Prairie Creek

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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Prairie Creek ~ The Perennial Political Football

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Last week I wrote about the woeful lack of representation by our elected mayor, Dennis Tyler at the MSD public hearing.  We heard, via the Star Press story chats,Tyler did meet with the MSD board.    The newspaper didn’t write about that meeting, and we have no idea what was discussed between the MSD board and Mayor Tyler.

There may have been a meeting. Read the rest of this entry »

Parks & Recreation, Good Old Boys and $76,000.00

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Now that the little matter of the $7.5 million dollar budget has been cleared up, it’s time to turn our attention to the recreational season. 

Yes, folks, summer is just around the corner and it will be time to get the piers out at Prairie Creek,  Tuhey Pool open and Canan Commons off the ground and ready for outdoor fun.

But, that’s not all.  Muncie City was awarded $150,000.00 in grant money to build a mountain bike trail and eventually extend the trail from  Cardinal Greenway to Prairie Creek campgrounds.   This will be interesting to watch and view the progress.  Let’s hope the weather holds out and we can get it completed in a timely manner and within cost. Read the rest of this entry »

Breaking News: The Delaware County Fair Board isn’t Political! Grandstanding for the Grandstands.

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We were lucky.

Had not been for the tragedy at the Indiana State Fair, Delaware County may not be having this discussion.  The grandstands are reported to be at least 60 years old…did anyone think it may be high time for replacement?  At the very least, regular inspections of an aging structure should have been considered.

In October 2011, the grandstands WERE inspected.   Major structural support problems were reported.  Some of the wooden seating had deteriorated and the announcer’s booth was not attached to the metal structure.  Instead was supported by wood planks.

December 1, 2011, the Muncie Star newspaper reported the grandstands had serious defects.  Jim Mansfield, Fair Board president, estimated the cost of replacement to be $900,000.00.   Apparently the decades old grandstand can’t be repaired.

How to fund it with a county that is cash-strapped?  This is where it gets interesting.

Jane Lasater, Fair Board vice president, in a private meeting with Commissioner Todd Donati and others, brought up increasing the food and beverage tax.  With a sunset clause, of course.    At first, it was reported as Donati who suggested the tax increase.  He quickly denied it and pointed to Lasater as the brainchild of the increase.  Lasater cited  Donati’s proposal for a combined animal shelter and a $3 million dollar bond for Muncie to reduce the Tuhey Pool debt.

If your head isn’t spinning yet, it should be.  A quick note.  Why would Donati even suggest a bond for Tuhey?  The bond can be paid down or greatly reduced with the money the city has  left in her budget.  Shouldn’t President Donati be focusing on his responsibilities?  One of which is the Delaware County Fair.  It appears he has been a little lax in this area.

December 13th, 2011 County Council meeting saw some discussion on the funding of the grandstands.

Although no council member was able to confirm it, the food and beverage tax increase would need to go through the legislators and none were sure the increase would be acceptable.  Jane said she spoke with two representatives while in Washington, D.C.  Neither were willing to commit. Senator Lugar’s office wasn’t that accommodating and Brad Bookout said the county would be hard pressed to get a grant.

Ron Quakenbush said quite a bit of money was appropriated a few years ago and  only repair was new seats.  Lasater countered, Michael Denton had inspected the grandstands and the repairs were done based on his recommendations.  This was about six years ago.

Lasater said there are only 21 volunteers on the Delaware County Fair Board and none have the time or the experience to fund raise.  Therein lies one problem.  A couple of simple requests for Band Day denied; a fee for the antique tractors; an increase in parking and you have a recipe for a decrease in attendance and far less revenue.

Not that doubling the parking cost was a poor idea, you do need some attractions that would offset the increase, though.

It’s no longer uncommon  to take a tax guzzling entity and turn it into  self-sustaining one .  Case in point, Prairie Creek Reservoir.  You just need the right people in place, someone who can think outside of “taxes” for creative ideas and sources.

Ron was looking like a cat that just ate the bird, when he made the comment…”The fair board is political.”  Jane said it wasn’t.  Quakenbush stated all the members were appointed by the commissioners.  He went on to say when the commissioners took over from the Lion’s Club he predicted the fair would become political.  I smiled just a little during the exchange, as Mr. Quakenbush was right on the money.

The County Commissioner’s took over the Delaware County Fair in 2001.

2002 was the year a last-minute switch for fire protection saw Center Township out and Muncie City in.  It was also the first time Mayor Dan Canan donated to the fair. $10,000 of EDIT funds.  Center Township Trustee, Dick Shirey was in the second year of fire protection after Muncie City handed him a bill for fire service.  Nah, no politics there.

After Center Township made arrangements to staff and located extra equipment, Center Township’s  Lt. Hackett spoke with fair board member Todd Donati and was told their services were not needed.  In the past, the fair had been protected by volunteer fire departments.  Center Township was free of charge.

‘We were disappointed,’ Hackett said. ‘I think it politicizes the fair.’

But, all that aside, I think the county is missing the point.  Planning and preparing has not been one of their greatest strengths.   The grandstands are the best argument to “be prepared”.   The stands didn’t deteriorate overnight and no money was ever set aside for needful repairs, let alone any improvements.

Now, we are in crisis mode, yet again.  We don’t have any money and a fair board lacking in time and experience to raise money.

Time is running out and from the county council meeting, an increase in Food and Beverage tax is highly unlikely to succeed.  Maybe it’s time to tap into the rainy day funds.  Or a bond?  Perhaps Mayor Elect Dennis Tyler will share the EDIT funds.  How about closing the Delaware County Building on Thursdays, too.  Just some ideas to consider.  (Tongue in cheek!)

Regardless, this isn’t the first crisis and it won’t be the last.

 

Muncie Action Plan – Good for our city

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Muncie Action Plan

On December 7th, Muncie Action Plan (MAP) will be hosting their bi-annual community meeting.  For those of you not familiar with MAP here is a brief summary of how it began and where it is today.

Muncie Action Plan could best be defined as “Creating the first city-wide Action Plan”.  beginning in the summer of 2009 with funding from various sources and presentations from three different companies, ACP Visioning+Planning,  Columbus, Ohio  was awarded the contract.  

The next year would be a whirlwind of public meetings, presentations, and ideas presented until the final  plan was completed and presented to the public.     There was some negativity in the public forums of the local newspaper, but it didn’t seem to deter the plan from moving forward.  Our local newspaper did a fine job of reporting the progress and updating the public.

Some would say this was a waste of money, time and effort.  Other plans had failed and this one would also.  I disagreed as Muncie isn’t just a place with buildings and infrastructure, but a living, breathing organism.  The residents are the heartbeat of the city, we make the city what it is.  I had the good fortune to be completely ignorant of any previous  plans the city may have tried.  To me, this was an excellent idea, and so I supported  it from the start.

The Muncie Action Plan has five initiatives, and within the five initiatives are 47 actions. 

  1. Linking Learning, Health, and Prosperity
  2. Fostering Collaborations
  3. Strengthening Pride and Image
  4. Creating Attractive and Desirable Places
  5. Managing Community Resources

Nestled within the five initiatives, you will find  diverse and well-rounded “actions” to include. not limited to: 

  • Developing a Uniform Code of Ethics 
  • Developing the Downtown
  •  Blight removal
  •  Renovating Tuhey Pool
  • Implementing the Prairie Creek Master Plan
  • Early Childhood Development

The downtown has grown into a warm and inviting place (a far cry from the dull, dirty and dingy place it was 20 years ago) and a master plan is in the works.  If it is as successful and fast paced as MAP, Muncie’s downtown will become more vibrant, more inviting, more events, more shops!

We have seen more blighted properties removed, and creative ways to salvage and recycle the materials.  This has been a defining moment for the “war on blight”.

Within two years Muncie has begun to see the fruit of MAP’s’ labor.  Just this summer we saw the reopening of Tuhey Pool.  If you were unable to be at the grand opening day, it was a wonderful sight.  The pool is beautiful and is an asset to our community.

Prairie Creek Reservoir has just received a $150,000.00 grant to expand the Cardinal Greenway.  All part of the Master Plan.

Early Childhood Development, which is a long-term “action” has been extremely active.  Delaware County’s Vision 2016 Economic Plan, which includes early childhood development will partner with Muncie Action Plan.   The following are excerpts from the Muncie Star Press (5-21-11) on Vision 2016 and the importance of early education for our children.

“You have to start somewhere,” Mayor Sharon McShurley told The Star Press. “U.S. high school students rank 24th out of 30 developed countries in math and science.”  McShurley cited a U.S. Chamber of Commerce study that maintained, for every dollar invested in early childhood education for children birth through age 5, “savings range from $2.50 to as much as $17 in the years ahead.”

 Economist Michael Hicks, director of the Center for Business and Economic Research, gave the Muncie-Delaware County Chamber of Commerce high marks for including early childhood education.

“Researchers have known for a long time that this was important,” Hicks said. “Few small or mid-sized communities (like ours) have yet to incorporate it into their planning, so in that respect they are progressive.”

Ray Montagno, a professor of marketing at Ball State who led the Vision 2016 sessions, said early childhood education was added to the plan because “it sends a message we take this seriously and it adds long-term value to the community.”

Cincinnati, OH began a similar program “Success by 6” over 10 years ago, and MAP was privileged to attend a presentation in October.  From what I gleaned, it was very exciting and everyone came back full of enthusiasm at  Cincinnati’s progress and success.

I hope you will agree, Muncie Action Plan has been good for our city.  If we have seen this much Action within two years, imagine what else can be obtained.

From a citizen’s view of Muncie Action Plan.

Please plan to attend.

Date: December 7th, 2011
Time: 5:30 PM
Place: Minnetrista
1200 N. Minnetrisa Parkway ~ Muncie

Click on map for direction.

Muncie Action Plan Website

A “Thank You” to the department heads and employees ~ City of Muncie.

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The purpose of this entry today, is to simply introduce you to the department heads and employees which helped make this city great the last four years.  It would be impossible to mention each and everyone by name, and for that I apologize if anyone has been left out.  The city employees are some of the finest people you will ever meet.  Working tirelessly to take our city into the 21st Century with progressive ideas and an overall perfomance that is unbeatable.

I am very proud of our city and much of that pride can be attributed to these very people.  A HUGE thank you.

A special thanks to Mayor Sharon McShurley for sharing the vision, successes and the obstacles with the people of Muncie.   Without the city updates and presentations during the Chat with the Mayor, Muncie would still be an illusive and sometimes complicated government. 

So, without further ado.

Muncie Parks Superintendent Matt Bailey – Filling the shoes of his predecessor, Doug Zook, better than one could hope.  Seeing Tuhey Pool and Canan Commons through completion, he was also responsible for ADA compliant playground equipment in several parks.  Much of the funding came from private sources.   Friendly, humourous, intelligent and dedicated.  Matt has a Bachelor of Arts from Indiana University.

Fire Chief Sean Burcham – Leading a fire department through tremendous times.   To say that Mr. Burcham had a difficult tenure as the fire chief would be an understatement.  Sean has had numerous classes and certifications and is a 22 year veteran of the MFD.

Grant Writer Sherri Contos  – Sherri, a contract employee,  was instrumental in securing a $150,000 grant to extend Cardinal Greenway at Prairie Creek reservoir, along with mountain trails.  Buley Center,  Energy Grant and worked tirelessly for Google Fiber award.  She worked on the SAFER grant.  Sherri has a BA in Economics.

Police Chief Deb Davis –  Chief Davis is one of my favorite department heads.  Coming up with innovative and cost saving ideas for the Police Force.  Like Chief Burcham, she dealt with financial shortfalls and budget cuts like a pro.  People have often commented on the improvements within the department. 

Community Development Director Connie Gregory – From January 2008 through 2011, Connie managed millions of dollars in federal funds.  Moving the CD from being dangerously close to a shut down by the Federal Government to a shining example of how a federal program should be administered.  She has done a fantastic job.  Connie will be retiring in December.   Connie has both a Bachelors and a Masters in Elementary education.   She will be missed.

Superintendent Board of Public Works Pete Heuer – In 2011 Pete Heuer was responsible for nearly $7.5 million dollars in infrastructure improvements.  The projects included, but not limited to,  25 lane miles of paving , 20 lane miles of pavement/cracked sealing  and  107 lane miles of pavement markings/striping.  Completed Phases 3 & 4 of the White River Greenway project (partnership between Cardinal Greenway and City of Muncie).  Muncie expects to take delivery of  a 16 ½ ton dump truck/snow plow and two 1 ton dump trucks/snow plows.  Funding for the equipment was secured through a federal grant.   Pete’s education is  Bachelor of Science – College of Applied Sciences Technology, Industry and Technology.  He is INDOT Trained and Certified.

City Controller Mary Ann Kratochvil – A Certified Public Accountant, Mary Ann knew the budget like nobody’s business.  Dealing with State audits, Department of Local Government Finance and a decrease in revenue couldn’t have been a walk in the park.   Mary Ann always told it like it was.  Honest, straight forward and there was never any doubt in the minds of the people, she felt a tremendous amount of responsibilty to the city.  Mary Ann received her BS at Kent State University, has over 20 years in the private sector, six years as Muncie Deputy Controller and four years as the City’s Controller.

Executive Assistant Stephanie LeBlanc– Stephanie came to the City of Muncie after working for the Red Cross for five years.  Her experience in office administration spans 20 years of non-profit, private, public and government sectors.    Two years into her employment found her the lone person in the office.   Stephanie is one of the kindest and dedicated people I have had the pleasure to meet.  A transplant, she has fallen in love with the city most of us call home.  She is a graduate of Indiana Wesleyan University

Prairie Creek Superintendent Bobby Patterson – Bobby worked closely with former Parks Superintendent, Doug Zook, in realizing a profit at PCR.  He oversaw the installation of the $50,000 playground equipment and promoted PCR to the outside world.  Bobbie received the Good Government award in 2009 for his efforts in improveing Prairie Creek.

Building commissioner Steve Selvey – Appointed after Jerry Friend retired.  Mr. Selvey came to the table with a wealth of knowledge and experience in the building trades.  He was a project manager for Muncie Community Schools and Ball State University.  He holds a BA in Finance from Ball State University.

Director Energy Department Dick Shirey – Dick was instrumental in securing a three-year energy grant as deputy mayor.  With these funds, Muncie wa able to change traffic lights to LED saving thousands of dollars for our city.  As Deputy Mayor he did double duty as the interim Board of Public Works Superintendent.

Chat with the Mayor 5-27-10

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Been just a little preoccupied with life’s circumstances so the blog has felt neglected. Will try to catch up on all the happenings and perhaps do an outline sometime soon.

That being said, tonight was Chat With The Mayor.

Just a handful of people showed for the evening. Some new faces and plenty of old ones. We heard an update on the parks system from Matt Bailey and a brief comment from Mayor Mac on the Japan trip.

This last visit to Japan has gotten a committment from a company to visit Muncie when they are in Indiana. Would be nice to have a committment for jobs, yet we all know this takes time to foster relationships. The whole world is in a financial slump and even though there are some rumblings of a recovery, it is yet to be seen.

Someone asked about the plans for Robert’s Hotel. Plenty of ideas have been presented. Of course, the hotel is in foreclosure and will be in the tax sale. Several liens on the property complicate the situation more. Still, it would be wonderful to see some movement. It is such a beautiful building.

Bobby Patterson could not make the chat. Matt Bailey gave us a rundown on the plans for PCR. There are ideas to develop the beach area, beach house and playground. Plans to make the park ADA compliant. (Wonderful!). Ball foundation has generously given PCR a $50,000 grant to make it happen.

Perhaps many of you have noticed the plantings around the parks as part of the beautification project. There is actually some money in an endowment fund that has never been spent for this purpose. I always thought the parks were very bland in nature. Glad to see some color for a pleasant change.

The city will be taking bids on playground equipment for Cooley park. A nice upgrade is overdue.

Our newest park, Canan Commons, located in the downtown area will be exciting to watch as it develops. We saw a conceptual drawing tonight. There will be a sidewalk, rain gardens and solar lights. All eco-friendly with low maintenance and low water usage. Part of luring VAT to this area was to purchase lighting, and so the light will be energy efficient as they are powered by solar energy.

Hopefully, there will be a fixed stage,  that is in the mix. The park will also have electricity and water allowing for a multi-task park. Meaning, we can have art shows, community events, perhaps a farmer’s market all utilizing the Commons.

In fact, someone has already requested the use of the park.

I can’t remember if the Mayor said there was $220,000 for the park. $190,000 has come from HUD funds, and MSD Storm Water has donated $140,000.

This will be an asset for the downtown area.

Of course, we can’t forget about parking. There is a committee made up of IVY Tech, Street Department and downtown businesses working on the plan for parking.

Tuhey pool was on the agenda. Again, we saw a conceptual drawing of what may be the future of Tuhey. Although, it looks great, reality is knocking on the door. So, for now, the plans are to get the pool functional. Keep in mind none of the mechanics of the pool have every been replaced. Everything is original. I think we got some good life out of it.

The west wall sustained the most damage. The leakage from the pool went under the road and into the river. Getting this repaired will save money and replacing the parts will create a reasonable savings.

The bathhouse is in good condition and just needs a little TLC. A new roof and some sprucing up and it will be good as new.

Right now, the city is toying with a $2,000,000 bond. I am not to fond of borrowing money, but, that’s just me. The last estimate to repair the pool was $500,000 in the ballpark.

The priorities for Tuhey are as follows:

  • Repair existing pool
  • Bathhouse
  • Parking

I wasn’t aware there are groups working on Tuhey Pool.  Found out tonight, we got ’em.  Good news, and thanks to all those which are devoting time and money for the pool.

That’s all for Munciepolitics tonight.

Remember, there is an election just around the corner.  Vote informed.