Speak Out Loud NA

Friday, June 30, 2006

WHEREAS, the New Albany City Council is in support of the Scribner Place Project

We've seen reading comprehension problems; we've seen selective interpretation of the facts presented (obtained from GOV); but we have to admit, selective disregard of the VERY FIRST SENTENCE IN THE RESOLUTION? Give us a break, why don't you?

Very tangible issues behind the scenes are driving this resolution; and I for one hope the City Council gets this project OFF of MY property taxes. Our blessings for Scribner and the Y can proceed without such financing regarding OUR PROPERTY TAXES.

The State adopted something called a "circuit breaker" law last year. Our City has a constitutional (City and State) debt limit of 20% of our assessed value. If I am wrong about this, surely someone will call me out and set me straight, no doubts there. The way the Cities were able to circumvent this debt limit (which is in our City constitution and State mandated) is by having the municipal City sewage bonds/works separate from our debt limit.

This new "circuit-breaker" law is meant to correct this issue. After speaking with the State of IN and telling them of the debt we, as New Albany, are in -- I felt he was stunned.

Here is the new "circuit-breaker" law, and other corresponding info you may find interesting. Enjoy.

(P.S. BTW, is it legal for the Clerks' office to release the Council's packets to the PRESS and the Mayor's blog before the Council even received their packets from the police? Just a question.)

SECTIONS 8-13 of HEA 1001-2006 expand the 2% circuit breaker beyond pay 2007 in two phases: (1) the circuit breaker becomes mandatory in all counties for qualified residential property for 2007 pay 2008 and 2008 pay 2009; (footnote 1) (2) the circuit breaker becomes MANDATORY for all types of property in all counties beginning in 2009 pay 2010. (footnote 2)

The "circuit breaker" works by giving a property owner a credit against the person's property tax liability exceeding two percent of the gross assessed value for the qualifying property.(footnote 3) The application of the credit results in a reduction of property tax collections of each political subdivision in which the credit is applied.(footnote 4) A political subdivision may not increase its property tax levy to make up for the reduction. (footnote 5) A political subdivision may not borrow money to compensate the political subdivision or any other political subdivision for the reduction of property tax collections due to the credit. (footnote 6)


Taxpayer has a qualifying property with an assessed value of $100,000 before deductions. Taxpayer's property tax liability is calculated at $2,100. Two percent of the gross assessed value of taxpayer's qualifying property would be $2,000. Thus, taxpayer receives a credit for $100, and his tax liability is reduced to the maximum of $2,000. This results in a reduction of property tax collections by the taxing units in an amount of $100.

$100,000 gross assessed value $2,100 calculated taxes due
X .02 cap -$2,000 maximum tax liability

$ 2,000 maximum tax liability $ 100 amount of credit

1 IND CODE 6-1.1-20.6-6.5(b).
2 IND CODE 6-1.1-20.6-6.5(c).
3 IND CODE 6-1.1-20.6-7
4 IND CODE 6-1.1-20.6-9.5(b).
5 Id
6 IND CODE 6-1.1-20.6-9.5(d).


Potential Tax Credits for Property Assessed over 2% of Net Assessed Value:

UNIT 2006-2007 2008-2009 2010
FLOYD COUNTY $ 108. $ 108,526. $ 276,062.
NEW ALBANY TWP $ 3. $ 3,143. $ 7,995.
NEW ALBANY CITY $ 325. $ 324,803. $ 826,313.
NA-FC SCHOOLS $ 587. $ 587,059. $1,493,322.
NA-FC LIBRARY $ 23. $ 23,125. $ 58,825.
NA FLOOD CONTROL $ 8. $ 7,605. $ 19,345.

NOTE: The estimate impact on these budgets were based on 2003 assessed values. The impact on the budgets could be much greater when the estimates are based on current assessed values.

In other words, Cities will not longer be able to get around OUR Constitutional debt limits; but the State maintains there will have to be "new income taxes" to cover the shortfalls. Hmmmmmmmmm. Our income taxes seem to be going other ways.

Read the first sentence to Mr. Schmidt's resolution one more time, then the info posted here -- you'll find no malice; simply people who are up on those numbers and trying to protect your property tax and mine. That's the SPEAKOUTLOUDNA view, anyways.

Saturday, June 24, 2006

Tribune Misses the Mark Again and Again

Thursday’s newspapers revealed exactly the type of "non-reporting" we have lamented over from the Tribune.
In the Courier-Journal, writer Ben Hershberger reported on a couple of very important issues that were completely ignored by the Tribune.
Unfortunately, for some reason, I am unable to make a direct link to the stories work tonight, so...for now, use the following link to the Courier, then enter keywords "scribner snag" and then "Garner spar" to read the articles mentioned here.
Only after talking to few folks did it become clear that the information I was discussing with them, never made it into the Tribune pages.
Namely, the Sewer Board meeting held on Tuesday that included discussions on the dilemma the City is facing with Georgetown: "Board Seeks Explanation for Partial Sewer Payment".
You remember. The folks James decided to “drop” off the system to get 150,000 credits pre-released from the EPA. The rate-payers that we contend the rate increase is, at least partly, designed to compensate for.
Anyway, a settlement of money has been owed from Georgetown for quite some time: A settlement that has been renegotiated by “double-duty” Sewer Board/County Developer attorney Greg Fifer.
Originally, the amount owed was $1.9 million. However, in November the renegotiation brought that figure all the way down to $800K, which is a $1.1 million discount. Now, Georgetown is only prepared to pay $300K and doesn’t want to pay the remaining $500K until October.
According to Ben’s article, “Todd Soloman and other sewer board members said they were concerned about the delay because the money is needed to pay for the installation of a new line to the Robt. E. Lee pumping station." A project that is REQUIRED by the EPA for the release of sewer credits, which is scheduled to be completed by April of next year according to the consent decree.
Now, you would think, after all we’ve been reading about this Sewer rate increase, that the happening of the sewer board meetings might be worth reporting on. However, there was not one word printed in the Tribune about this situation with Georgetown, or other things that happened at that extraordinarily long meeting. NOT ONE WORD!
The most glaring exemption from the Tribune and their crack team of investigative reporters (NOT), is the headline spread across the front of the Indiana section on the same day; "Scribner Place Hits Money Snag"
In this lengthy and informative article, Courier-Journal writer Ben Herberger reports that the YMCA is having trouble securing their $7 million line of credit with the bank. Why? Because, the agreement between the City and the “Y” is not sufficient enough to provide the proper collateral for the loan.
Thus the agreement between the City and the YMCA must be re-written.
Gee, what a great opportunity this would be to get this thing done right.
Did you read about this anywhere in the TRIBUNE? Do you wonder why?
Isn't this type of information about Scribner Place development a major interest to the people of New Albany? They sure manage to write stories that glorify the project. It appears anything negative about the project will simply not be covered.
Could it be that the Tribune is part and parcel of the “spin” machine that whirls around James Garner that sucks up and hides any hints of disappointing information?
Consider too, the story printed on Wednesday, June 21st, about the angry phone calls that spewed from the Mayor to Donnie Blevins after the past Council session. The Courier-Journal reporter covered this story very well, speaking to everyone involved, including the Mayor, and presenting all the evidence without even a hint of judgment or personal bias.
"Garner,Councilman Spar Over City Audit"
No name calling of any Council Members. No disparaging remarks about the intellect or reasoning behind CM Blevin’s action to vote for the audit investigation. Just plain old-fashioned brass tacks reporting that explains all views of the incident, the way it’s supposed to be, leaving the conclusion drawing up to the reader.
Was this story written up in the Tribune? It sure got around town pretty quick, as folks were talking about it before the night was done. Everyone heard about it, but the Tribune was silent.
Even in their report about the night’s Council session, there was no mention of the infamous calls despite the fact they spoke with Garner AFTER the meeting.
Personally, I find the omission of these happening in the local press to be an unforgivable action. It makes it very apparent that the local paper is in the Mayor’s hip pocket and you, readers, will ONLY read a selective view of your community. Nothing negative, nothing of problems with financing the “Y”, and certainly no mention of the Georgetown sewer payment being delayed.
Is that sort of coverage sufficient for you?

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Considerations of the Audit Investigation

With all the chest thumping going on about how CM Coffey is going to be discredited and how he has 'supposedly' embarrassed himself by "going after" Garner on some sort of "whitch hunt", we feel compelled to assert our continued support of Coffey's resolution. It is Garner who has turned this thing into an ugly political football by making so much noise about his objections to having an investigative audit done.
We also want to express our support of CM Blevins for doing the right thing by voting in favor of the resolution. He understands that the monies of the City MUST be reconciled with the findings of the State Audit. That can only happen if the Council follows the recommendation of the State and conducts their own inquiry into the financial condition of the City and all its related departments.
Once again, our friend blogtastic has presented our contentions regarding this investigation into the monies very eloquently.
Therefore, we are posting the following in the hopes that everyone will understand that this endeavor is the best thing to come out of that Council room in quite some time. We hope you will read these words from the perspective of realizing that the money we refer to is YOUR money. Don't you think you have a right to know what's happened to it before they come asking for more?
Finally, we would like to point out that controller Kay Gerry, although very concientious in her work, has not been handling the financials for the sewer fund, which is our greatest money sucking concern.
The outside accounting firm of Melheiser, Endric, Tucker has been conducting all the financial reports for the Sewer Board. We're not even sure if outsourceing our financials is completely in keeping with accepted procedures. At any rate, explaining the discrepencies of this fund is going to be outside the relm of Mrs. Gerry's knowledge.
So, without further muddling of blogtastic's well articulated reasoning, we now present the most rational discussion of the issue that we have had the opportunity to consider:

On June 17, 2006, Mr. John Tucker penned an opinion that opposed any outside investigative audit of New Albany’s finances, and somehow tried to twist any such attempt to initiate such an audit to the ongoing dispute of Scribner Place and a vision for the city’s future.

As a city resident and taxpayer for the past 23 years, I have seen firsthand this fiscal mismanagement of New Albany’s finances. The audit in question, for year 2004, was just the latest in a series of audits performed by the State Board of Accounts which reflected poorly on New Albany.

Since the audit results were made public a few months back, many of us implored the mayor’s office to initiate an audit. When it became apparent that he was not willing to perform an audit, whether by his own administration or outside auditors, we asked our city council members to do likewise. The request for an audit was not tied to any sentiment on our behalf about Scribner Place, nor was Mr. Coffey’s resolution tied to some “latest attempted murder of Scribner Place.”

Mr. Tucker states that, “Yelling for an audit plays to the fears and mistrust of the public.” It is a shame he places so little trust in the intelligence and perseverance of New Albany’s citizens. We fear nothing, but rather know that a full accounting of how our monies are being handled is long overdue.

So contrary to what Mr. Tucker asserts, Mr. Coffey was not trying to “sell the audit as something it isn’t.” He was simply responding to the request of informed citizens in this community, who have endured decades of taxation and ever increasing fees with no adequate explanation as to how our money is being spent.

A proper audit also will show much more than what Mr. Tucker contends. It will reveal more than “whether the books are balanced, if employees who are getting paid exist and if the proper paperwork was filed.” Some of the largest and most worrisome issues with New Albany’s accounting deal with improper account reconciliations (sewer, sanitation), capital asset accounts, and cash and cash equivalents balances. And contrary to what the State Board of Accounts contends was their full audit, a proper, full investigative audit goes much further than exposing such deficiencies. It will answer those questions raised, as any audit should, and show the city’s residents just exactly why the accounts are out of balance, and where the monies went.

These results do not necessarily imply some potential sinister outcome as Mr. Tucker mentioned; embezzlement, areas of possible theft or cooking the books. It could be nothing criminal at all, but rather the results of poor accounting and financial controls, processes and/or management. Even such non-criminal deficiencies, though, can have a measurable, negative impact on the decision making processes in our city.

Start if you will with a strictly internal audit process. Given the local political infighting, more vicious perhaps because it is within a single party, we all doubt that it will get very far in providing the answers we demand. This will probably serve nothing more than to burn up more unproductive time until outside auditors ultimately are brought in.

The citizens of New Albany deserve a full investigative audit of how our money is being used. When informed of repeated, supposedly necessary sewer rate increases, or the immediate urgency to redesign the sanitation department, finances have frequently been presented with a great degree of certainty by board members and the mayor’s office. The audit by the State Board of Accounts, however, reflects that such certainty is truly unknown.

In closing, unlike Mr. Tucker contends, we too desire a better New Albany, and a bigger and brighter future. We welcome the opportunity to participate in the dialogue. Building a better New Albany will take some time, and like any construction, will only be as good as its foundation. The foundation of any city’s ability to grow and progress is its financial status, and without knowing the true financial health of our great little city, we are indeed building on a shaky foundation.

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Coming Next...


Monday, June 19, 2006

Farewell to the Tribune

This weekend's "Opinion" article in the Tribune, written by John Tucker, is not only disappointing, it is wrong!
A full investigative audit will indeed reveal much more information than the yearly partial audit done by the State.
The State recommended a full audit be undertaken.
We don't really care to hear what John Tucker's opinion is regarding this matter. Who is he to second guess a State auditor's recommendation?
Who is John Tucker to come to town and second guess what citizens have been working on for more than 10 years?
Yep, 10 years have accumulated under the belts of several civic activists in town, and their hard work will NOT be trivialized!
After 2 sets of books were discovered under Overton's administration, and now a Federal FRAUD Investigator is here from the EPA, how can ANYONE argue against a complete investigation of the books?
It has become clear that Mr. Tucker has succumbed to the dribblings of the progressives, and that's just too bad.
We had high expectations that the new editor would see through the veil of lies that surround this administration and actually provide some investigative journalism to bring the facts to the people.
But, there's been no "investigative" reporting. No digging for facts and history. No critical thinking skills have been displayed from the Tribune for quite some time now.
Even accurate reporting of Council meetings has become a problem for the folks at the Tribune. Many of these errors were pointed out in an article at Freedom of Speech recently.
Still, the biggest disappointment is the bias that bleeds through every article written by Mr. Tucker. What happened to the idea that the press is supposed to remain neutral on issues? Most importantly, where is the most basic of good journalistic traits, the TRUTH?
All we've been getting is somebody else's opinion of the truth. At times, even the truth has been left out:
So, I'll be canceling my subscription. I don't think I want to pay good money just to read Mr. Tucker's personal opinions.
Many others have already done so.
Some simple mistakes can be overlooked, but the overall stance of the folks who manage the Tribune cannot be missed. We feel this compromises attention to details and accurate reporting.
So, farewell little Tribune paper. We tried to hold onto some shred of dignity for you, but alas, you have slipped through our fingers. If you are not the press of the common majority, if you cannot print the truth, then you are "propaganda".
The only use I have for you is a place for the puppy to do his business.

Sunday, June 18, 2006

Re-Post: March, 2006 - Audit Results

Important Findings of 2004 Audit:
The previous posting, which spoke of the finding in the 2004 audit of the City of New Albany, was left open for citizens to discuss what they felt were pertinent issues that merited further discussions.
As we all know, there was not much mention of the actual audit findings, but rather a plethora of various perceptions of the Administration and their competence, or lack thereof, as well as a lot of unnecessary personal and political jabs.
Before we delve further into the 2004 Audit, we would like to reiterate our stance that this blog is for the Citizens of New Albany, and will not be used as a platform for any political campaigning.
That said, let's move forward with the 2004 Audit written report, which is a public document produced by the Indiana State Board of Accounts.
On page 4, 4th paragraph, of the Independent Auditor's report on financial statements, they note:
"We were unable to audit the note disclosure relating to capital assests of the City, because capital asset records were not properly maintatined and updated; and we were unable to satisfy ourselves as to the value of the capital assets by other auditing procedures. In addition, we were unable to verify the accuracy of cash and investment balances because monthly cash reconcilements were never compared to the funds ledger so that variances could be identified and corrected in a timely manner."
They further note; "The Wastewater Utility did not maintain sufficient capital asset records. Due to lack of supporting documentation, capital asset valuation cannot be verified." Nahhhhhhhh, not the Sewer Utility!
Surely, with all the other departments that were being supported by Sewer Funds, and all the "loans" that were made out of Sewer Funds, surely they were keeping accurate and detailed records of all such expenditures.
"In addition, we were unable to verify the accuracy of cash and investment balances because monthly cash reconcilements were never compared to the funds ledger so that variances could be identified and corrected in a timely manner."
Well now, doesn't that just take the cake, so to speak? Only in this instance, the cake is made of the hard earned money of the rate payers.
What does all this mean?
"As capital assets and cash equivalents constitute a major portion of the Statement of Net Assets, any uncertainty concerning assets and cash and cash equilvalents similarly affects the Statement of Net Assets."
In other words, because no one managed to do the monthly balancing of the City's books, and reconcile the funds ledger, they really can't tell what the City has in terms of the bottom line.
One other statement early in the report that raises concerns is as follows:
"The City has not presented Management's Discussion and Analysis or Budgetary Comparison Schedules that the Governmental Accounting Standards Board has determined is necessary to supplement, although not required to be part of, the basic financial statements."
As we mentioned in a previous posting, the State guidelines say no departments may make expenditures in excess of their appropriated budget. However, New Albany has several departments that show spending indeed exceeded the budgeted amounts for those departments. Namely, the General Fund (duh), Motor Vehicle Highway, Local Road and Street (no, we're not kidding), Park Nonreverting, Ambulance Runs, and Park Cummulative Building.
The total excess spending for these funds was just over $1.7 million dollars.
The Audit notes: "These disbursements were funded by inappropriate available cash balances." (mis-appropriated funds?).
After perusing through the pages of numbers, looking at balances and debt, disbursements and income, assets and liabilities, we turned our attention to the Audit results and comments concerning the condition of records (pg.38).
There we discovered the profound cumulative effects of the propensity of City Departments to repeatedly fail to reconcile cash accounts monthly with the City funds ledgers.
Such instances are more fully described later in this posting; However, our purpose here is to explore the consequences of such oversights, or simple non-compliance with proper accounting procedures.
As revealed in the documents of Findings and Questioned Costs (pg. 52), the Audit found problems with the condition of City records (2004-1).
The Audit notes: “…reconciled amounts were not totaled and compared to actual cash transactions recorded in the City’s records. As a result of undetected errors as of Dec. 31, 2004, the City [had] $88,947 more in unidentified cash recorded in its records than [was] being held in its bank accounts.”
In “Notes To Financial Statements”, on pg. 17, item I-C notes: "The government –wide, governmental fund , internal service fund and fiduciary fund financial statements are reported using the basis of accounting that demonstrates compliance with the cash basis and budget laws of the State of Indiana…. Receipts are recorded when received and disbursements are recorded when paid.” Doesn’t sound too terribly difficult to us. How about you?
Back to page 38, concerning the Condition of Records, Indiana Code 5-13-6-1(e) states: “All local investment officers shall reconcile at least monthly the balance of public funds, as disclosed by the records of the local officers, with the balance statements provided by the respective depositories.”
These comments go on to explain: “At all times, the manual and/or computerized records, subsidiary ledgers, control ledgers, and reconciled bank balance should agree. If the reconciled bank balance is less than the subsidiary or control ledgers, then the responsible official or employee may be held personally responsible for the amount needed to balance the fund. (Accounting and Uniform Compliance Guidelines Manual for Cities and Towns, Chapter 7)”.
How ‘bout them apples?

Thursday, June 15, 2006

Re-Post of Audit Findings

Given the attitude of our Mayor concerning tonight's resolution to have a full investigative audit done, we felt compelled to re-post some information that was contained in the 2004 annual partial audit performed by the State.
As a reminder, the State Board of Accounts Report said:
"...we noted certain matters involving the internal control over financial reporting and its operation that we consider to be reportable conditions. Reportable conditions involve matters coming to our attention relating to significant deficiencies in the design or operation of the internal control over financial reporting that, in our judgment, could adversely affect the City's ability to record, process, summarize and report financial data consistent with the assertions of management in the financial statements."

This information, along with now having a Federal Investigator in Town from the EPA who is looking into the financials of $44+ million of sewer fund money, should result in nothing less than a full investigative audit.
If there is nothing to hide, then there is nothing to be angry about and no reason to balk at a full audit. If anything, Garner should be anxious to be vindicated by having a full audit reveal no improprieties.


OK. Let's give it a go here on the blog as to why the Stormwater Compliance should NOT include another bureaucratic Board (thank you CM Price), with more money getting sucked into pockets rather than projects. Do we really want to create another way for our City expenses to bulge?
I thought the whole idea was to reduce our spending levels, so at least the often-used & abused excuse of "there's no money" would still hold a little water, while money accumulates and become "unavailable" or "restricted in use" to the tune of about $5 million sitting in 'special funds', to be used for restricted, and 'special' purposes in restricted and special places.
TIF, CDBG, UEZ , EDIT, PERF, IHFA, etc., etc., etc.
There's no money - "IN THAT FUND"... is what they should be saying.
So, where is it, how much is it, and why are they not doing regular monthly reconciliations?
Page 38 of the City of New Albany Audit: Indiana Code 5-13-6-1(e) states "All local investment officers shall reconcile at least monthly the balance of the public funds, as disclosed by the records of the local officers, with the balancesstatements provided by the respective depositories."
"As a result of of undetected errors as of Dec. 31, 2004, the City has $88,947 more in unidentified cash recorded in its records than that being held inits bank accounts." In other words, we're missing almost $90,000 that should be in the bank, but is not.
We've begged them to park the City owned vehicles IN THE CITY. Or at least keep the log books that are required by this pesky little agency called the Internal Revenue Service that keeps personal use separated from work use.
We really can't afford to pay for so much gasoline. We can hardly keep our own tanks full. Make that more like half full.
Another small but important show of trying to help save money would be to please, turn off the cell phone and leave it with the car keys (unless you live in the City), and go home.
We can do better to save the City of New Albany from complete financial ruin. If we don't put a stop to the wasteful spending, and the loose accounting, that's exactly what's going to wind up happening to New Albany.
In the State Board of Accounts' Financial Report to The Officials of New Albany, we found the following as related to compliance for financial reporting:
"The opinion to the financial statements was qualified due to the lack of sufficient documentation of capital assets and inadequate cash reconciliations."
The report also says, "The results of our tests disclosed instances of noncompliance that are required to be reported under Government Auditing Standards and which are described in the accompanying Scedule of Findings and Questioned Costs."
All of this means that the City officials responsible for keeping track of funds and expenses in all the separate departments, boards, and commissions, are not doing their job the way the State says they should be doing it.
It's all been slip-shod management of the public funds, and ultimately, the Citizens trust. The bad decisions need to stop, and we need to get a lid on it real quick.
CM's, you must understand that no plan he has come up with, no approval that you have allowed to go his way, none of it has come out to be a good decision for the City of New Albany. A big part of what he says he'll do, or he'll get back to you with, never happens. Why continue to put our fate in Garner's greedy hands?
So, let's just start with the fact that there is already enough 'bad blood', so to speak, in the Political realm of New Albany about who gets paid on which board, and which Boards pay, and which don't. Hell, they are all different. Furthermore, who's paychecks get paid out of which funds?
That's another one that will confuse most folks around here if you ask them.
Just exactly who IS getting paid with City money, and how much are we paying them? After all, this City money is actually the people's money.
So, isn't this a reasonable thing to be able to ask, and expect an answer from, the people who we elected to spend our money for us? I think so.
Unfortunately, I think there are other people in our City who would rather keep that information solidly under a rock (don't worry, we'll dig it up).
That same State Board of Accounts Report we referred to earlier also states:
"...we noted certain matters involving the internal control over financial reporting and its operation that we consider to be reportable conditions. Reportable conditions involve matters coming to our attention relating to significant deficiencies in the design or operation of the internal control over financial reporting that, in our judgment, could adversely affect the City's ability to record, process, summarize and report financial data consistent with the assertions of management in the financial statements."
This is a huge statement that is pretty clear about what s going on.
Still, there are considerations to be made about the Mayor sitting on X# of Boards, and getting X# of salaries in return.
We want to know how much is enough for this guy? How much money does he think he can suck out of the citizens of New Albany before somebody crys: "FOUL"
We just can't keep taking the hit, paying the penalties, for the 'fouls' that have been made by the heads of New Albany's past and current administrations.
However, we find it's a weak and spineless person who, when caught with a hand in the cookie jar, would point and say "they did it too" as though that makes it alright. One thing that's real important here to all future New Albany Mayors out there: IT NEVER MAKES IT RIGHT!
Now, what would we start thinking, knowing that more hits are coming... raising Sewer rates, climbing Sanitation costs, along with the "Brand New" Stormwater 'user Fees'???? These are all but guaranteed.
We've been told that all of this is probably going to happen, and we know that when they say probably, that's the warning shot....DUCK!!!!!!!!!!!! .
Well, there are other considerations that should be taken into account when assessing our Mayors performance. How he is performing in his duties and responsibilities on the Boards he currently sits on (we don't care about his style, we care about his substance)?
We all know that the first order of business upon his election as Mayor was to immediately appoint himself as Chair of the Wastewater Utility (Sewer Board), and to draw another salary from that.
What did the State Audit have to say about the Sewer fund records?
"The City's capital asset records for wastewater Utility owned capital assets are $18,442,759 less than capital assets reported in these financial statements."
That's about $18.5 million in capital assets that were reported in financial statements to the State, but there are no records to back that up.
Now, we all know that the Sewer Board, which he has been leading for over 2 years now, has done a dismal job of being able to comply with State and Federal EPA and IDEM mandates of the Clean Water Act and the agreed orders of the Courts that were signed by Overton. A situation Garner knew about from the four years he sat on Council prior to his run for Mayor.
(we will be loading copies of financial documents concerning the Sewer Fund)
There should have been no surprises there. He should have been ready to roll up his sleeves and get to work, getting things done to comply, and securing the needed blessings from the EPA for future growth, probably along with a hearty pat on the back from the citizens for a job well done.
Instead, Garner has been advancing a very expensive agenda, including an overpriced and underfinished Firehouse, a $16 million natatorium, a soccer complex, an Assistant Mayor (a broken campaign promise), privatizing Sanitation services (another broken campaign promise), ignoring the sewer issues, and handing out political favors like they were lollypops.
He's been using the Sewer Fund as the City's "slush fund", borrowing huge amounts of money to shore up an assorted number of Departments, programs, and projects, including the General Fund which was depleted below zero.
State Board of Accounts Comments concerning Overdrawn Cash Balances:
"The cash balance of any fund may not be reduced below zero. Routinely overdrawn funds could be an indicator of serious financial problems which should be investigated by the governmental unit." Think they'll do that?
New Albany had 9 funds overdrawn in 2004:
General Fund, Motor Vehicle Highway, Local Road & Street, Law Enforcement Continuing Education, Unsafe Building, Indiana Housing Board Rental Rehabilitation, reserve Liability, TIF Park East Industrial, and the Medical/Drug Fund.
We've only scratched the surface of the findings in the Audit, and there is more to come on the Sewer fiasco, and why we are saying NO to another sewer rate increase.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

What's the big deal with anonymity?

Much ado has been made in the New Albany area blogosphere, in no small part by the prostituted progressives, about the anonymity or pseudonymity of contributors and posters. Even Speak Out Loud NA recently waded into these choppy waters, changing course only to reverse yet again.

Western civilization has a long history of anonymous and pseudonymous commentators and authors dating from at least the Greco-Roman era. These people were, may I say without trying to offend anyone, writing much more eloquently and intelligently than any of us (myself included) are in these local blogs. Much of our outstanding literature (Shakespeare?), important political discourse (Camillus?), and even perhaps New Testament writings (Pauline attributions?) were published anonymously or pseudonymously.

Many of the anonymous and pseudonymous political contributors, in fact, helped to shape the formation and direction of our nation, perhaps best exemplified by Benjamin Franklin and his many (alleged) pseudonyms.

Likewise, modern investigative journalism has come to rely upon the anonymous source (Watergate?), and many states and the federal government have enacted whistleblower statutes, which protect the identities of those who come forward.

“So What’s the Big Deal?”

Well, there is no big deal with unknown writers.

Many of the pro-progressives, and others of their ilk who seem to think they are somehow more enlightened than others, rant and rave about anonymous/pseudonymous posts. They claim that such submittals somehow carry less intellectual worth or veracity, although they cannot articulate the reasons why. Such comments from those who sport their own blogs are especially humorous, given the overall tone of contemptuousness in their publications. Dare not post anything in dissent of the ‘bookman’ – he will try his feeble best to eviscerate both you and your opinion.

The real and only reason for the desire to know and control ‘who writes what’ is the patently obvious, yet unstated desire to quash any debate by those who dare disagree with their opinions, or chosen leaders. How would knowing a person’s identity perhaps quash the debate? There are two main reasons. The first is quite obvious in a small town and community such as ours (and like those where I grew up in my home state). If a person must disclose who they are, they will not participate in the debate in the first place, for fear of losing their job, their relatives losing jobs, not getting a job/contract, scorn from their neighbors, hassled by law enforcement, etc, etc. This is especially true if what such people wish to say cuts against the current leadership, and the local press is in the pocket of said leadership. The second reason is the belief that, if a person’s identity is known, that fact can somehow be used to undermine their position – skeletons in the closet if you will. [Note: Keep in mind, only P-P’s are capable of throwing the first stone….]

A minor, humorous third reason focuses on “frustrated censorship.” Most ‘enlightened’ folks, and P-P’s, are in reality closet socialists. They decry the open press (Rush? SOLNA?) and are frustrated by the electoral process. We “little people” do not know how to write, to whom we should listen, nor for whom to vote – we are much too stupid to be entrusted with such things, “troglodytes” if you will. But please do not hold this fact against them. Many do not even know (yet) that they are closet socialists. It is analogous to the person not yet ready to enter rehab, because many have not reached the point where they can admit to themselves that a problem does indeed exist. That damned Berlin Wall never fell!

”Just the Facts, Ma’am”

The only real issue is the facts of a given situation. As long as the debate centers on the facts, it matters not the identity of the debaters. Facts can be verified, no matter from where or by whom they were disclosed.

Facts about investigations, facts about sewer overflows, facts about city finances, facts about multiple paid positions, etc.

Those who protest against the anonymity and pseudonymity of this blog simply do not want the facts to surface, especially those which focus attention, perhaps negatively, on their self-anointed leaders. By focusing instead only on the issue that those in the debate are unknown, they are simply trying to detract attention from the facts of the argument.

These protestors attempt in vain to practice the old legal adage -- don’t cloud the issue with facts.

”The Ultimate Anonymity”

I would encourage all to continue to post anonymously or pseudonymously, and stick to the facts of the situation. It is a large part of our democratic heritage and political debate. Those who protest against it will continue to do so – just laugh and let it ride, you certainly cannot stop it.

And this fall, I would encourage all of appropriate age to practice perhaps the longest, constitutionally protected right of anonymity we have: VOTE to throw the current mayor out of office!

Just don’t ask me who I am!


Monday, June 12, 2006

Investigation Underway

Isn't it interesting the way some things work out?
Just as we were beginning to wonder if there was a sane mind left in New Albany, the EPA sends in the man from their Criminal Investigations Division.
We believe there must be probable cause at hand to have initiated questioning of Council Memebers, Sewer Board members, and the City Comptroller, Kay Gerry.
We believe they he is here to investigate the use of a State loan of Federal money that was used in the $44 million plant capacity expansion.
Because it was Federal dollars that were spent in order to "fix" the failing Sewage System, and the system wasn't fixed, it still doesn't work, they might be wanting to know what happened to that money.
Don't forget that the EPA has been 'negotiating' with the City of New Albany for about 12 years now. We've been given opportunity after opportunity to comply with signed agreed orders for specific repairs, yet one administration after another has chosen to ignore the real problems and instead spend massive amounts of money to simply expand the capacity of the plant.
Meanwhile, raw sewage was being dumped straight into the Ohio River, by the City of New Albany, at enormous rates. System overflows have caused enormous amounts of raw sewage to spill into the streets and pollute springs and groundwater.
Now, the sewers really do need fixed.
Perhaps now the EPA is going to come in and do it for them.
More importantly, the administration will be held accountable for the millions of dollars that have been used from the Sewer Utility funds to support, and in some instances outright pay for, other City services and associated costs.
The proposed rate increase will be halted, and the financials associated with more than 38 checking accounts will be examined.
We asked for an investigation into the audit. We asked many times.
Now, an investigation into the money is what the Federal authorities are here to do.
Does this little problem of ours now warrant the top of the priority list?

The citizen's advocates, often referred to as New Albany's Potty Police, who have worked diligently to follow the bouncing politicians who have had hold of this issue over the years, and who have tread where most of us would fear to tread, are due our sincere gratitude.

Friday, June 09, 2006

FINALLY!!! The Man Is Here

Q: Who is that man with the big gun and a badge that says "Federal Investigator"?
A: Why, that's the man from the Fraud and Corruption Division of the EPA.
Q: What's HE doing here???
A: Well, he's here to fix the little problem we're having with our Sewage System.
Q: Why?
A: Because he says for the money we've spent, we could have dug holes and laid all new lines throughout the City, yet the sewers still aren't fixed.
Furthermore, the $44 million that WAS spent, was used to expand capacity rather than "FIX" the system, and it was Federal money.
Q: Where's he going?

To Mr. Federal Agent Man:
Welcome to New Albany. Welcome to our nightmare.
We extend our deepest appreciation for your arrival.
Please understand our gratitude for the diligence of our local citizen's advocates, otherwise known unofficially, as the "New Albany Potty Police".
We wait with great anticipation to see this matter is taken before the right authorities and dealt with in the manner that's appropriate.

More soon.......

We are going to follow up on the issues that the investigation is likely to include.
Our local New Albany Potty Police are to be commended for their tenacity and hard work in bringing the problems of the Sewer utility to light.

Thursday, June 08, 2006


Well, that was fun!!!
Hope everyone feels better after blowing off a little frustration.
We wanted to let the last posting ride for a while and see how folks responded after the spectacles at the Council meeting Monday night.
We never expected the thread to take the turn it took, but we feel we learned a lot from it. The lines have indeed been drawn in the sand.
It's a damn shame, but the fact of the matter is that the city's problems are so severe that citizens are blaming other citizens rather than holding the proper officials accountable for bad management.
It's clear that there is virtually no respect for people's differing opinions about what is best for the City, and this leads to the propensity for personal insults.
We would like to remind folks that the issues that must be dealt with pertaining to the City's current well-being, and future potential, have absolutely no bearing on the personal character of individuals.
Now, everyone put the potty-mouths away, and let’s get back to the business of dealing with the real issues, O.K.?!
We want to direct your attention to Ben Hershberg’s excellent article in Wednesday’s Courier-Journal regarding the situation we are facing with the Sewage Department - click here
Most importantly:

“Fifer discussed sewage system finances at the council meeting Monday night, explaining why a controversial rate increase -- projected at 26 percent to 32 percent -- is needed four years after a 49 percent increase was enacted to help finance an expansion.” Folks, thatequivalentivilent of an 80% increase.

"…he said the system technically is in default on the requirements of the $40 million bond issue used to expand the system -- a project completed in March 2005.” Read This One Again!!!

“The sewer system is required to generate enough cash annually to pay operating expenses and make more than $5 million worth of bond payments -- plus an extra 25 percent for security, Fifer told the council.”
The bond payments were appropriated by Council from EDIT funds.

"A recent projection by the city's financial consultants said the sewer system is $2.5 million to $3 million short of what's needed.”
There is more than $1 million in appropriated funds that are missing.

We must admit, we are confounded that anyone could seriously put forth a compelling argument for swimming pools when we are facing such dire conditions in an absolutely vital component of our infrastructure.
Even more so, we are curious as to why the administration seems to think they do not have to produce true and accurate financial details of the 38 some-odd checking accounts that the Sewer Fund uses.
We stand commited to insisting upon a full investigative audit into the financials as recommended by the State. We will NOT accept a rate increase without such, even if it means we must go down the same road that 20 other citizens recently traveled.

We also feel compelled to remark on the inaccurate and incomplete coverage of the Council session by the Tribune in Tuesday’s edition of the paper (“…instead of the $6.25 per meeting Mayor James Garner’s administration had suggested.”???). Make that $625.00, which is the current pay for members of the Sewer Board. Our records show Garner was asking more for the Stormwater Board members ($700 per meeting), and himself as Chair ($1700 per meeting).
We’ll come back to the particular details, but suffice it to say that many people are severely disappointed and we intend to follow up on this matter with Mr. Tucker in the very near future.

Lastly, in light of the assertions made over at NAC today concerning their planned campaigning come next May, we would like to respond in-kind;
We take this as a challenge to the Council Members that we feel have the most concern for the City, and are most in touch with their respective constituents. Therefore, we’ll meet their challenge and pledge to work diligently on the behalf of re-election campaigns.
More importantly, we are committed to educating citizens about the dispositions, behaviors, and attitudes of those who will be challenging our Council representatives. That, my friends, will be the ultimate downfall of the progressive movement.

Monday, June 05, 2006


We've been hearing, and reading a lot of political threats being made towards the Council Members who are going to support the re-direction of EDIT funds tonight.
We consider this insulting, and we resent the 'bullying' tactics from those who have made these threats.
We strongly feel that your opinions are indeed the minority, and we intend to stand behind the Council Members who support the resolution coming before them tonight.
We also pledge that we will support their re-election campaigns based on their courage and committment to the best interests of the City of New Albany.
They understand the implications of NOT complying with Federal directives, and they have listened to the MAJORITY of Citizens who are fed up with Garner's bad decisions.
Actually, not only with Garner's, but with the last 3 administrations before him as well.
They all contributed to digging this monsterous hole we are only now trying to climb out of by making their own mistakes in judgement, and laying the costs of such at the feet of the taxpayers. All the while ignoring the sewer problems that arose back in 1995 when the EPA finally took measurable steps to hold the City of New Albany legally liable for failing to meet the Clean Water Act, and thus made DEMANDS that the failing sanitary sewage system infrastructure be corrected.
Here we are 12 years and $80 million later, and that infrastructure STILL isn't fixed, so now the EPA has taken away ANY opportunities for City growth by restricting sewer credits and doubling the required annual expenditures from $270K to $500K as well as doubling the oversight period fom one year to two.
Meanwhile, our City has built a Parking Garage that cost us dearly, and a multi-million $$ Firehouse that doesn't function properly, and a multitude of other bad decisions that has drained the City finances and left us no closer to solving these crippling problems with the sewers, and now they want the Citizens to pay another $30 million when those costs can be mitigated WITH OTHER FUNDS!
This Scribner Place project could have very easily become a compromise between the two 'factions' of thinking, about what is best for the City of New Albany.
However, it seems obvious that the 'progressive' thinking crowd is an ALL OR NOTHING sort of bunch who don't grasp the concept of compromise.
These Council Members who stand strong tonight, to do what is right and what is best for New Albany's future, are to be commended. They understand what MUST be done is very different from what WANTS to be done. They are doing the RIGHT thing.

Sunday, June 04, 2006

Read the Documents

OK folks.
Let us show you here in black and white, just what the situation IS with New Albany and the EPA. It ain't good, and they ain't kiddin'. More importantly, it must be fixed. Environmentally, New Albany really is a real shit-town.
(click on images to enlarge)
The problems with the sewers, and the ripple effect of those problems to future growth, is no less urgent than the Clean-Up New Albany efforts of Code Enforcement meant to rid our City of the eyesores and dangerous conditions of dilapidated property that contributes significantly to the "perceptions" of our community. The biggest difference would be that the sewer problems actually pose a threat to our individual health and well-being, which is put in jeopardy every time it rains.
We'll grant you that there is indeed a part of us that is "mad-as-hell", and NOT going to pay for it! Why should we pay them for dragging their feet and putting us at risk, refusing to comply with the Clean Water Act and incurring more cost?
However, to use some familiar logic, the longer we put this off, the more expensive it's going to be. Still, it simply MUST be done. Especially if you want to be forward-thinking, or if you're at all concerned about the future prospects for New Albany. Under current conditions, we are optimistically estimating a minimum of 4-5 years out before we are out from under any EPA restrictions.
The first document (above) shows the City's agreement with the EPA dated Feb. 2006, and noting staged disbursement of sewer credits based on certain repairs being completed, and an oversight period of one year.
And, here's page 2 of that agreement:
Here, they explain quite well what the problems and concerns are, and make particular note of several large overflows. One as large as 98,000 gallons.
It also remarks on the two projects, the Robert E. Lee lift and the bar screen, that MUST be repaired for release of credits. We know that early bids for the bar screen project alone were over $700K, and the Robert E. Lee project is expected to be about $2 million.
We also took note of the mention of a letter sent by the EPA in 2004, Garner's first year, expressing concerns with the delays of one of these projects. So, there's no saying he didn't know this was a pressing matter. He simply chose to ignore it while he pursued more "rewarding" ventures..
However, we find the real meat of this issue in the final page, which is repeated in the "new" consent decree, verbatim.
"The City shall not permit any new industrial, commercial, or residential developments that would have the effect of adding at any particular connection point flows to or exceeding 50 houses or 15,500 gpd (gallons per day) at full buildout or in the aggregate unless the City first receives approval from EPA. The City shall submit to the EPA under Part VII of the Amended Consent Decree a report certified as true and complete by a professional engineer (NO, Chaz Hunter doesn't qualify) documenting that the development at full buildout is not expected to cause any capacity relate bypasses or overflows in the collection system."
Here's some interesting info: The hotly contested Daisy Lane development would require 48,000 credits at full buildout. Did anyone even ASK if they had sewer credits? Or, is that why our City's Sewer Board Attorney, Mr. Greg Fifer, is their attorney? How where they planning on getting around that one? It's still applicable.

Well, we have at least 3 more documents we want to get up here for you to look at, but we are going to break here for now and hope you folks will avail yourselves of the opportunity to read the EPA letters for yourself.
Our next series will show how Garner and the rest of the Sewer Board opted to drop Georgetown, as we predicted, and in return for lessening the load on the system, wrangled 150,000 sewer credits in advance out of the EPA. Oh, but there are very critical changes in the amended, amended Consent Decree in exchange.
(we also predicted they would turn right around and hike our rates to make up the dif in rate payers from G-Town)
We are now obligated to have the bar screen repairs done by September this year, or we face penalties. We must have the Robert E. Lee project finished by April of next year, or pay penalties.
We must now spend $500K annually instead of the previous $270K, and the oversight period after all repairs and telvisioning the lines will now be 2 years instead of one. Some great deal we're working on here. Thanks a lot Garner.
Think about it folks.
This City must stop getting the horse before the cart and not getting anywhere.
We must put our resources where they will serve us best in the long term, and still keep us moving in the short term.
It's far past time to make smart decisions about smart growth, as well as pure sustainability. We must postpone major expenditures until we deal with this matter and know better about where we stand financially with funds for these sewer repairs, as well as all other departments.
One question:
Would you go have a luxury in-ground heated swimming pool installed in your yard if you knew your car was about to fall apart? Or would you take care of the car situation before you made any firm decisions about that swimming pool?
After all, everything relies on you having transportation.

Thursday, June 01, 2006

The City's Dilemma

As we have been discussing recently, we feel strongly that the natatorium, planned for the Scribner Place development, should be postponed for a minimum of 2 years while all efforts and possible resources are directed towards meeting EPA directives, including the part that says we MUST spend at least $500K per year, every year, on inner-city repairs and upgrades.
New Albany is currently under a Federal mandate to comply with Federal laws, and we are concerned about the devestating economic impact of the restricted sewer credits that resulted from not meeting those mandates in a timely manner.
These impacts not only affect New albany, but are reaching beyond our City limits and impacting Georgetown and their neighbors, Lanesville as was reported here in today's Courier Journal.
Owing to the fact that we are under NO Federal mandate to build swimming pools, we feel the $400K in EDIT dollars that would be stripped from the City by a natatorium would be better utilized, at this point in time, to pay for these Federal directives.
It is looking more and more like our pleas for common sense to prevail have been heard, and Monday's Council Meeting will hopefully tell for sure.
We recieved copies of the "financials" concerning Stormwater, Drainage, and Sewage that were handed out at the last Council meeting, by Sewer Board attorney Greg Fifer, and we have to say they are pretty difficult to take seriously.
I mean, if the State recommends a full investigation into the financials because they can't make heads nor tails of them, then perhaps we should pay attention.
Obviously, there are Council Members who are having a hard time swallowing these numbers as well. We congratulate, and thank them, for their resolve to get to the bottom of these matters.
The Sewer rate increase that has been recently proposed, along with new rates for Stormwater "use", and the need for money to pay Drainage, along with all the "loans" that are due back to the sewer fund, are being wrongly assessed to the citizens.
We are looking to our Council Representatives to set right this unfair burden on the ratepayers due to failures to adequately and efficiently represent the best interests of the City, and all its residents.
The City must indeed move forward. However, it must be able to do so on solid footing with the proper infrastructure in place before we start pouring vital funds into "luxury" amenities.