Sewer Talks Solved Nothing
Don't forget tonight's Special Council Session called for 6PM to vote on the Sewer Rate increase proposal.
It sure wasn't a surprise at last Wednesday's special Public Hearing meeting when the portion of the proceedings that got out of hand and brought down the gavel (haphazardly wielded by CM Blevins), turned out to be the Public Officials speaking time. They went at each other with a ferociousness that revealed all the frustrations and mistrusts that are perculating just under the surface of this administration's relationship with members of the sitting City Council.
Apparently, the quickly scrambled meetings that were questionably assembled prior to the Public Hearing, as well as the assortment of private meetings that obviously occurred between certain folks to strike deals for votes, were not enough to bring a consensus for the specially called Council meeting voting opportunity immediately following the Public Hearing.
Unceremoniously, after all the hoopla and all 8,9,10,15, or however many (let's just say: too many) sets of numbers that were miraculously made available to Council when the Sewer Board can't get their own financials to be able to pay submitted claims, everything was tabled. But, only until the next Special Meeting, called for on Wednesday, August 30th, to have the second and third reading of a resolution to get millions of dollars back into the sewer fund by any means possible.
Currently, the Council Members are reviewing 3 options presented just prior to the Public Hearing, and they have asked for additional options from Fifer and Umbaugh that would reduce the rate increase to zero.
Many Council Members favor using TIF funds as well, which are available. The jail bond reserve fund of $3.3 million that is being refunded to the city is also available for use, but some want to use a significant portion to "bail out" the Street Department that is now losing an additional $300K per year in the last 2 years, due mostly to the decision to privatize Sanitation services.
I must agree with CM Coffey when he suggested that before we throw good money at a bad situation, we find out exactly WHY the Street Department is suddenly losing so much money. In my opinion, it seems just too convenient for it not to be related to 'creative financing'.
The Street Department is on its way to privatization no matter how much money we throw at it. The sooner CM's Blevins and Crump realize this, the better off we'll be.
I also applaud CM Price's stand that it's foolosh to borrow money to get out of debt. It simply creates new debt. His comments refer to a $2 million SRF Loan for sewer works that is showing up as recieved by New Albany this month. However was this money is NOT showing up in the financial scenarios handed to Council? After speaking with CM Price, he explained that this $2 million "Loan" is only a possibility that is being considered by the administration to solve the funds shortfall crisis, and the money has NOT been received by the City.
Also, CM Schmidt prepared and presented a very do-able plan for solving all these problems, and we hope the other Council Members give those numbers serious consideration when debating their stance on where all this needed money will be coming from, and what is fair and best for the citizens of New Albany.
Easily the most outrageous and insulting statement of the evening, made by the administration "Suits", was the warning they continued to issue to Council about, "...using too much available EDIT funds will result in having nothing left for any other projects for the next 15-17 years."!!!
Well, I for one would like to know just what numbers they have REALLY plugged in for use on the Scribner FIASCO for the next 17 years. After all, the adopted resolution allows for use of up to $400K in EDIT funds (we'll try to post the resolution in full or link), and we all know costs are continuing to rise on the construction due to financing difficulties (?!) by the YMCA (ha!).
Then, there is another little matter that no one is talking about, and that would be the brilliant suggestion that the YMCA obtain their needed financing through the Redevelopment Commission by getting a loan of (you guessed it) EDIT funds, based on classifying them as an "Industrial" development. GIMME A BREAK!!!
Correction: The YMCA financing assistance proposed by the Redevelopment Commission does not include any use of EDIT funds. This was a misunderstanding on my part.
No EDIT funds available for other projects would be a direct result of the determination of this administration to protect getting the Scribner Place done, costs be damned! Too many people are counting on the financial windfalls to be made.
Still, they will use scare tactics to deter the Council from using sufficient EDIT dollars to offset the millions of dollars owed BACK to the sewer fund from monies that have been mis-spent under this administration and others.
They have approached this $5 million September Bond payment as though it has popped up unexpectedly and now demands swift, strategic manuvering of other available funds, including rate increases, to cover costs that were supposed to have already been covered according to documents we've reviewed from the current and previous Councils Resolutions.
Keeping up with inflationary cost increases is another matter altogether, and they know it. Using that argument as a justification for this 11th hour push for 3 consecutive rate increases is only a smoke screen for what's really behind it all.
Finally, I want to personally thank everyone who stood up in front of that Council and spoke out loud about the way this situation of "missing money", or as the administration would have it: "shortage of funds", in the Sewage Utility is being presented and dealt with. Everyone is calling for nothing less than honesty, accountability, and capability in our City government.
The BEST solution heard Wednesday night was the suggestion that the current Sewer Board be dissolved, and the Council take over all matters of the Sewer Utility until such time as the current problems are resolved, or until the next incoming administration can demonstrate the ability to effectively manage the resources and operations of a seperate Sewer Board.
After all, if we are now in a position of considering hiring a "Sewer Manager", then what does that say about the capabilities of those who are currently running things?