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!

Preview of Monroe County Council Meeting Today 2014-11-12

2014 Monroe County Council
2014 Monroe County Council

Today’s regular meeting of the Monroe County Council should be relatively short (I know, famous last words!). The meeting is being held tonight rather than last night because County Government was closed for Veterans Day.

The full packet for tonight’s meeting is available here: 2014-11-12 Regular Session Packet

Most of the agenda consists of appropriation of grants. The following items are on the agenda:

1. The Commissioners are requesting that the Council approve a resolution directing the Community Foundation of Bloomington and Monroe County to distribute $13,322 in income from the trust fund of around $350,000 held by the Community Foundation. This money will be distributed to the Monroe County Building Preservation Fund, which is used for preservation activities for Monroe County Government’s historic buildings.

2. The Health Department is requesting the appropriation of $31,792 in grant funding from the Indiana Family Health Council to allow the Futures Family Planning Clinic to hire a certified navigator for one year to assist clients in the Affordable Care Act (e.g., Obamacare) application process.

3. The Prosecutor’s Office is requiring an appropriation of $11,078 for a three-month extension of the current grant contract for two victim assistance assistants and the victim assistance director. The prosecutor is then requesting the transfer of $15,000 from the victim assistance salary lines in the general fund (as they are now being paid out of the 3-month grant extension) into the depositions line.

4. The Highway department has two requests. One is to create a line for the Bottom Road Bridge #21 project in the Cumulative Bridge Fund. The department will then transfer existing appropriation into that line.

The more interesting request is for an additional appropriation of $650,000 out of the Local Road and Street Fund (which is funded by gas and special fuel taxes). This will be used for the preliminary engineering and right of way acquisition associated with a planned reconstruction of Sample Road from Bottom Road to Old State Road 37 North. I’ve included a map that shows the corridor below. This is a Federal Aid highway project, which means that the Federal Government pays 80% of the costs and Monroe County pays 20%.

This project is necessitated by the inclusion of Sample Road as an interchange on I-69 Section 5 — the northernmost exit in Monroe County.

Sample Road Corridor
Sample Road Corridor

5. The Clerk is requesting the appropriation of a $10,333 grant from the US Department of Health and Human Services to assist in ensuring that polling places are compliant with the Help America vote Act (HAVA).

6. The Monroe County Solid Waste Management District is requesting an additional appropriation of $255,000 for building improvements and machinery and equipment for the creation of a clean-stream Materials Recovery Facility (MRF). The clean-stream MRF will bail and market recyclables that have already been separated at one of the recycling sites around the county. This project has already been included in the adopted 2015 budget for the District. However, the District is requesting an additional appropriation out of THIS year’s budget to get started on the project early. We have been told that this does not increase the costs of the project, and that anything spent out of this year’s appropriation would then not need to be spent out of the 2015 budget (and in fact, the Council may choose to de-appropriate it).

Update: I just received the following breakdown of the $255K appropriation request from Larry Barker, executive director of the Solid Waste Management District:

Below is the break-out of the Clean Stream MRF Appropriations request of $255,000.

  • 40-44220 Building Improvements      $150,000
    •  60’X200’ steel building materials only,  $69,000  (this comes with a 30 year warranty).
    •  60’X200’ steel building erection only,    $57,000 ( this is a certified construction to comply with warranty).
    •  Concrete for footing and pad improvement $16,000. (estimated)
    •  Electrical for the steel building $8,000. (estimated)
  • 40-44390 Other Improvements           $3,000
    •  Recalibration and certification of existing weight scales.
  • 40-44430 Computer equipment          $2,000
    •  Computer, printer and software for scale house.
  • 40-44450 Machinery & Equipment Purchase/Lease  $100,000
    • Purchase of three (3) reconditioned auto-cycle Horizontal Balers with infeed Conveyors. $99,450 ( this includes installation, start-up, training and freight).
    • Electrical wiring for the balers. $550.00 (estimated) 

Although the Monroe County Solid Waste Management District is not a department of Monroe County Government, by statute the County Council has binding authority over its budgets, and so must vote on any appropriations.

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. The meeting will also be broadcast live on CATSTV (County Channel).

Preview of Tomorrow’s Monroe County Council Meeting (2014-08-12)

Monroe County Courthouse at Night
Monroe County Courthouse at Night

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

Following are the highlights of the agenda:

  • The Assessor is requesting to refill a vacant position (Third Deputy/Administrative Assistant to the Property Tax Assessment Board of Appeals)
  • The Monroe County CARES Board is requesting an appropriation of the annual grant allocation of $81,484. Monroe County CARES  (CARES is not an acronym, by the way) is the local coordinating council of the Governor’s Commission for a Drug Free Indiana. The purpose is to coordinate, support, and promote local efforts to prevent and reduce harmful involvement with alcohol and other drugs. The funding comes from drug and alcohol-related court fees, and the grants are divided between prevention, treatment, and criminal justice services.
  • The Youth Services Bureau (YSB) is requesting the appropriation of $116,553 for the Runaway and Homeless Youth grant they received, which funds a full-time counselor and a full-time Safe Place Coordinator/YSB Shelter Outreach Coordinator. This is a very important grant for youth services in Monroe County.
  • The Health Department is requesting the appropriation of a $21,103 grant for bio terrorism prevention and response from the Indiana State Department Of Health, Preparedness Division.
  • The Probation/Community Corrections department is requesting the appropriation the remainder of an already-awarded $11,970 Juvenile Accountability Block Grant, provided by the Indiana Criminal Justice Institute (ICJI) to support training for staff to work in a “change based” supervision environment (as opposed to a “compliance based” environment).
  • The Probation/Community Corrections department is requesting an additional appropriation of $7700 from the County’s COIT fund to provide security during day-reporting time (7AM-9AM) at the Johnson Hardware/Community Corrections building. The large number of community corrections participants (day reporting, drug screens, road crew, drug court, home detention and juvenile probation appointments) during a short period of time have created significant safety concerns, including traffic jams on the alley, disorderly conduct, and even drug dealing. Community Corrections is requesting contract funding for an off-duty Bloomington police officer to provide security for Community Corrections during the two hours daily during weekdays.
  • The Public Defender is requesting both permission to refill two vacant positions and for an additional appropriation out of their supplemental fund (state funding) to accommodate the mid-year increases in salary for the Chief Public Defender and Chief Deputy Public Defender in order to match the mid-year increase provided by the state for the Prosecuting Attorney.
  • The Monroe Circuit Court is requesting an additional appropriation of $75,000 out of the County’s COIT fund for the pauper attorney line. This line is spent in two ways: (1) Pauper attorneys are private attorneys that are appointed to indigent defendants when there would be a conflict of interest with the Public Defender (i.e, an attorney in the Public Defender’s office may represent a co-defendant); and (2) Guardians ad Litem may be appointed in adoption, dissolution, guardianship, and juvenile delinquency cases. During the 2014 budget sessions last year, the Court originally requested $150,000; however, due to budgetary constraints that request was reduced by the Council to $75,000. That request was based on the anticipation of spending an excess of $160,000 for 2013 and no anticipated reduction for 2014. Actual expenditures for 2013 were $168,302. Projected expenditures for 2014 could exceed $180,000 to $200,000.
  • The Prosecutor has several requests:
    • To move two positions — a legal secretary and a paralegal, from the Pretrial Diversion fund into County General. These two positions perform general prosecutorial functions and are not related to the Pretrial Diversion program. The degree to which the Pretrial Diversion program should subsidize basic prosecutorial operations has been a significant source of debate over the last 8 years. Because the revenues for Pretrial Diversion have decreased so much in recent years, the Prosecutor is requesting that the positions be moved into County General retroactively to the beginning of the year, at an expense of $68,416 for 2014. We anticipate that these positions will also show up in the Prosecutor’s request for funding from the 2015 County General budget.
    • To create the position and appropriate $36,869 of grant funding for the position of Sex Crimes Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Investigative Assistant from the Office of Violence Against Women via Indiana Criminal Justice Institute.
  • The County Council office is requesting an amendment to the salary ordinance, in order to raise their part-time maximum rate from $20/hour to $30/hour, in order to hire a short-term (two weeks) part-time assistant to prepare budget databases and spreadsheets for the upcoming budget hearings.
  • There may be several County Council appointments to boards and commissions, including the Parks Board, Bloomington Economic Development Commission, Monroe County Women’s Commission, and Property Tax Assessment Board of Appeals.

As with all County Council meetings, this meeting is open to the public. Public comment will be taken at the beginning of the meeting, as well as in conjunction with all items on the agenda. The meeting will also be broadcast live on CATS. Hope to see you there!

Highlights From Monroe County Council Meeting 2014-02-11

Just wanted to provide a quick summary of yesterday’s Monroe County Council meeting (I had previously posted the agenda along with a summary of the agenda items).

The following were the agenda items discussed:

  • Lindsay Shipps was appointed to the Board of Zoning Appeals (BZA). Shipps had previously served as a Commissioners’ appointee to the BZA since 2009. The appointment passed 5-2, with the two Republican councilors Langley and Hawk supporting another candidate.
  • An additional appropriation of $15,000 for Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA) from the Juvenile Services Nonreverting Fund (a fund created several years ago from the leftover child welfare money when funding for child welfare was taken over by the state) was passed unanimously.
  • The Health Department had several requests, including one for appropriation of a grant from the National Association of County and City Health Officials (NACCHO) to support staff training for leadership of the Medical Reserve Corps, and a transfer of funds in another grant from one category to another. Both passed unanimously.  The transfer request was for a total of $57, leading to some discussion that it would make sense, if legal, to come up with some policies where department heads would not have to come to the County Council meeting for de minimis transfer requests like this one.
  • The Legal Department had a housekeeping resolution, which updated Monroe County Code Chapter 255 Surety Bonds to match new state legislation that increases the bond amounts required for certain elected officials. The resolution passed unanimously.
  • A request from the County Commissioners to retain (rather than revert to the General Fund) the balance from the Showers Building/Johnson Hardware fund for 2013. The Showers Building/Johnson Hardware fund receives the rental income from tenants in the Showers Building and the Johnson Hardware Building was passed unanimously. This request was a consequence of decisions made during 2014 budget hearings, in which the Commissioners transferred a maintenance position from the County General fund to the Showers Building fund which freed up general funds, but conversely spent Showers Building revenues. The request passed unanimously, although Councilor Hawk did not support the initial decision to move the maintenance personnel out of the general fund. Several councilors still expressed concern that rental revenues from Showers were not to the level that was initially used to support the purchase of the building.
  • An additional appropriation of $15,910 from the Cable Franchise Fees fund to support CATS (Community Access Television Service) was passed unanimously; $10,000 of this is a correction of an error in the CATS appropriation during budget hearings, and the remaining $5,910 was CATS’ requested 2.6% increase for their 2014 budget. During the discussion, I expressed concern that cable franchise fees revenue might not be available long-term, endangering the CATS program. Last year there was a bill heard in the General Assembly to eliminate cable franchise fees revenue; it was sent to summer study committee. There weren’t any cable franchise fees-related bills this year; however, one is likely to reappear next year. Councilor Hawk also asked whether CATS employees received any raise this year (as County employees did not). Michael White, CATS director, responded that employees received a “1% increment and a 1% COLA”.
  • Deappropriation of almost $830,000 from the Cumulative Capital Development Fund; this fund has been over-budgeted compared to available revenue, and so the budget must be pared down. The Commissioners reduced the budget both in personnel (some tech services AKA IT staff are paid out of this fund) and in long-term capital projects.  As there are several vacancies in the technical services department, the Commissioners are leaving those lines vacant for the time being until the final structure of the department can be determined, in order to reduce the budget. There was some debate between Councilor Hawk and Commissioners Administrator Angie Chalfant. Councilor Hawk maintains that the needed budget reduction was simply because of an error on the form 4B sent to the Department of Local Government Finance, and that if the Commissioners are leaving the technical services positions empty, the Council should move the technical services positions remaining in the General Fund and pay them out of the Cumulative Capital Development fund. Ms. Chalfant maintains that the Commissioners have determined that the available cash and predicted revenues would not support that. After a lengthy exchange on this issue, however, the deappropriation request passed 6-1 (with Hawk voting against).
  • Approval of a 5-year lease from the county to the Convention and Visitors Bureau (Visit Bloomington) for the Visitors’ Center on North Walnut. Previous leases have been 2-year leases. Clauses that allowed either party to terminate the agreement for any reason with a year’s notice alleviated concerns that the longer lease would prohibit the county from potential higher and better use of the property. The lease was passed unanimously.
  • An additional appropriation out of the Motor Vehicle and Highway (MHV) fund for a supplement to be paid to snow and ice removal employees to compensate them for not being allowed to take any vacation time between December and March was approved unanimously and enthusiastically. Councilors Munson and Hawk worked on this effort during the negotiation between the Commissioners and the AFSCME union on the highway employees contract. One employee and union member spoke in favor of the supplement as well.
  • There was an extensive discussion of the compensation for members of the Plan Commission, continuing discussion that began at the last council work session. Currently, members of the Monroe County Plan Commission are paid $55 for each of the monthly meetings they attend. However, participation on the Plan Commission also generally requires 2-3 additional committee meetings per month, along with multiple hours of preparation for each meeting and site visits throughout the county.  One proposal discussed was to compensate members $55 for the main meeting, and up to two committee meetings per month at $50 per meeting.  Two members of the Plan Commission, Scott Wells and Richard Martin, spoke generally in favor of increasing the compensation. Both noted the large amount of work involved and the importance to the public of the work done by the Plan Commission. Mr. Martin also noted that one of the reasons why the demands on Plan Commission members were so great is the failure of Monroe County thus far to adequately update and consolidate its zoning codes for all of the property under its jurisdiction. During the discussion, Councilor Hawk asked if it was fair to increase the compensation for this commission, and not the others. The general consensus was that the work burden on Plan Commissioners was substantially greater than that of other commission members. Since the actual proposal to amend the salary ordinance for Plan Commission members wasn’t on the agenda, and no councilor moved to amend the agenda, the salary ordinance amendment will be added to the agenda of the next meeting for discussion and possible vote.

In addition to the regular agenda items, there were several items of interest presented in public comment and councilor comments:

  • During public comment, Scott Wells presented a letter of complaint to four federal agencies (EPA, US Fish and Wildlife Service, Federal Highway Administration, and the US Army Corps of Engineers) that was agreed upon by the Plan Commission asking these federal agencies to address the issues of ongoing siltation and sedimentation of Monroe County waterways during the I-69 corridor construction (Section 4). Mr. Wells also showed some pictures of heavy sedimentation in several creeks after rain events. Tom Tokarski and Sandra Tokarski also spoke in support of the letter of complaint. No council action was being requested; however, the Plan Commission and Mr. Wells are requesting that any interested officials individually sign the letter. The full letter is available here: 02-07-14 I-69 FINAL Plan Commission Complaint Letter with Signatures.A3.D3.
  • Councilor Hawk brought up the issue of compensation of the Chief Public Defender and the Chief Deputy Public Defender. As was widely reported in the media, this past year the State Public Defender Commission issued a mandate that to continue to participate in the state’s public defender program (which funds about a third of the expenses of the public defender’s office), the Chief Public Defender and the Chief Deputy Public Defender would have to be paid the same compensation as their counterparts in the Prosecutor’s Office. Prior to last month, Monroe County Government paid the Chief Public Defender 90% of the salary of the Prosecutor, reflecting, in the eyes of the County Council, the difference in the scope of responsibilities of their respective departments. The County Council had to raise the salaries of both officials. Councilor Hawk noted, though, that the State Public Defender Commission mandate did not address the issue of benefits, and that while the county voluntarily pays the 3% employee contribution to the PERF retirement plan (as it does to all PERF-eligible employees), it is not required to. The council could choose to eliminate the 3% employee contribution to PERF for the Chief Public Defender and Chief Deputy Public Defender, in order to reduce the burden of the underfunded mandate from the State Public Defender Commission.