Trail Plans Launched in Owen County

I was very excited to see that our neighbor to the west, Owen County, has launched plans for a trail network that organizers are calling MYpath. The long-term plan is to connect the Owen County Family YMCA and the schools west of Spencer to the downtown area, and will also include a riverfront trail along the White River. The plans are to eventually connect to McCormick’s Creek State Park. Which makes me think — maybe we can eventually connect the MYpath network to the Monroe County Active Transportation Network?

The project is a cooperative effort between the Owen County Community Foundation, the Owen County Family YMCA, and the Owen County Soil and Water Conservation District (and Executive Director Kelsey Thetonia). The group also received a $60,000 grant from the Smithville Charitable Foundation.

More information on the project can be found in this article from the Spencer Evening World.

The full link can be found here:

Thank you to the Spencer Evening World for giving permission to post the full article.

Next Phase of Karst Farm Greenway Begins

Late in October I wrote about the Karst Farm Greenway’s first phase nearing completion here. The Karst Farm Greenway is the north-south backbone of Monroe County’s active transportation network. Phase 1 runs from Karst Farm Park at the south to Vernal Pike at the north, where it ties in with the new Northwest YMCA. And while Phase 1 is not completely finished, it is fully usable (and used!), lacking only some signage, plantings, grass seeding, and a few other finishing touches.

And there is more good news for trail enthusiasts! Eagle eyes may have noticed a number of stakes planted in the ground along Loesch Road, north of Vernal Pike. As of this week, the next phase of the greenway, so-called Phase 2A, is already under construction! Phase 2A runs along the west side of Loesch Road, from Vernal Pike up to the railroad track, just south of Woodyard Road — just under a mile of new trail. The following map roughly shows the path of this phase of the greenway:

Karst Farm Greenway Phase 2A
Karst Farm Greenway Phase 2A

The following map shows both Phase 1 and Phase 2A on the same map. By the Spring of 2015, all of this will be complete!

Karst Farm Greenway Phases 1 and 2A
Karst Farm Greenway Phases 1 and 2A

Here are a few pictures of the staked areas that will eventually become Phase 2A:

Phase 1 Meets Phase 2A at Vernal Pike
Phase 1 Meets Phase 2A at Vernal Pike
Trail Goes Through the Woods West of Loesch Road
Trail Goes Through the Woods West of Loesch Road
Trail Behind the Post Office Processing Facility
Trail Behind the Post Office Processing Facility
Trail Crosses Over Old Vernal Pike
Trail Crosses Over Old Vernal Pike

This last picture shows the northern terminus of Phase 2A. A trailhead will be constructed just south of the railroad track.

Northern Terminus
Northern Terminus

Phase 2A concludes the portion of the Karst Farm Greenway that is already funded. The last phase, Phase 2B, which is not yet funded, continues on from the railroad tracks pictured above, and follows the Monon line all the way to downtown Ellettsville.

Complete Karst Farm Greenway
Complete Karst Farm Greenway

Preview of Monroe County Council Meeting Today 2014-12-09

2014 Monroe County Council
2014 Monroe County Council

Today’s meeting looks to be a long one for the Monroe County Council. Unfortunately I’ve run out of time, and so this preview won’t be as detailed as some of my previous notes. However, I still wanted to make sure that the public was aware of several important and substantive issues on tonight’s agenda.

The following are the major issues on the agenda:

  • The Commissioners plan to invest $3.2M in an major infrastructure replacement for county buildings, and plan to fund part of it as a (statutorily-defined) “guaranteed savings program”. The infrastructure upgrades include:
    • Replacement of HVAC equipment that is at the end of its useful life at the Showers, Johnson, Health, and Justice buildings
    • Expanded control systems for reduced maintenance and troubleshooting and increased equipment reliability
    • Lighting retrofits
    • Building envelope improvements (Justice, Showers, Johnson, Health, Courthouse, Youth Services, Highway Garage, Fiscus, and Curry buildings)
    • Water conservation at the jail and reduced wastewater charges through a cooling tower sewer credit
    • Expansion of the Lucid energy consumption dashboards to Justice, Johnson, Health, Courthouse, Youth Services, Highway Garage, Fiscus, and Curry buildings (these dashboards are accessible to public here:
    • Transformer replacement at Showers and Courthouse buildings
    • Installation of interior storm windows at the Courthouse
    • Expansion of the existing solar panel array on the Showers building by 88.5 kilowatts to a total of 152.25 kilowatts
  • $1.6M of the costs will be paid for out of the existing 2015 General Obligation bond that has already been approved. The Commissioners are asking for County Council direction as to how to fund the remaining $1.6M. There are several options being considered, including:
    • A General Obligation bond for 2016
    • Qualified Energy Conservation Bonds, which allow local governments to borrow for energy conservation projects at attractive rates. However, this option is not likely to be selected, for a number of reasons, including that the amount available is not enough to cover the entire project, and so the county would have to choose yet another method of financing anyway.
    • Tax-exempt lease financing, which allows us essentially to match up lease payments over a 10-year period with actual savings (essentially, funding the entire project through guaranteed savings). Lease financing also allows us to defer payments until the projects are actually complete — so energy savings is already starting by the time we have to pay for the upgrades.
  • The entire project would be performed under a Guaranteed Energy Savings Contract (GESC), in which the contractor (Honeywell, in this case), contractually guarantees the annual energy savings as a result of the upgrades. The energy savings are essentially a way of financing the major equipment and infrastructure upgrades that the county needs to make anyway as a result of aging equipment. I’ll have more to write about this project in a future post.
  • The Commissioners are requesting the Council approval of a contract with the Jail Employees Collective Bargaining Unit. This is the first time that the jail employees are bargaining collectively.
  • The Commissioners are requesting the approval of a 2015 salary contract for the incoming Monroe County Sheriff, Brad Swain. This contract must be approved in 2014, before the new sheriff takes office. There are several statutorily-authorized methods that a county can use to compensate the sheriff. A contract specifies that the sheriff receives a set amount of compensation (equal to the salary of the prosecuting attorney), and cannot make any money from tax warrant collection fees or prisoners’ meals. The contract that is being requested is the same as has been in effect for the current sheriff, Jim Kennedy.
  • The Commissioners are requesting the approval of an interlocal agreement between Monroe County and the City of Bloomington for the enforcement of building codes. This interlocal agreement specifically authorizes the Monroe County Building Commission to enforce building codes within the City of Bloomington. This agreement is simply a continuation of an agreement that started in 1997. The agreement is a good example of cooperation between units of government to make operations more efficient and more consistent for residents.
  • The Council is considering an additional appropriation for the Commissioners to cover possible contractual services to deal with issues related to the some State Board of Accounts audit results that are expected with respect to the Treasurer. In particular, the county anticipates that the State Board of Accounts will find material weaknesses in cash reconcilements, the cash book, the financial ledger, and excise transactions in the Treasurer’s Office. The point of this appropriation is to provide the Commissioners with the funding to hire a contractor to resolve some outstanding issues in the office, if they so choose, once the audit results are complete.
  • The Monroe County Public Library is requesting approval to issue a General Obligation bond in the amount of $1,995,000 to fund their capital needs for 2016-2018. This bond will replace an existing GO bond covering the capital equipment needs through 2015, and will increase the annual debt levy from $600,000 to $665,000 (the tax rate to support this debt will remain the same, at about $0.01 per $100 of assessed value (depending on the overall Net Assessed Value). Capital projects that the library requesting funding for includes:
    • CATS IT equipment ($150K)
    • IT equipment/software ($330K)
    • 2016-2018 items from Life Cycle Replacement List ($300K)
    • Feasibility study for Ellettsville Learn and Play Space ($10K)
    • Construction of Ellettsville Learn and Play Space ($605K)
    • Feasibility study for a new branch ($25K)
    • Purchase of land for new branch ($500K)
    • Bond issuance expenses ($75K)
  • The potential of a new branch will undoubtedly be the most interesting to most members of the public, and councilmembers will undoubtedly want to hear how such a new branch would be funded/operated.
  • The Youth Services Bureau (YSB) is requesting a major restructuring of their department, including position description modifications of 6 positions, reclassification of 3 positions, and 2 new positions (Community Education and Training Coordinator and Program Coordinator). The reclassifications and new positions would all be funded by the Juvenile County Option Income Tax (J-COIT), which was recently raised to 0.095%,
  • There are also several small requests for additional appropriations and transfers typical of the end-of-the-year meeting, from Court Services, Building Department, the Clerk, Probation and Community Corrections, and the Auditor.

The agenda and packet are available here:

This meeting will begin at 5:30PM today in the Nat U Hill Room of the Monroe County Courthouse, and public comment will be taken at the beginning of the meeting on items not on the regular agenda (as well as for each item on the agenda). The meeting will, as usual, be covered live on CATS. Hope to see you at the meeting!

Environmental Assessment for Fullerton Pike Project Available

Last week I wrote about an upcoming public hearing for Monroe County’s Fullerton Pike Project scheduled for December 11, 2014 at 6PM at the Nat U Hill Room of the Monroe County Courthouse. The public hearing will give members of the public an opportunity to learn more about the project, get their questions answered, and make their voices heard.

The Monroe County Highway Department has just made the draft version of the Environmental Assessment for the project available on its Web site here:

An Environmental Assessment is a requirement of the National Environmental Protection Act (NEPA) and is document whose purpose is to examine the significance of environmental effects and to look at alternative means to achieve the objectives of a particular governmental agency or project.

The Environmental Assessment is divided into 7 sections, all of which are fairly large PDF files. The most important to read is the first one, which provides an extensive description of the project and all alternatives that were considered.

Incidentally, i have heard from many constituents who think that the whole public input process is a sham — that citizen input doesn’t matter. I will say that nothing is further from the truth. Citizen input has already had a substantial effect on this project. When the project was first proposed, it was proposed as a 5-lane road. Input from residents resulted in the project being reduced from a 5-lane road to a 3-lane road (1 travel lane in each direction plus turn lanes as needed). This was a huge change in the scope of the project — all because of the input from citizens.

Hope to see you at the public hearing!