Drone Use and Local Governments: Secretive Task Force Founders

24 Oct

Screenshot 2017-10-24 08.04.10I have become quite interested in the intersection between drones (“unmanned aerial vehicles”) and local government regulation lately, and will be using this blog to post news and developments that cut new ground in this area.

Yesterday’s Washington Post featured an article about a secretive subcommittee (so-called “Task Group 1 of the Drone Advisory Committee”) that has been tasked by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) with making recommendations about the manner in which state and local governments should be able to regulate drone use : A U.S. drone advisory group has been meeting in secret for months. It hasn’t gone well.

TL;DR version:

  • The Federal Government (through the FAA) has exclusive jurisdiction over US airspace, under the principle that you can’t have each and every local jurisdiction passing laws and regulations about the airspace above it.
  • Open question that the proliferation of drones pose is whether the Federal Government should allow local governments to control the airspace at ultra-low altitudes — usually under 400 feet above ground level — that is — should local governments be able to specify when, where, and under what conditions drones should be able to fly
  • FAA formed the Drone Advisory Committee to study and make recommendations on integrating drones into the US airspace.
  • The committee created a task force to study and come to consensus upon an approach to the balance of regulation between the FAA and state/local government with respect to ultra-low altitude airspace, in preparation for a pilot initiative to give local/state governments more control over drone regulation.
  • The task force composition and conduct have come under fire, even from within the task force. It appears to be heavily laden with industry lobbyists, and in fact is co-chaired by a lobbyist for DJI, a major Chinese drone manufacturer that makes pretty much every drone you can buy at your local big box store. Members have been asked to sign strict confidentiality agreements, which triggered something of a revolt by dissenters (which included the National Association of Counties).
  • It isn’t clear what the next step is — however, what is clear is that the debate between 100% federal regulation of ultra-low altitude airspace and some local government regulation will continue.

 

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Monroe County 2018 Budget Adoption — This Week and

23 Oct

2016 County Council MembersThe Monroe County Council will be adopting the 2018 budget for Monroe County this week and next. First reading of the budget, along with property tax rates and levies, will be Tuesday, October 24th, 2017 at 5:30PM in the Nat U Hill Room of the Monroe County Courthouse. Second reading and final vote will be Monday, October 30th, 2017, also at 5:30PM in the Nat U Hill Room. Public comment will be taken at both readings!

The Council will be voting on a $70.5M budget, spread across 51 different funds. Each fund has its own set of revenue sources associated with it, including property tax, income tax, public safety income tax, gas tax, fees for service, stormwater fees, etc.

The following table summarizes the total proposed budget to be voted on by fund. Note that for property tax funds, because of a quirk in the way that the state systems report on the property tax circuit breakers (“tax caps”), the revenue loss from the circuit breaker is actually represented as a budgetary expense.

Fund Amount
0101 – GENERAL $33,337,946
0102 – ELECTION/REGISTRATION $881,708
0124 – 2015 REASSESSMENT $731,477
0182 – BOND #2 $2,057,150
0183 – BOND #3 $1,021,096
0254 – JUVENILE INCOME TAX $2,787,355
0702 – HIGHWAY $6,826,644
0706 – LOCAL ROAD & STREET $1,650,000
0790 – CUMULATIVE BRIDGE $560,860
0792 – COUNTY MAJOR BRIDGE $40,393
0801 – HEALTH $1,280,235
1001 – CIVIC CENTER $2,037,910
2002 – COUNTY FAIR $111,440
2102 – AVIATION/AIRPORT $988,214
2391 – CUMULATIVE CAPITAL DEVELOPMENT $3,134,988
9500 – Extradition and Sheriffs Assis $8,046
9501 – Surveyors Corner Perpetuation $62,921
9502 – County Per Diems-YSB $46,250
9503 – Monroe County 911 Fund $862,635
9504 – MC Convention Center Debt $636,000
9505 – Auditors Ineligible Deductions $24,500
9508 – User Fee – Jury Pay $14,500
9509 – User Fees – Juv. Probation $18,883
9510 – User Fees – Adult Probation $317,351
9511 – User Fees – Project Income/Job $687,781
9512 – Supplemental P. D. Services $895,680
9513 – Clerks Record Perpetuation $112,569
9514 – User Fees-Diversion/Pros. $317,080
9515 – User Fees-Court Alcohol/Drug $291,709
9516 – Local Health Maintenance $72,672
9517 – Emergency Planning/Right to Know $15,900
9519 – Misdemeanant/Co Corr $117,450
9520 – Home-Rule Fund #21 $10,000
9521 – Alternative Dispute Resolution $21,000
9522 – Sales Disclosure-County Share $35,765
9523 – Conv. Visitor Cap Imp/Maint $100,000
9524 – County Offender Transportation $3,000
9525 – Local Health Dept Trust Accoun $56,424
9526 – User Fees-Problem Solving Courts $35,124
9527 – Westside Econ Dev/Rich Twp TIF $1,554,278
9528 – 46 Corridor Econ Dev/Blgtn Twp TIF $343,649
9529 – Fullerton Pike Econ Dev / TIF $95,522
9530 – Plat Book $29,118
9531 – Convention Center Operating $554,688
9532 – User Fees-Cable Franchise $699,676
9533 – Showers Building Operating $214,503
9544 – Identification Security Protection $5,500
9547 – Park Nonreverting Capital $60,000
9552 – Storm Water Management $2,753,116
9559 – County Elected Officials Train $30,000
9571 – Public Safety Income Tax $1,980,616
UNIT TOTAL $70,531,322

The full proposed budget, line item by item, can be found in 2018 Monroe County Budget Estimate (Form 1 ). Look at the column labeled “Adopted”.

If you have any questions or concerns about this budget, please contact me or any other member of the Monroe County Council. And again you can make public comment on this budget Tuesday evening (10/24) and Monday evening (10/30).

 

Public-Private Partnership Set for Colorado Central 70 Project

13 Oct

Central70Narrow2This is just a quick update on a previous story. A few months ago I wrote about a major highway project in Colorado (between downtown Denver and Denver International Airport) that was planning on using a public-private partnership (P3) very similar in structure to that of the now-failed I-69 Development Partners selected to develop I-69 Section 5: Major Public-Private Partnership Highway Project Under Consideration in Colorado: Sounds Like Deja Vu All Over Again. The most interesting aspect of the $1.2B project is the lowering and covering of the interstate at one point, and the creation of a 4 acre park that connects two formerly disconnected neighborhoods on top of the cover.

Recently, Kiewit Meridiam Partners was selected to design, build, finance, operate, and maintain the Central 70 project. You can find the press release here.

It will be interesting to monitor the progress of this P3, and compare performance vs. the failed I-69 Development Partners. During the debate here in Indiana, while many blamed the selected contractor, others blame the very nature of a public-private partnership for road construction. The Central 70 project will serve as a useful comparison.

 

Bridge Beams Set for Sample Road over I-69 Southbound (Video)

9 Sep

Screenshot 2017-07-22 11.58.46Yesterday, the 4 beams were set for portion of the Sample Road interchange that will go over I-69 southbound. The northbound beams will be set at a later date.

While I’m sure that watching road construction is like watching paint dry for most people, beam setting is really a pretty impressive and precision operation, involving 2 cranes.

Here is a video I made of the operation from my drone. I did my best to condense 2 hours of work into a 9 minute video:

Beam Setting at Sample Road

Click the Image for the Video

 

Thank you very much to INDOT and Keramida (engineering firm) for allowing me to film this operation from my drone safely. In particular, thanks to Sandra Flum, Mark Flick, and Bruce Winningham.

Here is a map that shows approximately where the beams were set:

Screenshot 2017-09-09 07.48.54

Sample Road and State Road 37 (Future I-69)

The beams were set for the bridge over the future southbound lane, which is west of the existing southbound lane. The northbound lane will become a frontage road and the current southbound lane will become the future northbound lane in this area.

2018 Local Income Tax (LIT) Numbers for Monroe County Show Strong Economic Growth

1 Aug

One of the numbers that nearly all local governments eagerly await each year before setting budgets is the amount of local income tax (LIT) it will be receiving for the ensuing year. While this information arrives in several stages of increasing refinement, the first indicator that counties receive is the estimate of local income taxes for the county as a whole for the budget year by the Indiana State Budget Agency.

Today, Indiana counties received their 2018 Certified Distribution estimates from the State Budget Agency. Here is a table summarizing these estimates and comparing them to the 2017 certified distributions for Monroe County:

Screenshot 2017-08-01 19.29.30

These numbers represent very good news for Monroe County residents. The overall increase in local income tax collections for Monroe County is 4.27%, demonstrating robust growth in the income earned by Monroe County residents.

Just as a reminder, Monroe County’s local income tax (LIT) rates are as follows:

  • Expenditure – Certified Shares: 0.9482%
  • Expenditure – Public Safety: 0.2500%
  • Expenditure – Economic Development: 0%
  • Property Tax Relief: 0.0518%
  • Special Purpose (for Monroe County, this rate is for juvenile services): 0.095%
  • Total Income Tax Rate: 1.345%

The amounts shown in the table above will be distributed to various local government units:

  • Certified shares will be distributed to all civil taxing units except Solid Waste District, which means the county, cities and towns, townships, the public library, Perry-Clear Creek Fire Protection District, and Bloomington Transit
  • Public safety will be distributed first to the Dispatch Center (in a percentage determined by the Monroe County Income Tax Council), then to township fire departments (in an amount determined by the Income Tax Council), and then among the county and the three cities and towns (Bloomington, Ellettsville, and Stinesville).
  • Property Tax Relief will be used to offset the property taxes of homestead properties
  • Special Purpose goes to juvenile services in Monroe County, which includes youth services (including the Binkley House Youth Shelter), juvenile probation, and juvenile courts

The State Budget Agency will provide updated numbers to Indiana counties before October 1.

 

 

Partial Funding for I-69 Section 6 in New State Plan

22 Jul

I69bridgeThis posting is a brief follow-up on a report on Indiana Public Media: How Much Money is Included For I-69 in the State’s New Roads Plan? As the report pointed out, the state’s new 5-year infrastructure investment plan (so-called Next Level Indiana) provides some funding for the final section of I-69 in Indiana, Section 6, which runs from Martinsville to I-465 in Indianapolis. However, as the report also notes, I-69 is not fully funded in the report.

The investment plan breaks out the investments by county. The following table shows the funding for I-69 by county (and also by segment in Marion County):

Screenshot 2017-07-15 07.28.51

So, a total of $554M has been allocated for I-69 through 2022. It appears that the segments going through Morgan County have been fully funded, with allocations going down from there.

How does this compare to the overall costs of the project? The Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS), Chapter 6 Comparison of Alternatives provides the following summary of the estimated costs by segment:

Screenshot 2017-07-22 12.01.51

Alternative C4 (of which there are two variants) is estimated to cost approximately $1.5B. So at first blush it appears that Section 6 has been funded at around 36% through 2022.

Screenshot 2017-07-22 11.58.46Although the subsections don’t line up perfectly with county boundaries, they are pretty close. Subsections 1-4 are in Morgan County, going from Indian Creek (where Section 6 begins) to Banta Road in Morgan County. Using Alt C4A, total estimated costs are $515.7M, of which $263M (approximately 50%) is funded. Subsection 5 is in Johnson County, and it appears that approximately $153.2M out of $203.5M, or 75%, is funded. And Subsections 6-8 in Marion County appear to be funded at $138.1M out of a total cost of $785.1M (18%). There could, however, be some additional funding in the 5-year plan that isn’t labeled as I-69 — for examples, I-465 improvements — but are part of the overall cost of I-69 Section 6; I don’t know.

So I think one can draw two conclusions from this 5-year plan: (1) the final section of I-69 is not fully funded — not by a long shot. It isn’t clear whether the state will fund the gap by sustaining this level of investment beyond 2022, or through some sort of public-private partnership, or some other approach entirely; and (2) that while section 6 is not fully funded, the state has earmarked a substantial amount of funding for it, belying the claims of some that the state would just “declare victory” after section 5, and leave 37 to Indianapolis as-is. It is clear that the state is serious about completing the project, and is already committing substantial resources to complete it.

Road Funding Per Capita: Who Gets the Least and Who Gets the Most?

21 Jul

I69bridgeToday’s Indy Star published an article on the state’s new 5-year road investment plan funded by the new 10-cent gas tax increase: Which Indiana counties will get the most road funding? (Hint: Not Hamilton County). The article provides data on the amount of funding provided per capita for each county, and highlights the top 10 and bottom 10.

Two aspects of the article that I found particularly noteworthy:

  1. We (Monroe County) will be receiving the lowest amount per capita in the state, at $71.91 per person (compared to $4115.06 for the highest county).
  2. Our neighbor to the north, Morgan County, will be receiving the most per capita at $4115.06.

The article doesn’t really touch on the Monroe County amount, but does note that “Morgan County — home to Martinsville and Mooresville — will by far receive the most road funding per capita at about $4,115 per person.” The article then goes on to quote an INDOT spokesman about state-maintained road-miles and the condition of of roads and bridges in each county. But I’m left astounded that the article doesn’t even mention the obvious reason and context both for Monroe County’s low number and Morgan County’s particularly high number: I-69.

In fact, if you look at the individual road projects in the plan for Morgan County (available here, on pages 144-145), construction of I-69 (the beginnings of Section 6) represents nearly all — $263M out of $287M — of the funding allocated to Morgan County. And conversely, Monroe County is currently “experiencing” over $300M of investment in I-69 and related roads that will (we can only hope) end before the FY2018 funding indicated in the 5-year plan starts to be expended.

One side note is that this situation illustrates that the per-capita measure — and even the per-county measure of investment — is of limited value when long-haul highways are considered. After all, the portion of I-69 that goes through Morgan County certainly does serve Morgan County and its residents — but it also serves residents of many other counties and potentially other states who only want to get through Morgan County as quickly as possible.