long and very busy holiday hiatus, I’m back to posting regularly.

The Monroe County Council meets for the first time in 2012 tonight, at 5:30 in Room 213 in the Justice Building (the Courthouse is still closed for renovations). Here is the agenda and packet for the meeting: County Council Packet for 2012-01-10. As usual for Monroe County Council meetings, there are opportunities for general public comment at both the beginning and the end of the meeting, as well as public comment on each item on the agenda.

Here is my quick digest of the substantive agenda items:

1. Election of Officers — the County Council elects two officers for 2012: President and Vice President (or President Pro Tempore, as it is technically called). The officers for 2011 have been Julie Thomas as President and Vic Kelson as President Pro Tempore. Note that the County Council, unlike the Bloomington City Council, does not have Parliamentarian as an officer.

2. 2012 Council Calendar —  The council will vote on the meeting schedule for the regular sessions, work sessions, and the Personnel Administration Committee (PAC) meetings. The current proposal on the table is to have regular council meetings on the 2nd Tuesday of every month (same time — 5:30 PM), and then work sessions on the 4th Tuesday of every month (also 5:30PM). There may be some adjustments for holidays or Election Day.

3. Council Organization — the Council appoints members to several Boards and Commissions (including Solid Waste Management District, Plan Commission, Metropolitan Planning Organization, Convention and Visitors Commission, Downtown Bloomington, Inc. Board, etc.), as well as liaisons to county departments on the first meeting of the year. There has been some interest in postponing these votes until after the work session on the 24th, where there is likely to be a substantive discussion the role of departmental liaisons. However, as things stand now, these appointments are still on the agenda.

4. Open Positions — as has been widely reported in the media, the County’s Human Resources director (Rhonda Foster) has resigned. Per Council policy in place at the moment, the Commissioners must first obtain permission to re-fill the position. They will likely be asking for permission at this meeting. Though I am very much in favor of reducing staff through attrition, this is not a position that we can afford to lose, and I hope the Commissioners advertise it as soon as possible. Having an HR professional literally saves the county hundreds of thousands of dollars as year. Rhonda was also the prime mover in creating the enormously successful county employee health clinic. This is a position that we cannot afford to be without. There is also an open position that the sheriff’s department had to fill, presumably in an emergency. The Council may be asked to ratify that decision.

5. Solar Panels Grant — the Council will be asked to appropriate $278K in grant funds for solar panels for the county portion of the Showers complex. I’m very excited about this project, and will be writing more about it as the engineering studies progress.

6. Prosecutor — the Prosecutor will be asking for an additional appropriation to fund the salary and benefits of an existing legal secretary out of the Pretrial Diversion Program fund. The Prosecutor had proposed that this position be base-funded (out of County General) for the 2012 budget (it had been funded out of Pretrial Diversion Program), but the Council turned him down. However, in doing so, it was too late to re-advertise the position in the Pretrial Diversion Program fund, and so he has to come back to Council at the beginning of 2012 to ask for the appropriation.

7. Health Department — the Health Department will be asking for the appropriation of 2012 Title X grant funding for the Futures Family Planning Clinic ($279K). They will also be asking for an appropriation of $10K from the Health fund to cover the newly-created Public Health Coordinator position. Finally, the department will also be asking for a $10K appropriation from grant funding for an immunization pilot.

8. Solid Waste — the  Council will be asked to appropriate money for the employee of the Auditor’s Office who will be serving as the Controller (financial director) for the Solid Waste Management District. Late in the year last year, the District negotiated a deal with the County to have the County provide the services of financial director to the District. This position will be funded entirely by the District, however.

9. 2012 Salary Ordinance cleanup — there are a number of minor clean-up adjustments that need to be made to the 2012 Salary Ordinance (the Council ordinance that specifies the salary for every position in county government).

In addition, although it didn’t make the agenda, I’m going to propose some legislation (Joint Fleet Committee Energy Resolution GM Draft 2012-01-09-rev) that creates a joint Council-Commissioners committee on fleet and energy conservation. The Council currently has a Fleet and Energy committee, but it has become clear that most of the issues that this committee deals with (take-home vehicle policy, fuel conservation, energy initiatives, etc.) have some components that are within the purview of the Council and others that are within the purview of the Commissioners. I think we would be much more effective in addressing these very important issues if we work closely together, and so I’m proposing the first joint Council-Commissioners committee in Monroe County Government.  I’ll post the results of that discussion after the meeting.

That’s what I know about tonight’s meeting. As usual it will be on CATS, and we very much encourage members of the public to come to the meeting and even more appreciate your thoughts, feedback ,and concerns.