Saturday, July 29, 2006

NA Budget Hearings for 2007

I'm Disappointed! I figured the blogs would be alive with numbers & speculations by this time but alas, I was wrong. Maybe that's because they were so sparsely attended by the public.

Well the Highwayman was present for both events so here is how it looked from the back row.

On Wednesday evening most city department heads were heard from and all were quizzed by CM Coffey as to where cuts in their respective budgets would be the least damaging. They all responded in kind that their proposals were bare bones as it was. When pressed, they were willing to forego the 3% pay incereases across the board and some indicated that cuts in travel and subscription budgets would be in order.

They were then queiried by CM Price about various small expenditures such as training seminars, flowers, credit card purchases, etc. Most all of them were explained away on the spot as legitimate city expenditures either by the department head in question or by Ms Garry.

Economic Development's Paul Wheatley took it on the chin by proposing that the city work in conjunction with local lending institutions to create a revolving loan pool to provide "gap funding" in the event of an ongoing project stalling in midstream due to a shortage of funds. He suggested this to be an incentive to draw developers to the area. As expected, many on the council could only see this as more coroprate welfare, and veiwed it as an unnecessary burden on the city. "If they can't afford to stand alone, they needn't start" was the attitude prevailing from some.

Finally, the stars that all had come to see ( H.J. Umbaugh Accountants) took center stage and the real show began. As a craftsman, there is little that trips my trigger more than to see another craftsperson ply his or her trade. The presentation given was organized, concise, and professionally done.The technicolor graphs and charts were easy to read & understand, the verbal explanations clear and questions posed were patiently & thouroughly answered.

It was stated up front that the city is in default of the bond covenant for failing to have in cash reserve 125% of the annual bond payment on hand.

The proposal to correct this situation basically had three parts outlined as follows;

1) A 19% sewer rate increase spread out over the next three years which amounts to just over $2.00 per month per year totaling about $7.00 per month the 3rd year. The idea here being to increase income to the point of being able to complete ongoing EPA mandates as well as create the 125% reserve for the bond requirement.

That calulates in my head to about 2 Happy Meals a month the 1st year and a total of a Big Mac Combo and a 12 pack of Bud Light cans per month the 3rd year.

Again, as expected, the rallying cry was this creates a hardship on the low income strata of our city that is beyond the pail.

My observations have been that even at the lowest income levels, more $ than this are spent weekly if not daily on cigarettes & cheap booze. As for me and mine, if my toilet continues to flush for $7.00 a month, sign me up! But I ramble, so next we had....

2) To re-amoratize the existing bond which if agreed to before August 7, 2006, would reduce this years September payment by just over $1 million as well as level the semi annual payments for the life of the bond to a savings of around $478,000 per year.

3) To acquire another $1.28 million in new SRF bonds which would go to reimburse the Sewer Department for EPA mandated projects that have been completed & paid for out of Sewer Department cash. The repayment of this additional money is to be included in the re-amoratization of the original bond payment.

The goal of these three steps are to A) satisfy the EPA and get them off our collective backs, and B) to get the sewer utility back on track with enough income to satisfy the bond covenant.

Predictably, there was not much support for this proposal in the room. CM Coffey restated his "deja vu" speech and CM Price felt the council was being backed in a corner to act too hastily. Mr. Price feels there is more than on way to skin this cat, and that EDIT funds, TIF funds, Riverboat funds, and the jail bond windfall could be put into play to offset the rate increase.

At this point, the question that came to me was if we commit these various monies to the sewers, where are we to get $ for any other need that may arise within the city?

The response from the Mayor, Mr. Fifer, and the accountants was that if nothing was done, the bond payment for September is available. However, that only leaves $130K to $160K in the Sewer Dept. account to operate on . Not nearly enough to begin to be compliant with the bond covenant! At the current rate, the sewer income is at least $1.9 millon per annum what is needed to cover that requirement, not including ongoing projects.

Fast forward to Thursday evening. The remainder of the departments presented their budgets for 2007 and likewise were asked where cuts could be made.

Fire Chief Toran indicated that eliminating one ambulance may help, but other needs such as air pacs & other safety equipmnet was a must for his department to properly do its job.

Council members agreed to cut their travel budget from $4K to around $1K to pay for them to go to training seminars. I found it curious that although willing to eliminate pay increases for city employees, nothing was mentioned about their willingness to forego their salarys for the good of the cities financial health.

Not so long ago some in this group were falling all over themselves to serve in various capacities for free. I guess free is one of those terms that has a myriad of meanings.

At any rate, the second session was the more congenial of the two and ended with the Mayor once again reminding the council that failure to act on the sewer rate issue would result in remaining non compliant with the bond agreement and as such put the city at risk of being sued by the bond holder. At that point a state judge would decide the sewer rate level for us.

He also said that the possiblity of the EPA taking similar action at the federal level was also a possiblilty. He was asked by CM Price about the possibility of imploring the EPA to give us some leeway. He responded that he had attempted to convince them of the hardship this action would cause the citizens of New Albany should it proceed. The EPA's position was that they were unconcerned about the citizens of New Albany, only that said city was violating the Clean Water Act and it would stop one way or two!

Mayor Garner did say that it was time for elected officials to do what was right for the city as opposed to what might get them relected.

The final act of the evening was a decision for the council and the sewer board to meet this next Tuesday following the regular Sewer Board meeting to explore alternatives to the Umbaugh proposal.

The one person I was most interested in hearing from during these proceedings never showed up. That being the city attorney. His proposed budget consisted of Ms. Garry adding a 3% increase over the law departments current budget. Looks like slim to no chance of getting an increase in staff there for next year.

So there you have it sports fans. The game is on and the winners wil be.........?

Monday, July 24, 2006

What's The Buzz? Tell Me What's a Happenin'

This is a call to all sociologists, poly sci majors, history majors, and any others with any factual ideas on how we got to this point in our society (nationaly & locally, but focused on locally) , followed by any plausible concepts on how we alter this course.

We have statutes in place from the city level all the way thru to the national level concerning common nuisanses, rodent infestation, refuse, dangerous animals, overtly loud noise, unsafe dwellings, abandoned vechicles, and the list goes on ad infinitum. So here I pose a twofold question;

Why is there no will at any level to enforce these laws beyond a letter of reprimand and a slap on the wrist?

And why, if there was no will to do so at the time of inception, did we go thru the process in the first place?

As I type these two, a couple more come to mind;

Are we as a people, really so naive, callous & apathetic that we will accept from our elected representatives any token response to our concerns over any serious issue?

Or, as was proported by a TV critic several years ago when "Roxanne" was the #1 show on the air, have we as a society become so dummied down that we view this inaction as acceptable norm?

PLEASE! Someone convince me it isn't so! Tell me what we can do, nay, must do as citizens individually and collectively to reverse this trend. Show me light at the end of this tunnel!

Discuss, discuss, discuss!

Saturday, July 15, 2006

(shhh..don't tell anybody) On second thought SHOUT IT FROM THE ROOFTOPS!!

I have discovered of late that there are many things in New Albany that seemingly few people know about. Why is a mystery, for many of them are gems to be admired.

One of the best kept secrets in our fair city is the Ed Endres Boys & Girls Club. This program provides a safe, fun, and educational enviornment for kids age 5 through 18 five days a week year round as well as after school tutoring classes during the school year.

The cost per child is very affordable for anyone, they provide a good lunch for all present during the summer, and many of the children involved like it well enough to come back year after year.

Of the hundreds of kids served per annum, many come from low income families and some would otherwise probably be street kids. Instead, they voluntarily choose to learn social skills, art, and computer training to name a few of the activities.

At the beginning of each school year, the club gives each participant a packet of needed supplies to start the year with. The items given are based on a list compiled by the New Albany/ Floyd County School system for each age group. The time is fast approaching, and they are asking for our help.

What follows is an email I received from them along with a the list of needed supplies. This is a very worthwhile endeavor and I encourage all that can to support it however you can!

Each year the Ed Endres Boys & Girls Club collects school supplies to pass out to our members. At the end of our summer, we have a cook out, invite parents to attend, and distribute what supplies we have. It's a lot of fun, and our kids get a lot of what they need to start school off on the right foot.

Would your neighborhood association be willing to collect school supplies for the Club? We will pass out supplies to roughly 150-200 unduplicated kids during the first two weeks of school.

Attached to this e-mail is a list of typical supplies requested by teachers. If your organization is willing to participate, or if you know of a business that would be a great collection site, please let me know. You can contact me at (812) 944-4343 or via e-mail. Thanks for your help!


Back to School Supply List

Spiral notebooks
Pocket folders
Loose leaf paper
Colored pencils
Glue (bottle or sticks)
School box (for pencils)
Ziploc sandwich and storage bags
Ink pens (blue or black)
Three ring binders (1 in.)
Construction paper
Post It note pads
Mechanical pencils
Index cards (lined or plain)
3.5 in. disk
Scientific calculator (high school students only)

Betty's email is Betty Hughes [] and their website is

Again please consider giving them a hand either as a group or as individual donations.


Sunday, July 09, 2006

Piles & Piles & Piles--------

What follows is a letter I sent to the Tribune in response to the article they ran in Sunday's edition concerning trash in our neighborhoods;

Your front page story in this past Sunday’s issue was a good start on shedding light on an out of control problem in New Albany.

As luck would have it, prior to seeing this article, I was out cruising alleys with another concerned citizen Sunday morning to see if it was as bad as I’ve been hearing for months.

I can now confirm that it is worse than one can imagine. Send your camera and reporter down the alley that runs parallel to and between Ekin Avenue & Culbertson Avenue from Silver Street to Vincennes Street. While they are at it , have 'em also check the alleys between Culbertson & Oak and Oak & Elm as well!

Then please run your article again and tell me that I did not see weeds growing out of abandoned cars, weeds grown to camouflage burned out buildings, limbs stacked almost to the roof line between adjacent wooden garages, and enough furniture to fill a warehouse!

In my humble opinion, when the landfill is kept cleaner and more in order than the alley ways of our city, there exists a problem that there is no excuse for. The common council blames the administration for squandering funds! The administration blames the council for not approving funds for needed equipment and personnel! All the while, the trash pile is getting deeper and the slumlords are getting richer.

As a taxpayer, I say it is time for both branches of our city government to put down their purses, put a way their egos, and get on with the business of governing New Albany! In other words, lead, follow, or get the hell out of the way!!

I am appalled by what I've seen in the past 24 hours in just three alleys of one neighborhood of our quaint little city. At the moment, I'm filled with a moral indignation such as I've not felt since I found that my now ex brother -in- law was abusing my neices and nephews. I'm struggling with myself to keep the emotion of it at bay, but I implore any who read this to get involved in your respective neighborhoods!

Get out from under whatever rock you are hiding, see what's going on around you, and take it to your councilperson, your mayor, and any one else of an elected or otherwise official position you can think of. Write letters, make phone calls, send emails, and then do it all over again, and again, and again!

We live here, we work here, we pay taxes here, and we want our government to perform the duties they were elected and are being paid to do on all fronts!! End of story!!

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Happy (belated) Birthday USA

I put this off until today because I couldn't come up with anything original that had not already been said.

Then last evening about 7PM it seemed to cool off some so the wife and I ventured down to the floodwall to check out the festivities. The music was not the greatest I've heard but it was far from the worst, so she got an ice cream, I purchased a snow cone and we found a pearch to watch people from and wait for the fireworks.

From there on it was a pleasant evening. There was a cool breeze, the sun was mostly clouded over, and the bugs were minimal.

When the appointed hour arrived, we were treated to a nice display of pyrotechnics accompanied by music from Sousa (thanks to our own Rick Charmickle) !

As corn fed as it sounds, the result was what every country boy remembers a 4th of July celebration being. Bands playing a variety of fare, hot dogs, ice cream, lots of moms, and although I didn't see any, I'll wager that throughout the course of the day there was even some baseball & apple pie!

That followed by the thump, crackle & boom of fireworks exploding along with a stirring rendition of "Anchors Away" and one left with the feeling deep down that all was well with the universe, if only for a few moments.

On the way home I realized for the first time in a long while just how nice it is on that floodwall to sit a be entertained. Another little used resource at our disposal you suppose? Sounds like food for thought for the creative amoung us hmmm!

Happy Birthday America, and long may ye prosper!

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Chalk One (Make that Two) For the Good Guys

As a taxpaying citizen of New Albany I want to thank the council majority for a job well done last evening. Many of us see the great potential that exists in our city and we understand that calculated risks must be taken in order for it to have a chance at becoming our reality. We are willing to take those risks and are glad to see that this council agrees.

So thank you for standing firm behind your original position on the Scribner Place project.

Thank you also for seeing the economics of not employing one full time person for a job that by its nature requires multiple persons in the law department.

While I am on this subject, my understanding of Indiana Code is that it Does Not say that a second class city Must have a Full Time city attorney!

Under IC 36-4-9-4 Section 4(a) it says “The city legislative body shall, by ordinance passed upon the recommendation of the city executive, establish the executive departments that it considers NECESSARY to efficiently perform the administrative functions required to fulfill the needs of the city’s citizens.” The key word here being necessary ! To me that indicates some leeway to consider both the creation and staffing of a given department.

To continue, under Section 4 (c) it states that “The following departments MAY be established” The city law department is item (2) of the list following. Again the key word here is may!

Further, under IC 36-4-9-6 entitled Second class cities; appointment of officers, employees, boards and commissions, we find under Section 6(a) the statement “This section applies ONLY to second class cities.” Then in paragraph (b) “The executive shall appoint; item (3) “a corporation counsel.”

Now here is where the wicket gets sticky as it were. Although the terms Corporate Counsel and City Attorney are used interchangeably they do not necessarily have the same job description.

As I understand it, the corporate counsel’s duties are basically to insure that the city does not enter into contracts with other entities that may be illegal or otherwise put the city in a position of civil or legal liability.

On the other hand, the city attorney is by statute, the mandated head of the law department (if we have one) and serves more as a prosecutor and enforcer of the city’s laws and ordinances.

Can one person, by statute, serve as both for a city? As I read the code, YES! Provided he/she has sufficient staff and budget to do so.

Does either, by statute, have to be full time employees of the city? Again, as I read the code, NO! It is up to the executive to determine what he/she needs to do the task at hand and the council to pass the legislation and appropriate the funds necessary to do it.

Now here is the sixty four thousand dollar question; do I have a law degree, or training otherwise to state these interpretations as legal fact? Absolutely none! All I have is the ability to comprehend what I read and make a decision based on that comprehension.

I’m simply offering them up for consideration prior to the next council vote on this issue, for if we are in as dire straights financially as some would have us believe, we need to get the biggest bang for the buck that we can come up with.

By the way, here is the link to where I found this information if you want to check it out!

Again, I want to thank the council majority for doing the right thing last evening and I hope you will continue to do so in the future.

Discussion anyone?