Public Meeting for Monroe Lake Master Plan

IMG_5342In an effort that appears to have flown completely under the radar, the US Army Corps of Engineers (ASACE) — the owners of our only water supply, Monroe Lake — is in the process of updating the Monroe Lake Master Plan. This is the first master plan update since 1967!

The USACE has hired the engineering firm Woolpert to produce the master plan. I’m attaching the draft plan, as of December 3: MLMP December 3, 2015. Woolpert is contracted to deliver a revised draft of the master plan on January 15, 2016, which will incorporate the public comment received during the planning process.

In order to receive public input, the USACE has an open house planned for December 15 (tomorrow) from 3-7PM in the conference room at the Middle Wabash Area Office at Monroe Lake at 1620 East Monroe Dam Ct.  The public will be able to view the planning efforts so far and make input to the plan.

Overall, the draft master plan appears pretty complementary to the needs of our residents in Monroe County.  The draft plan is long, but the most salient section is 5.0 Resource Use Objectives. In short, the objectives are:

5.1 Flood Control

5.2 Water Supply for the City of Bloomington

5.3 Provide Low Water Augmentation to Salt Creek Drainage Area

5.4 Provide Opportunities for Recreational Use of Land and Water

5.5 Protect and Preserve Natural Resources and Habitats

These objectives seem to preclude (or at least prejudice) a water claim from Indianapolis. I’m also glad to see the “Water Supply for the City of Bloomington” objective listed above the “Provide Opportunities for Recreational Use of Land and Water” objective, even though there is no explicit ranking among the objectives.

However, there WAS one line that opened my eyes, on page 3-3:

“The city of Bloomington withdraws an average of 15 million gallons per day through the Monroe Water Treatment Plant from Monroe Lake. This withdrawal can increase to as much as 23 million gallons per day during warmer months (Bloomington, Lake Monroe). Eight rural water companies (Jones, Diagnostic Study) account for additional water draws from the reservoir. Indianapolis reserves the right to withdraw water in the future, but currently does not do so. [emphasis mine]”

The plan does not elaborate. It does not specify under what authority Indianapolis reserves a right to withdraw water, and it does not specify any process or legal authority for adjudicating any claim if and when Indianapolis might assert one.

I plan to be there, and I hope others who want to make sure that our community’s interests in Monroe Lake are included in this plan. I will also report back on additional means through which to provide public input as soon as I learn more tomorrow.

Preview of Tomorrow’s Monroe County Council Meeting (2014-04-08)

Monroe County Courthouse
Monroe County Courthouse

The agenda and packet for tomorrow’s regular meeting of the Monroe County Council is available here:

Following are the highlights of the agenda:

  • Proposed increase in the Juvenile County Option Income Tax rate. This is undoubtedly the highlight of the meeting.
    • The Juvenile COIT rate — a special income tax used to support juvenile treatment and services — is currently set at 0.05%. The Council will consider raising it up to a potential of 0.1% (the rate that was advertised), in order to keep existing juvenile services sustainable. The Council will consider moving other expenses that are already being paid in support of juvenile treatment from other funding sources into the Juvenile COIT fund.
    • These expenses include both capital and operating costs of maintaining the county’s juvenile services at the Binkley House and the Johnson Hardware building, as well as the costs of staffing the juvenile court system.
    • Any tax increase, if passed, would take effect on October 1, 2014.
    • This meeting has been advertised as a public hearing, required for raising any county income tax rates. Public comment will be taken (and is encouraged!).
  • Approval of an amendment to an interlocal agreement between the City of Bloomington and Monroe County, in order to use proceeds from the 2012 Edward Byrne Justice Assistance Grant (JAG) program to purchase electronic signage.
  • Request from the County Commissioners to transfer $33,456 from the County General fund to the Energy Conservation Fund.
  • Transfer of up to $2.6M from the Rainy Day fund to the County General fund.
    • $2M of this transfer is to rebuild the cash balance of the General Fund after having made several large one-time purchases from it, including $1.8M for equipping the new Unified Dispatch Center and $250K to hire a consultant (MKSK) to develop the comprehensive land use plan for the Bloomington Urbanizing Area (the former two-mile fringe / Area Intended for Annexation).  This transfer has been discussed and anticipated by the Council for over six months.
    • The remaining $600K of this transfer is to allow the County to pay out a settlement on assessed value with a taxpayer who has appealed their property tax assessment over a 7 year period. By statute, the County is required to pay out reductions in assessed value out of the general fund, and then recover the money from the other taxing units (i.e. the City of Bloomington, Perry Township, the Monroe County Public Library, Perry-Clear Creek Fire Protection District, etc.) at settlement in June.
    • Appeals of property tax assessments happen all the time…and sometimes they are successful. Normally noone (including the Council) ever hears about them; however, this one is large enough that the Council would actually need to transfer money into the General Fund in order to pay out the refund to the taxpayer. There are a lot of outstanding questions about this payout, and I would anticipate some pushback from the Council before allowing a payout of this magnitude.
  • The Highway Department will request $1,585,800 in annual appropriations from the Cumulative Bridge fund for bridge projects throughout the county.
    • The Cumulative Bridge fund is supported by a property tax levy; however, unlike most other funds, it is typically not budgeted during annual budget hearings, but instead is budgeted through additional appropriations in the spring of each year.
    • This request includes budget lines and appropriations for the following bridges: Stinesville Road, Mt. Tabor Road, Garrison Chapel Road, Kinser Pike, Mt. Gilead Road, Dutch Church Road, Mt. Zion Road, Ratliff Road, Brighton Road, Ketcham Road, Maple Grove Road, Thomas Road, Stansifer Lane, Bottom Road, Simpson Chapel Road, Lee Phillips Road, Wolf Mountain Road, Ratliff Road, and Burma Road.
    • The annual report will full details about the County’s comprehensive bridge program can be found here: 2014 Cumulative Bridge Program
  • The Health Department is requesting an appropriation of the $2700 it was awarded from the County Council’s Sophia Travis Community Service Grants Program, for STD tests at the Futures Family Planning Clinic.
  • The Auditor is requesting the reclassification of its Payroll Representative from a COMOT IV to a COMOT V classification, in order to more accurately reflect the work that the Payroll Representative does and to ensure better retention of this position, which has seen significant turnover recently.
  • The Clerk is requesting the creation of a new position, Training Specialist, to be classified as a PAT III. The Clerk is leaving two positions vacant in order to create this position.
  • The Planning Department is requesting that their Senior Planner position be amended from 35 hours per week to 40 hours per week (to match the Planning Director and Deputy Planning Director).
  • The County Sustainability Coordinator and Grants Administrator will present the key findings in the Monroe County Environmental Quality and Sustainability Annual Report for 2013.

This meeting, as with all regular meetings of the Monroe County Council, will be broadcast on CATS. Public comment will be taken. The public is especially encouraged to attend and make comment. Hope to see you tomorrow at 5:30PM at the Nat U Hill room in the Monroe County Courthouse!



County Council Seeks Volunteer for Environmental Quality and Sustainability Commission

Deam Wilderness
Deam Wilderness

Are you interested in environmental issues and/or sustainability? Are you willing to serve your community? The Monroe County Council seeks a citizen appointee to the Monroe County Environmental Quality and Sustainability Commission. This particular position that is currently open is for a resident of Monroe County who lives outside of the corporate limits of the City of Bloomington.

If you meet all of these criteria, please download and fill out the Monroe County Government Boards and Commissions Application. We need to hear from you!

The Environmental Quality and Sustainability Commission is working on some very important projects for Monroe County Government, including planning for sustainable use of the Thompson Property, analysis of energy use in county buildings, and planning for a solar thermal hot water system to serve the Charlotte T. Zietlow Justice Building.

Incidentally, if you are interested, but live inside the limits of the City of Bloomington, please fill in the application anyway. There is turnover on the commission from time to time, and the County Council will consider your application as soon as there is another slot available on the commission that isn’t restricted.