Barton Mary Jo

Saturday ramblings: Saturday morning comin’ down – elections and whatnot

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voting imageThe candidate filing has ended for the 2015 primary.  Few surprises to be found.  Davenport dropped his challenge against incumbent Mayor Dennis Tyler.  Nora Powell back on the ballot tossing aside her pen name Nora Powell for her ballot name, Nora Evans Powell.  She appeals to the 7% voter base who chooses the first name on the ballot.    Hey, a girl needs to get a vote where she can.

Three Republicans running in two Republican districts.  This is as exciting an election as one can get, folks.   I didn’t expect any R’s to run for other offices, no one did.   The Republican chair is likely to turn-off prospective candidates as he has done in the past. It’s kind of a waste of money, time, and effort.  This may be lower than last year in regards to voter turnout.  The interest is not there, the candidates are lacking, and creative plans are missing.

I miss the old election campaign stumping, when candidates actually had a platform.  Nevertheless, the city is facing a looming $62 million in debts and we will continue to imagine the possibilities.  I would prefer to have the incumbents continue their place at the table to see creative budgeting in action.  Last time the elected officials faced a mere $3 million deficit, the street lights were scheduled to be shut off, animal shelter closed and 12 employees cut from the payroll. They saved a ton of money by cutting the Mayor’s Office copier and supplies.

Ex-president Sam Marshall wanted to cut Tuhey Pool utilities in his last month of office.  Although, his cuts were asked to be read into the Muncie City Council minutes, it never happened.  Maybe with a new city clerk, one can get that information.  Emails to the office never get a response.  Maybe that will change.  Maybe, maybe, maybe…

I guess it is safe to say, the $2.00 hydrant fee never materialized.  Instead, we saw over $3.00 charge on our water bills.  Local Option Income Tax was not passed at the highest percentage.  It’s still waiting to make a comeback.    Muncie ending for the second time with a sizable operating balance increased the tax levy and the budget.  A line item added to the budget for a newly created position while an employee of Prairie Creek was let go due to budget restraints.  Lack of revenue caused the mowing crew to stop mowing.

Five weeks into 2015, we already earmarked $500,000 spending.  Nobody outside of Muncie really cares how Muncie runs.  Well, until they find $250,000 of Federal bucks to fix up three houses worth pennies on the Federal dollar.  The Mayor said visitors to Central High School would see these homes and perhaps want to invest here.

There is a bright side to all this.  No longer are we bombarded with accusations of affairs, nepotism, cronyism, embezzlement, drug addiction and we finally settled the closing of Ninth & Tenth Street railroad crossings.  Barton lost her hard fought battle when Mayor Tyler took the reins.

Two of the five lawsuits have been settled against the mayor and the city.  Nothing on the Mayor’s appeal to the State of Indiana’s $12,500 fine against Advanced Walls & Ceilings.    The newspaper reported on it along with the $50,000 City Hall landscaping a year after the fact.

I sure hope the economic investment kicks in to generate some revenue soon.  We surely need jobs, living wage jobs.

Tomorrow is another day…stay tuned.

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Saturday ramblings: How to manage a hotel

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But we need to acknowledge the extent to which we’re banking, literally, on the success of the development now that the city of Muncie is the primary financial investor in the project — to the tune of $30 million. Larry Riley –  Muncie goes all-in on hotel Star Press

Riley’s column took me off guard because there was no warning. Certainly borrowing $30 million is newsworthy. Yet, the paper didn’t report on Muncie City Council’s vote. With the additional borrowing, the grand total of debt accrued since June 2013 has reached $55 million.  I’m sure there is more, good luck in researching it, though.

An on-line commenter said it shouldn’t have been a shock. He had presented over the summer to City Council regarding the bond. I went to the City of Muncie’s website to review city council’s minutes. Unfortunately, the last minutes posted – June 2014.  Muncie Redevelopment Commission minutes most current is 2010, too.

He went on to post the financing was a done deal, just taking longer than expected.   And if the financing didn’t go through, the City of Muncie would own the hotel property. Initially we were told the private financing was a done deal. Ground was broken and no mention of the financing problems, no mention city would be the sole financer. How can we be assured of something proving to be unstable financing? We simply can’t. Read the rest of this entry »

A new roof, City Hall and other incidentals

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city hall circa 2008

In the summer of 2013, the City of Muncie embarked on two projects.  One was Prairie Creek Reservoir bathhouse and the other remodeling of City Hall.  At the city council meeting the bond issuance was voted on (a yes vote, no surprise) and the bond debt was $4,000,000.00.

We heard from city grant writers of the private donations for PCR, unfortunately, it had to be mums the word on donors.  I watched from the sidelines of the citizens gallery as council woman Mary Jo Barton shook her head in disbelief at the condition of City Hall.

True to form, she most likely forgot the requests for money for upkeep and repairs.  Forgot about the information of the leaking roof or curled up carpeting.  Forgot she consistently voted no for any repair money. Imagine for a moment if the roof had been repaired when needed, could have avoided $600.000 expense.  Sadly, we will never know the true cost of a roof repair.  There was no need to pursue it.  Council said NO.

I can’t tell you the exact date City Hall was built, but it was during the Carey administration.  For decades, no money was allocated for maintenance on the building.  When the previous mayor requested funds, you can imagine all the comments on the newspaper forum.  One even said there was no need to budget, as it was a newer building.  Mayor McShurley was crazy to ask the council for money.  Indeed she was.

However, all buildings, even 25 year old ones, require general maintenance now and then.  The point is, citizens were aware of the roof leaking as far back as circa 2010, but a person with over 20 years as a sitting council person did not?

So we fast forward to 2014 and find that not only did we pay for new landscaping to replace maturing and beautiful plants, we get to replace the roof at a tune of $600,000.00.

The metal roof, which is supposed to have a 50 year warranty, is approximately 25 years old.  Half the life span of metal roofs and a little better than an asphalt shingled one.  President of Muncie Economic Development, the one who presented the bond to the city council, said the roof was improperly installed and the warranty has been voided.  Mayor Tyler has been reported to blame the previous administration for not allocating funds.  So, there you have it.

According to Todd Donati, since the roof was improperly installed, there is no warranty recourse.  Once again, the taxpayers are on the hook, financing less than stellar craftsmanship.  We had the sting of the Justice Center and the Gawd awful construction, in which we saw cost overruns, additional bonding, lawsuits, etc.   The Justice Center was so poorly designed, it actually is an ineffective building for its intending purpose.

Of course, who could forget the Royerton Sewer System fiasco, another shoddy government project in which parts had to be replaced.  Once again at the taxpayers expense.  Time does not allow for listing all the mismanagements of these projects.

So, today, we can add the City Hall roof to the list.   Or can we?  Has anybody seen the reports and the costs associated with the replacement or repair of this roof.  Not really.

An excerpt from Muncie City Council June 2014 meeting minutes:

Committee Reports: Barton asks if he (Energy Systems Group) did repair the roof.  Koons stated they have provided several options to the Building Commissioner and it wasn’t part of the agreement.

It appears the only option considered is a complete tear-off and an additional $600,000.  If you are interested in the other options, get in touch with the Building Commissioner.

Muncie City Council minutes 6-14 roof info (PDF)

City Hall/PCR bond information (PDF)

 

Choo choo – the saga continues

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train leftThe train has just pulled into the station and its tooting its horn.  All aboard for the ride.  Here we go….

The newspaper reported June 26, 2014 the city is wanting to implement a “quiet zone” at a cost of approximately $4 million.  This doesn’t include the $237,000 study on the project.  But, wait a minute, didn’t the previous administration ask Muncie City Council to consider permanently closing  9th & 10th street crossings?  Wasn’t there a possibility  of $4 million in funds?  Yes, I think so.  I won’t bother you with a lot of details, the city council would not even entertain the idea.

Read about the August 2011 council meeting here.

A committee laying dormant since 2007 was resurrected after the August 2011 meeting.  The Land & Traffic Committee went into full swing.   Councilperson Mary Jo Barton, representing District 3 for 16 years,  was appointed to one of five positions on the committee.  9th & 10th streets, the proposed closed crossings, resides in District 3.

Talk about a speeding locomotive.  The Land & Traffic Committee scheduled their first meeting two weeks after the city council meeting.  Before the first public gathering started Councilperson Barton was working the auditorium.  She had lots of questions and it was more than obvious she was itching to fight for those crossings to be reopened.   A few minutes past the hour, the  meeting canceled due to no public posting.  You can read what transpired at this meeting and the subsequent meetings.  Search the blog for Choo Choo or click the links below.

Choo Choo meeting #1

Choo Choo meeting #2

Choo Choo meeting #3

For months one of the biggest campaign issues was the railroad crossings closing.  Of course, it was so big they were wiling to toss out the quiet zone and $4 million  bucks.  That just shows how important this issue was to Muncie City Council.

Of course, after the election, the train jumped the tracks and it no longer mattered.  The Land & Traffic Committee stopped meeting.   I don’t believe they have met or done any land and trafficking business since 2011.   Now that the paper has reported 9th street may be permanently closed, will Barton put on her armor and fight for her district? I am guessing no.

On January 2nd, 2012,  after six months of very little activity, the ordinance was tabled.  The reasons, we were told,   parking and legalities concerning the ordinance.   I would think six months be plenty of time to straighten out the issues.   It really was just politics as usual at the expense of the citizens.

President Dishman asked Mayor Tyler his thoughts on the street closing.  A short moment of silence and the mayor gave his answer.  He followed what the paper wrote and “other” things and said  he was certainly willing to look at it.

The June 26th article quoted Tyler  “This the boldest project to improve our quality of place in the city of Muncie in many years,” Tyler said. “And it’s the right thing to do for Muncie.”

I’m going to respectfully disagree with the mayor.  This is not the boldest project to improve our quality of life.  Boldness would have been for the Muncie City Council to put aside their politics and carefully consider the possibility of $4 million, and pursuing a quiet zone.

Three years have passed, no movement on the closings, no quiet zone and the taxpayers will be funding at least $4 million for this project.  That’s not bold, that’s business as usual.

Final Choo Choo meeting 1-2-12

Saturday morning ramblings: What’s happenin’?

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breaking news copySome big news stories in our small part of the world.

If you care to read the ruling from Indiana Department of Education, you may find it here.

MCS waiver denial (PDF)

Muncie Community Schools has some daunting issues and no plans on how those will be addressed.  No plan for transportation and possibly no cost savings for the high school consolidation or closing.

Muncie Community School’s waiver request was denied by the Indiana Department of Education (IDOE).

IDOE says the waiver was denied because the district’s plan was “insufficient and fails to demonstrate that Muncie has formulated a sufficient plan that provides for the safe movement of eligible students to and from school,” as required.

Muncie Star Press 1-11-14

*****

We weathered  (pardon the pun) a snowstorm.  A major casualty when a snowplow caught fire.  A total loss to a county with no money.  and with hopes to recoup the loss with outside funds. The driver escaped injury, and that is definitely something to rejoice over.   The next big weather event will be flooding.  Can’t wait.

None of us will be looking forward to the utility bills. This storm is going to be expensive for everyone.

*****

The filing season has begun and will continue until February 7th.  As expected, some of the old gals and guys will be looking to continue their tenure or switch positions.  Mayor Tyler and his crew were ecstatic in 2011 all of his good friends were now controlling both city and county.  No excuses, he said.  There are, though.  It’s not their fault, it’s yours.    The judicial race is pretty much sewn up for me.

*****

Another big event is watching the Muncie Sanitary District as they slowly slide into the $168 million storm water project.  Removing Steve Murphy from the board and replacing him with Joe Evans was a major turning point.    Joe was an intricate player in the Royerton Sewer Fiasco and so one must entrust him to a project 168 times more expensive.   My prediction is:  you will be paying a lot more.

No matter where you choose to live, you just can’t get away from the crew.  Although we looked for homes in Royerton, the expensive sewer bills deterred us.    Neighboring county, Hamilton, is looking like a good place to retire in 10 years.    Talk about progress.

*****

We live in a strange little area.  While we constantly talk about bridging the gap between town and gown, as soon as a gown addresses the town all bets are off the table.

Yesterday, a local economist Dr. Cecil Bohanon, (one of my favorites) wrote another column.   This one titled Why Politics is so Nasty is really a non-partisan look at our current political climate.  Many good points made and the one which resonated with me “it is so much more fun to be entertained than to have to think through a serious argument.”

Fortunately, one doesn’t need to travel far for entertainment.

“Of course one of the big problems he ignored was the amount of money ij politics today and Cecil is a fully owned subsidiary of the Koch brothers. ” wrote a local  poster in the newspaper chat section.  The person attached a link to PDF document as proof, I suppose.  30+ pages of grant information complete with graphics.    I’m sure many took the time to read it.   Not.

I had read the document earlier, so I just skimmed through the pages.  Yep, the dude was right.  Dr. Bohanon received a $2,000 grant from…drum roll, please…

Charles Koch Foundation

All the proof one needs right there in black & white.    Perhaps the informed poster was first alerted to the connection from reading the Muncie Squeak.

Have a nice weekend, y’all.

City May Be Short Millions….

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At the same time, Tyler acknowledged that Democrats will now control both city and county government locally and with that control comes expectations.

“This isn’t going to be easy,” he said. “. But I think people will be pleasantly surprised.”

WALKER/ROYSDON REPORT: Tyler: No ‘good old boys club’

tyler

The cats out of the bag now.  The newspaper reported today the city might be millions of dollars short in property tax revenue.  Ouch.  Back in ’09 the city was $4 million dollars short and by the time the past administration left office, there was $7,596,218 balance and the tax levy decreased in 2012 from 2011. Read the rest of this entry »

Seeking full-time Donkey Whisperers in Delaware County. Steady employment.

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In the opinion sections of newspapers, Lee Hamilton, former U.S. House Representative,  wrote Some suggestions for improving Congress For the most part it’s interesting.  Love him or hate him,  depends on his topic.   For example,  Hamilton spoke at Minnetrista Center May 2011, the topic?   Civility in Civics. Sadly,  many of our elected officials didn’t show to hear his presentation

Perhaps if the Democrats had gone to hear Mr. Hamilton speak, they may have refrained from acting the fools on election night. I am pretty sure nobody sang  “Ding dong, Donati’s gone. Donati’s gone, Donati’s gone. Ding dong, Donati’s gone  when he lost his commissioner’s seat last November, and he is a red-blooded, toe-the-line party Democrat foot soldier.

Yet, election night 2011, Democrats  party loyalists sang with gusto “ding dong the witch is dead” they left messages on answering machines, they flocked like crazed maniacs to the public forums and posted over 200 comments in just a few hours.

Their candidate wins and this is how they celebrate?  This topic is better left for another day, another time.

If you are interested more of Hamilton’s writings visit Center on Congress.

Did you know every two years we vote for one person to represent us in Congress? Uh huh.    But, I’m not here to talk about Congress…  I’m here to talk about irony, double standards, and just plain donkey dung. Read the rest of this entry »