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BE IT REMEMBERED that a regular meeting of the White County Council was held at the White County Building at Monticello at 9:00 A.M. on April 20, 2009 for the purpose of discussing the additional appropriations and other business that might come before the membership.

 

Council President Richard Horton called the Council meeting to order in joint session with the Commissioners. The following members were present:

 

Richard G Horton Kevin L Crabb Gary W Hendryx

Dennis E Carter Bruce D Clear Raymond L Kramer Jr

Dennis D Cain

 

For content of joint session, see Commissioners’ minutes.

 

MINUTES

Councilor Cain made a motion to accept the March 16, 2009 minutes. Councilor Clear seconded the motion. Vote: Unanimous

AREA PLAN BUDGET

Area Plan Director Joe Rogers said over the course of the first couple of months it was apparent the legal fees are running much higher than they were historically; and beyond what this year’s budget can handle. Inevitably legal fees will be over-budget.

He was also concerned about Board fees for Executive sessions because there have been many Executive Sessions to update ordinances. Mr. Charles Anderson of the Area Plan Commission (APC) and Mr. Dave Stimmel of the Board of Zoning Appeals (BZA) agreed to advise their board members they would not be paid for participating in the Executive Sessions. That should bring the board fees into line. There have been some procedural changes that should reduce the number of meetings in the future.

There are three types of legal fees: retainer, litigation, and ordinance. The original retainer was agreed upon when the attorney was hired. When they budgeted for that retainer, they budgeted within four cents of what was planned, so if there is any kind of expenditure, Mr. Rogers will be over budget. So far there have been two additional expenditures. Judging from the first three months, he anticipates being over budget by $250 to $500.

Litigation fees for previous issues still being addressed are out of Mr. Rogers’ control. However, he feels he can lower those fees in the future by updating the ordinance book. Vague ordinances and inconsistencies in the book make for a lawyer’s paradise. It will be a long process, so litigation costs won’t be impacted this year. The Commissioners passed two changes today, and he has two or three more to bring before the next board meeting. As the book is made clearer, there will be less need for legal council, and therefore, less money spent on legal fees.

Director Rogers has been following up on past complaints about ordinance violations. These violations were entered into Area Plan’s logging system, and most had letters sent informing about corrections needing made or fines that were levied. However, after that, nothing appears to have happened to resolve the violations. Now he is revisiting those issues and intends to follow through. In cases where citizens are uncooperative, they will end up in legal resolutions.

The most influential area for Mr. Rogers is ordinance amendments and procedural happenings in the office. The attorney works for the APC and the BZA. Director Rogers believes the amount of involvement the attorney has in this area is unnecessary. Most of the work is administrative work, like drafting forms for the office and publication notices. The Area Plan office is the closest to the action and the headaches of ordinances, and would be the best prepared to identify problem areas and make recommendations to the board. There are cases where attorney assistance would be needed, such as ordinances conflicting with State ordinances.

It is up to the Board what roles he and the attorney play. Mr. Rogers wanted to express his concern and give the Council the heads-up that he will be needing additional appropriations. He had met with President Horton, Councilor Kramer, Councilor Clear, and Commissioner Steve Burton and they advised him to come before the Council.

Mr. Jim Mann, who serves on the APC, said although there was a lot of work to prepare the ordinance book to be passed, it is an ongoing effort. The board is waying how to help Mr. Rogers without holding him back and yet not go way too far with it either.

Councilor Clear is impressed with how much Mr. Rogers has learned and been able to accomplish in the short time he’s been the Area Plan Director. Councilor Clear also feels the attorney needs to be closely involved this first year because of previous problems. He said the budget was based on last year’s budget but he would expect the extra hours and legal expenses to be more as everything is brought up to speed.

Director Rogers explained every amendment proposal goes through the Area Plan Commission and goes to Council. They have a minimum of ten days notice to review it and determine if there are legal issues. The real issue is the amount of detail the council wants to be involved in from an administrative sense, and what should they be involved in from a strategic legal sense. Instead of looking at the proposals and saying ‘this isn’t what the intent of the ordinance was when it was put together. . . it needs to go this way or that way; then for the attorney to say legally this is not kosher. What actually happens is based on preferences rather than legal substance. Mr. Rogers feels the preferences should be decided by the office who deals with the issues on a daily bases. His personal opinion is the ground work and preparation can be done outside the legal realm, and have attorneys involved once the documents are prepared. Councilor Clear agreed.

State statues do provide an alternate procedure that is less burdensome and costly than the current system. Mr. Rogers discovered Allen County has used this procedure for over five years and found it to be effective, reducing both legal and office costs. He said he doesn’t intend to do anything that would jeopardize the function of the County or the department. Mr. Mann sees that Mr. Rogers would like to be able to conduct business by making decisions within the frame work of the ordinances rather than have a waiting period. He said the Area Plan Office is a gateway for people who want to enhance their property or purchase property, and it is a first stop to finding out how the County operates.

President Horton would be in favor of saving money by utilizing the position that has a fixed salary versus outsourcing with additional funds. Mr. Cartmell sees two aggressive men who need to be pulled back.

Director Rogers said he didn’t think the budget was wrong but rather office management that was wrong. He has already been streamlining and implementing changes to be more efficient. In cooperation with the Building Department they have taken 20% of the effort out of processing building inspection permits, mostly by removing duplications. The Area Plan Office is dealing with 970 re-zones that were passed since day one and yet the majority are not reflected on the maps. The office has had at least 50 duplicate re-zones. In the electronic era, he feels the County could better utilize Geographical Instructional Systems which is flexible, easy to maintain, and low cost.

Auditor Guingrich said there is money in Area Plan’s budget for a secretary position that has yet to be filled; and depending on if/when that might happen, that money could be used to cover legal fees. To date he has saved $5,000 in that line item. Perhaps closer to budget time, he may find unused funds could be transferred rather than ask for an additional appropriation. Ms. Guingrich said he could change around amounts on line items to better fit the needs at budget time. Director Rogers said his main concern is unnecessary legal costs. He doesn’t feel the lawyer’s role is to stand outside the stadium and call the plays, or be the quarterback running the plays, but rather to be the referee making sure everything is being done correctly. President Horton said legal fees are a matter of concern, but sometimes there is a tendency to over react after being in a bad situation. If there is a way to cut costs by doing work in-house, he would be supportive. Councilor Clear agreed. President Horton recommended reporting back in July.

 

FUND REPORT

Auditor Guingrich passed out the Fund Report for the Council to view. President Horton asked her to run the end-of-year 2008 General Fund Balances report to bring to the May Council meeting. It appears the County Economic Development Income Tax (CEDIT) is down about $100,000. Councilor Crabb noted this is the reason the Council will need to enact a revenue generated tax. Councilor Clear said if the revenue shortfall is 7% this year, then the department heads should be asked to cut their budgets by 7%. Councilor Cain commented on how well the departments did on their budget request last year after receiving notice from President Horton encouraging them to be conservative. Auditor Guingrich said the money borrowed from Solid Waste for the General Fund has not been paid back yet.

ADJOURNMENT

There being no further business to bring before the Council, Councilor Kramer made a motion to adjourn. Councilor Clear seconded the motion. Vote: Unanimous

 

 

 

 

___________________________ ___________________________ ___________________________

RICHARD G HORTON, PRESIDENT DENNIS E CARTER GARY W HENDRYX

___________________________ ___________________________ ___________________________

DENNIS D CAIN KEVIN L CRABB RAYMOND L KRAMER JR

___________________________ Attest: ___________________________

BRUCE D CLEAR JILL GUINGRICH, AUDITOR