INDOT To Hold Public Meetings on I-69 Section 6

25 Nov

IMG_2375 2I haven’t seen much local publicity about this, so I thought I’d pass it on. INDOT is holding a series of 3 public meetings about I-69 Section 6 (from Martinsville to Indianapolis). Although this section doesn’t pass through Monroe County, residents of Monroe County traveling to Indianapolis certainly have a stake in the route selected. My understanding is that INDOT is planning to have a Record of Decision on the final route for Section 6 (the last section of I-69) by 2018.

INDOT is currently considering the following “preliminary alternatives”:
Here is INDOT’s press release:

The Indiana Department of Transportation will present new details about the five preliminary routes for I-69 Section 6 from Martinsville to Indianapolis during public meetings the week of Nov. 30. The meetings will collect additional public comment to help INDOT refine the five preliminary alternatives down to a smaller number of routes.

The first meeting will take place on Monday, Nov. 30 at Perry Meridian High School, 401 W. Meridian School Rd. in Indianapolis. The second meeting will occur on Wednesday, Dec. 2, 2015 at Mooresville High School, 11 N. Carlisle St. in Mooresville. The third meeting will be held on Thursday, Dec. 3 at Martinsville High School, 1360 E. Gray St. in Martinsville.

Doors will open for all of the meetings at 6 p.m. with an open house session, followed by a formal presentation and public comment session in the high-school auditorium at 7:00 p.m. The public meetings respond to public requests for new details and additional public input following announcement of the five preliminary routes in late June.

The new details will include the potential footprint of the five preliminary routes, including proposed interchanges and local access road locations. The public meetings also will present analysis of how the preliminary routes perform on impacts to the human and natural environments, cost, and the Purpose and Need performance measures. The I-69 Section 6 project team is requesting comments for this phase of the project by Dec. 17. Those comments can be submitted using a web form at and by contacting I-69 Section 6 directly at or 317-881-6408.

The public can also visit the I-69 Section 6 project office located at 7847 Waverly Road, Martinsville, IN 46151. The office is open MondayFriday from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. and will be closed on state holidays.

With advance notice, INDOT can arrange accommodations for persons with disabilities and/or persons requiring auxiliary aids or services such as sign language interpreters, readers and large print materials. In addition, accommodations may be made for persons with limited English speaking ability requiring language interpretation services. Should accommodation be needed in regards to the attendance and participation during the open house, and/or access to project related documents, please contact the INDOT Office of Public Involvement at (317) 232-6601 or via e-mail

Preview of Monroe County Council Work Session 2015-11-24

24 Nov
2015 Monroe County Council

2015 Monroe County Council

The packet and agenda for today’s work session of the Monroe County Council is now available: Council_Work_Session_Packet_20151124

The following are the major substantive items on the agenda. Several are continuations from previous meetings.

  • A request from the Recorder to freeze the 2016 salary as a high outlier for one of the Deputy Recorders will receive a second reading tonight. This item was heard at the 2015-11-10 meeting (and more details available here). The only reason it requires a second reading was that the vote on first reading was not unanimous — new Councilor Eric Spoonmore passed, since he was not familiar with the issue.
  • County legal will brief the council on the effects of Senate Enrolled Act 393, which puts some additional surety bonding (i.e., insurance to guarantee faithful performance of duty) requirements on local units of government. In particular, the new statute requires surety bonds on employees and contractors of the local unit of government who have access to public funds, in addition to the elected officials who have previously been required to file surety bonds. Alternately, the statute allows the fiscal body (i.e., the county council, for a county) to authorize the purchase of a crime insurance policy that covers criminal acts or omissions committed by elected officials, employees, and contractors.
  • The Sheriff is requesting that the Council approve an amendment to theMonroe County Police Retirement Plan. The two primary changes are (1) to change the vesting schedule from 8 years to 10 years (i.e., a deputy will not be eligible for any pension benefits upon retirement unless they have at least 10 years of service with the Monroe County Sheriff’s Department) and (2) to eliminate the loophole that allowed employees to be 100% vested in their pension when they turned 55 regardless of number of years of service. Discussion on this request started at the meeting on 2015-11-10.
  • The County Council will discuss a resolution used to document the methodology that we use to determine health insurance benefit rates to be charged to departmental budgets. The purpose of this request is to address a comment on a previous State Board of Accounts audit that noted we did not have a written policy for this.
  • The County Council will discuss a proposed policy that will allow department heads, in some circumstances, to hire new employees at above the entry level salary for a particular classification. Normally, employees move up through several points in the salary range based on the number of years experience with Monroe County Government. This proposed policy would allow department heads to take into account years of experience at substantially similar other organizations.
  • The County Council will discuss the procedures necessary to:
    • Pay off the 10 year loan for energy-efficiency upgrades immediately, out of the Rainy Day Fund.
    • Create and fund a dedicated, from which all future election and voter registration expenses will be paid. The purpose of this fund is to help smooth out the variations in election expenses over a 4-year election cycle.

As always, the meeting is open to the public, and will be held this evening (November 24, 2015) at 5:30 in the Nat U Hill room of the Monroe County Courthouse, and it will be broadcast on CATS. Hope to see you there!

Study of Indiana Transportation Infrastructure Funding Mechanisms

22 Nov

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Indiana House Enrolled Act 1104 of 2014 required the Indiana Department of Transportation to commission a third-party study of transportation infrastructure funding mechanisms. The study was required to include charges based on at least the following:

  • Vehicle gross weight and miles traveled
  • Usage and degree of damage caused to transportation infrastructure
  • Flat per vehicle fees
  • Adjustments to sales tax on motor fuel, gas tax, special fuel tax (i.e., diesel), and the motor carrier fuel tax and surcharge
  • Tolling

INDOT commissioned Cambridge Systematics, D’Artagnan Consulting, and Indiana University to perform the study. The results were surprisingly hard to find on the INDOT Web site. You can find the study here: INDOT Road Funding Study Cambridge Systematics.

As you might imagine, there is no really good answer. Some alternatives, like an increased general sales tax (either an actual rate increase or dedicated revenue stream from the existing sales tax) produce enough revenue but harm the business climate and would be politically unpopular (especially if diverting the revenue from the existing sales tax resulted in a reduction to other important priorities like education or health care). Periodic increases and/or indexing to inflation of the gas, diesel, and surtaxes are easy to put in place but provide unstable revenue streams and are very politically unpopular. Others, like an increased rental car excise tax are easy to put into place and popular, but do not produce nearly enough revenue to make a difference. Road user fees, which are currently being piloted in Oregon (Oregon Road Usage Charge Program) and California (California Road Charge Pilot Program), are very difficult to enforce/collect, and are not yet politically popular. Etc. The study considers 17 different funding mechanisms (starting on page 16).

Probably the most seemingly obvious, but also most important, points that the study makes is that determining a road funding system is really a two-step process: first, the state needs to determine what Indiana wants to buy, and then select the funding mechanism to raise the necessary revenue. The first part involves some major policy decisions: do we just maintain the roads we already have, or do we build new roads as well?  If the latter, which roads, and how are they prioritized? For maintenance, at what condition do we want to maintain our roads and bridges? (Of course everyone will say that they should be maintained in top condition, until they are required to pay for that maintenance). And of course the issue that is most important to me — how do local roads and bridges fit into the funding mix?

The report also had a page on the public’s perception of transportation funding, which was probably the most fascinating of the whole study. The takeaways on this aspect included the following:

  • The Hoosier public both believes that road quality is poor and demands improved and new roads
  • The Hoosier public significantly overestimates the amount they pay in fuel taxes
  • For revenue mechanisms, the public preferences fees that shift the tax burden to “others” (any surprise there?)
  • General sales tax and road user charges are the most polarizing

This issue will be one of the bigger challenges ahead, both for Indiana and the nation.


Preview of Monroe County Council Meeting 2015-11-10

10 Nov
2015 Monroe County Council

2015 Monroe County Council

The packet and agenda for today’s regular meeting of the Monroe County Council is now available: Council_Packet_20151110.

The following are the major substantive items on the agenda:

  • The Recorder has two requests:
    • To freeze the 2016 salary as a high outlier for one of the Deputy Recorders. This issue has a complicated history. The Monroe County compensation system defines a salary range for each job classification. Employees start at the minimum of the range, and move up to the midpoint of the range after 3 years of service. However, employees who supervise others in their own classification receive salaries equivalent to the maximum of the range (in order to create a pay differential between the supervisor and their supervisees). These employees who supervise others in their classification and receive the maximum of the salary range are called in-grade supervisors. This policy has proved problematic for a number of reasons, and received a lot of scrutiny over the past couple of years.
    • The Recorder’s office had 4 staff, including one who was being paid as an in-grade supervisor (as well as elected Recorder and his chief deputy). When the new Recorder took office this year, as part of his reorganization plan for the office, he requested a series of desk audits for all positions. As a result, he eliminated one of the 4 staff positions, and requested job description changes for the others, to essentially eliminate any specialization and make them all Deputy Recorders. The management in the office would be provided by the Recorder and Chief Deputy Recorder. The purpose of this reorganization was to have all staff cross-trained in all functions of the office.
    • However, since one employee had been classified as an in-grade supervisor, that employee’s salary would actually be reduced once all employees’ job descriptions were unified. In order to avoid reducing an employee’s salary resulting from a classification decision, the Recorder is requesting that that employee be made a high-outlier. If the Council approves this, it means that the employee’s salary would be frozen and he will not receive any annual cost of living adjustments until the pay for the classification “catches up” to the employee’s actual pay. This has been done in the past by the Council, as an alternative to actually reducing an employee’s pay resulting from reclassification decisions.
    • The Recorder is proposing to pay for the difference between the employee’s actual (frozen) salary and what the salary would be if it were reduced to the midpoint of the classification out of the Recorder’s Perpetuation Fund, so this decision would have no impact on the General Fund.
    • The Recorder is also requesting amend the salary ordinance to include a salary for part-time/hourly employees. A salary ordinance is required to pay any employee, full or part-time. For some reason, the Recorder’s Office has never had a salary ordinance for hourly part-time employees (going back, presumably for many years). This request is to correct this omission.
  • Veterans Affairs is requesting approval of a new job description for the County Veterans Service Officer (CVSO) and upgrading of the position from a PAT (Professional, Administrative, Technological series) II to a PAT III. Our current CVSO (Larry Catt) is retiring, and the County is working with him on reclassifying the position upward, based on the increased demands of the position. During 2016 budget hearings, the Council already moved this position from part-time to full-time (40 hours), and recommended that the position description be modified and that the new description be sent to our classification consultant for reclassification. The recommendation was to classify the position upward one grade, based on new requirements, many of them highly technical and specialized. The Veterans Affairs department has seen many new and different needs for its services (including many new veterans from the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan), and these position upgrades represent a major increase in the services that we are able to provide our veterans.
  • The Auditor is requesting that an increase in the maximum hourly wage passed at the last work session be made retroactive, as the request was to increase the wage was delayed for the convenience of the Council
  • The Sheriff is requesting that the Council approve an amendment to the Monroe County Police Retirement Plan. The two primary changes are (1) to change the vesting schedule from 8 years to 10 years (i.e., a deputy will not be eligible for any pension benefits upon retirement unless they have at least 10 years of service with the Monroe County Sheriff’s Department) and (2) to eliminate the loophole that allowed employees to be 100% vested in their pension when they turned 55 regardless of number of years of service. My council colleague Ryan Cobine made the following comments on the Herald Times Online comments section the other day, which is a better summary of the issue than I could provide, so I’ll just quote him here:
    • My understanding of why Sheriff Swain brought these proposed changes to both the merit board and the county council, along with correcting some general issues of equity, was to reign in the potential for runaway costs in the future while simultaneously concentrating the benefit to career deputies. As was noted in the HT article, pension plans with overly lax eligibility requirements can put financial stress on a county budget, and therefore onto the services provided to a county.One concern discussed by the county council with the ten-year vestment, specifically for the elected office of sheriff, is that it will make the office of Sheriff differ from all other county elected offices restricted to two terms regarding when an office holder becomes eligible for full retirement benefits. Currently, that is after eight years for all county elected officials restricted to two terms. The concern here is one of fairness—why effectively exclude a two-term office holder for sheriff from a pension benefit when all other term limited office holders will receive one?

      Another, related concern, which came up briefly in the council’s work session discussion of this, is explained well in this excerpt from a recent Association of Indiana Counties publication:

      Some of the parties expressed worry that this plan will deter individuals from running for sheriff unless they already have multiple years within the department. While the county does not want to discourage “non­ police” individuals from running, the long-run projected cost savings were significant enough to counter-balance those concerns. (“Fiscally Responsible Compromises on Sheriffs’ Pension Costs: A Case in Point”, by Adam Johnson, INDIANA NEWS 92 September/October 2015,

      The concern in this case is one of treating potential external candidates for sheriff (a citizen candidate with no previous, professional law enforcement employment experience) equally to internal candidates (those who do have professional law enforcement experience with the county).

      My sense, based on the October 27 council work session where Sheriff Swain explained these proposals, is that the council will support the proposals, with the change of making the office of Sheriff vest in eight years to be in line with other term-limited county elected offices.

    • The only gloss on this explanation that I’d add is that I don’t think the Council is promoting candidates for Sheriff with no professional law enforcement experience — at least, I’m not. The issue is whether to create an even playing field for candidates who aren’t specifically internal to the Monroe County Sheriff’s Department.
  • The Sheriff is also requesting several additional appropriations and a transfer from one category to another, on behalf of the Correctional Center. The transfer request is for $14K from General Maintenance Repair services to Operational Supplies. The additional appropriations total $145K ($75K from the General Fund and $70K from the Misdemeanant Fund), all to supplement increased overtime pay resulting from the new collective bargaining arrangement with the Corrections Officers. There will likely be some pushback against this request, and councilors have already expressed significant concern about the dramatic increases in jail overtime costs. Jail staff have already agreed, during budget hearings, to put in place some management practices to reduce overtime for the 2016 budget year.
  • The Treasurer’s request for a salary ordinance amendment to upgrade her Financial/Cash Book position from a PAT II to a PAT IV (increase in salary from $35,793 to $40,286) is receiving a second reading. This upgrade has been discussed extensively and has gone through many revisions. The request passed 6-1 at the work session in October. However, by statute if the decision at the first reading is not unanimous, there must be a second reading (actually the rule is a little more complicated than that, but it isn’t particularly relevant to this case).
  • The Prosecutor is requesting the appropriation of a $47,202 Victims of Crime Act (VOCA) grant for 3 part-time victim assistance positions.
  • The County Council office is proposing a resolution that would officially document existing practices for funding benefits as a percentage of salaries. The purpose is to address a State Board of Accounts audit comment that we did not have such a policy in place. However, it is likely that this item will be pulled from the agenda and discussed at the next work session, as there are still several policy issues to be worked out.

Incidentally, this will be the first County Council meeting of new District 4 councilor Eric Spoonmore. Spoonmore was elected in a Democratic party caucus last night to replace councilor Rick Dietz, who moved out of the district. Welcome, Eric!

Eric Spoonmore Being Sworn In by City Clerk Regina Moore

Eric Spoonmore Being Sworn In by City Clerk Regina Moore

As always, the meeting is open to the public, and will be held this evening (November 10, 2015) at 5:30 in the Nat U Hill room of the Monroe County Courthouse, and it will be broadcast on CATS. Public comment will be taken. Hope to see you there!

2015 TIGER Grant Awards Include Complete Streets and Intermodal Shipping for Louisville Area

31 Oct
Bill Williams Bridge in Stinesville IN

Bill Williams Bridge in Stinesville IN

On Thursday, the US Department of Transportation announced their 2015 awards for the Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER) grant program. TIGER is a competitive grant program that awards nearly $500 million annually for major transportation infrastructure investments that support the key transportation goals of safety, innovation, and opportunity.

The Louisville area was the clear winner in our region from this year’s round of awards.

The Louisville Metro Government (a unified city-county government, similar to Indianapolis-Marion County) was awarded $16,910,000 for the Transforming Dixie Highway project, a series of complete streets improvements along the Dixie Highway corridor. Following is the project description:

This TIGER grant will provide funding to install Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) infrastructure, Intelligent Transportation Systems (ITS) upgrades (including transit signal priority), and complete streets improvements along approximately 15 miles of the Dixie Highway corridor, a congested regional transportation corridor. The ITS improvements include transit signal priority equipment and signal phasing improvements to prioritize transit. The complete streets roadway and safety improvements include pedestrian facilities, intersection improvements, and new roadside urban design elements including raised medians and driveway consolidations, turn lanes, signage, and striping upgrades.

In addition, the Ports of Indiana in Jeffersonville, right across the Ohio River from Louisville, was awarded $10M for a truck-rail-water intermodal shipping facility. Here is the project description:

This TIGER grant will provide funding to construct a double rail loop and rail-to-barge transfer facility with additional rail and turnouts. The project also includes construction of a nearly mile-long rail siding extension that will allow rail carriers to deliver a 90-car unit train to the port. The project will also construct a truck-to-rail intermodal facility in the vicinity of Connector Road to accommodate increasing truck traffic expected from the East End Bridge over the Ohio River.

This was the only award in the state of Indiana.

Monroe County is no stranger to TIGER grants, however. Back in 2012, Monroe County was awarded $3,126,250 for replacement of the Stinesville Bridge, a functionally obsolete bridge with a dangerous approach that would routinely have to be closed when Jack’s Defeat Creek flooded. The bridge was renamed Bill Williams Bridge by the Stinesville Town Board, in honor of long-time (and now former) Monroe County Highway Director Bill Williams.

Here are a couple of pictures from the ribbon-cutting of the TIGER-funded Bill Williams bridge on September 25, 2014:

Ribbon-Cutting for Bill Williams Bridge

Ribbon-Cutting for Bill Williams Bridge

Ribbon-Cutting for Bill Williams Bridge

Ribbon-Cutting for Bill Williams Bridge

Ribbon-Cutting for Bill Williams Bridge

Ribbon-Cutting for Bill Williams Bridge

Ribbon-Cutting for Bill Williams Bridge

Ribbon-Cutting for Bill Williams Bridge

Local Government Investment in the Life Sciences Industries

30 Oct
Dr. Sengyong Lee Introducing the Indiana Center for the Life Sciences

Dr. Sengyong Lee Introducing the Indiana Center for the Life Sciences

This Tuesday, I had the opportunity to attend the Bloomington Life Sciences Partnership‘s Annual Summit, highlighting the state of the life sciences industry in Bloomington. The event featured an introduction by Dr. Sengyong Lee, the chair of the Ivy Tech Biotechnology Department, along with a panel discussion among representatives of 3 Bloomington life sciences companies of very different sizes: Dan Peterson from Cook Group (approximately 4700 employees in the Monroe County area), Susan Easton from Baxter BioPharma Solutions (approximately 800 employees in the Monroe County Area), and John Morris from Morris Innovative (a startup with 6 employees). The panel was moderated by George Telthorst, the Director of the Center for the Business of Life Sciences at the IU Kelley School of Business.

The panelists highlighted the drivers affecting their businesses, including customers, local supplier networks, workforce, and regulatory issues. They also discussed workforce issues, and highlighted the large number of jobs that are currently available and unfilled, as well as the opportunities for promotion. Workforce issues came up multiple times in the conversation. One comment that I found particularly interesting was that students coming out of high school do not necessarily think of life sciences as a choice for employment; that  students often think of life sciences employment as being only for scientists and engineers, when in reality the majority of employees work in a manufacturing/production environment.

Panelists Dan Peterson, Susan Easton, John Morris

Panelists Dan Peterson, Susan Easton, John Morris

The life sciences industry is clearly of strategic importance for Monroe County, employing more than 4000 local residents in medical device manufacturing and 1750 in biopharmaceuticals (Source: And local government needs to be engaged with the regional significance of the industry. The Indiana Biosciences Research Institute (IBRI) in Indianapolis — the anchor of a proposed major tech-centered development on the south side of Indianapolis, aims to bridge the gap between university-based research and corporate research in the life sciences, and represents a major strategic opportunity for Monroe County and central Indiana.

One of the most exciting aspects of this summit, however, was the opportunity to highlight the summit’s venue — the Indiana Center for Life Sciences (ICLS). Operated by Ivy Tech, the ICLS is a state-of-the-art workforce development facility located in Monroe County’s Westside Economic Development Area. In addition to lab and classroom space, the ICLS includes a voluminous 5000 square foot training facility, which allows local life sciences companies to conduct training in a simulated production facility. The real advantage of the ICLS training facility is that it allows companies to conduct realistic training that they could not easily conduct in their own “clean room” facilities.

Indiana Center for the Life Sciences

Indiana Center for the Life Sciences

The ICLS was created in 2007 through a strategic partnership between Monroe County Government and Ivy Tech, that included a $5M investment in the facility by the Monroe County Redevelopment Commission. This investment was funded through Redevelopment District Bonds (2007 Series), with a principal of $5M, and paid by property tax revenues in the Westside Economic Development Area tax increment finance district. The debt is scheduled to be retired in 2024.

Thus far, the ICLS has been a story of successful local government investment in strategic economic development, and has become a valued facility in the local life sciences industry, bringing in millions in additional investment and grant funding.

Hartman and Williams Report on Treasurer’s Cash Book Reconciliation

28 Oct

I’m not going to make any comments in particular on this blog entry, because my purpose is simply to make this report available to the public as quickly as possible.

The Monroe County Commissioners contracted with governmental accounting consultants Hartman and Williams for $150K to assist the Monroe County Treasurer’s Office in reconciling the Treasurer’s cash book to the corresponding bank accounts for the years 2012-2014.

Attached are the documents delivered by Hartman and Williams:



Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 38 other followers