CROMWELL — Tense. Terse. Trying. Just a few ways to describe several months of public meetings held by the Turkey Creek Regional Sewer District.
Monday night, Oct. 15, felt no different. The standard group of frustrated residents showed up, one toting a video camera for documentation. Since July, the board and the public have been butting heads in a big way on the possibility of adding sewers to Eastshore and Northshore drives. However, by the end of the meeting the release of tension was palpable.
H. J. Umbaugh and Associates representative Ross Hagen took the floor early in the evening to explain why construction on the district’s flow reversal project came to a standstill. Hagen explained the district would not be able to move ahead with the purchasing of bonds in the manner planned due to a low rating as a purchaser. This rating (A or AA) helps bond sellers determine if the buyer is credible in terms of repayment of those bonds. Because the district has not been audited by the State Board of Accounts since 2014, a factor totally outside its control, the rating is low. Hagen recommended the district react in several ways: Alter the bond purchasing from open market to selecting and insuring itself a specific bond seller; change from a competitive bond to negotiated bond sale; and payoff an outstanding $500,000 bond note.
The board moved ahead by proposing and passing a motion to allow H.J. Umbaugh and Associates to get quotes on insured bonds, change to a negotiated bond sale, and authorizing payoff the outstanding bond notes. The issuance of bonds is the final step before the district’s selected contractors can move ahead on adding a third clarifier tank and other improvements to add necessary capacity for the reversal.
Following information on district expenditures, construction updates, and ongoing maintenance, Jeff Hersha, engineer for Jones and Henry, and Andrew Grossnickle, attorney for the district, addressed written questions sent in via email. Donna Johnson prepared a list of questions for the district ranging from length of service and type of appointment of each board member to one of her final questions of “is it fair?” Johnson also pondered why, according to Indiana code, a 51 percent majority vote could have prevented TCRSD from ever being established and how that same percentage of vote could not stop a sewer project if it was unwanted. These last two questions seemed to strike a chord and address the heart of the matter — a loss of public trust.
But, construction wasn’t the only item to come to a screeching halt during Monday night’s meeting — board member Don DeWitt made a popular motion to end the tense discussions of adding sewer on Eastshore and Northshore drives. That motion was seconded by one and opposed by none. “What does that mean?” asked David Ganz. “It means we are kicking the can down the road, as you say,” added DeWitt. This discussion of delaying a possible sewer project led to a round of applause from the public.
The public continued to ask questions about the project and offer opinions on how to best proceed. The board members and Hersha agreed rebuilding trust with the public would be top priority, noting not a single board member has accepted the offered pay or compensation of any sort during their service on the board. In response, public members thanked the district representatives and ended the discussion on a civil note.
The board will meet again at the Cromwell office at 7 p.m. Monday, Nov. 19. It is recommended questions for the board be directed to [email protected] to be addressed during the next public meeting.