Monroe County councilors find $500K in projects that don’t need GO bond, get heads-up on RFP for election equipment

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A joint work session of Monroe County’s board of commissioners and county council was held Friday in the conference room off the county council’s office suite. At the head of the table is  county attorney Margie Rice. (Dave Askins/Beacon)

At a joint work session held Friday afternoon by Monroe County commissioners and councilors, the elected officials got a rundown of itemized cost estimates for projects to be funded with a $5-million general obligation (GO) bond.

The gathering grew out of some frustration on the part of councilors, expressed on Sept. 10, when the three-member board of commissioners first presented the proposed $5.17 million bond issuance to the council. On that occasion, councilors wanted to see the kind of detail they eventually got, on Friday.

County attorney Margie Rice told the group on Friday that she sensed some dissatisfaction from councilors with the earlier presentation—that’s why the extra session on Friday was convened. Rice told the councilors she’d never before seen this level of detail given to a county council for a bond issuance.

The detailed breakdown allowed the council to identify several items, adding up to $559,080, that they wanted to pull out of the bond proposal, and pay instead out of cash reserves or other funds. To be pulled off the list of bond projects were: renovating the Alexander Monument ($153,000); running fiber to the data center ($100,000); paving of a seating area on the courthouse grounds ($60,000); installing HVAC fans for the justice center ($50,000); and sealing the parking garage deck ($50,000), among other items.

Not a surprise was the idea of paying for the Alexander Monument using a source other than the bonds. Councilor Marty Hawk had advocated for that on Sept. 10, when she said that the county had enough cash to pay for the restoration of the veterans memorial. Hawk also objected at that time to the amount of the bond, which was $5.17 million. It was a change to state law that allows the county to bond for $5 million, plus a growth quotient, instead of just the $2 million worth of GO bonds the county has issued in years past.

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From left: County councilors Kate Wiltz, Trent Deckard, Geoff McKim, Marty Hawk, and county attorney Margie Rice. (Dave Askins/Beacon)

Based on the discussion on Friday, the county council will be weighing whether to go ahead and bond for the roughly $5 million, or to ratchet the amount down to $3 million. Bonding for $3 million, according to the board of commissioners administrator Angie Purdie, would not increase tax rates. Bonding for $5 million would mean an extra $27.66 in property taxes paid by the owner of a house with a value of $200,000.

Among the items that’s still proposed to be paid out of the GO bond is election equipment costing around $1 million. County attorney Jeff Cockerill announced to the group on Friday that an RFP (request for proposals) would be made for the election equipment. Prospective vendors will be asked to appear in Monroe County on Oct. 14 at 2 p.m. to demonstrate their wares, Cockerill said. That comes after Monroe County’s election board appeared to have already recommended a choice of vendor, Hart Intercivic.

Election Equipment: RFP to be made

Cockerill told the group on Friday that he was sending out the RFP that day—the first notice will appear in the newspaper next Wednesday, he said. The RFP asks prospective vendors to demonstrate their equipment on Oct. 14, he said. A seven-member committee will evaluate the responses to the RFP and make a selection, Cockerill said.

The three members of the county’s election board will all be on the RFP committee, Cockerill said. One member each will be drawn from the county council, the county board of commissioners, the League of Women Voters, and the county’s legal department. The respondents will be scored on criteria that include price, history, and references, Cockerill said.

According to Cockerill, there are five vendors who are certified in Indiana for election equipment, but he did not think all of them were necessarily certified for all the components the county wants. Monroe County’s Election Supervisor, Karen Wheeler, previously told The Beacon that she has a clear preference for the kind of system she’d like to have: “I know what I want and everyone that works with elections…we all want pen-on-paper ballots. I believe that is what Monroe County residents want, too. We are used to it, we expect it, and we believe it is the most secure way to go.”

Cockerill said he thought at least two vendors would respond to the county’s RFP—Hart Intercivic , out of Austin, Texas, and Election Systems & Software (ES&S), out of Omaha, Nebraska.

The election board already invited Hart Intercivic to demonstrate their equipment, which Hart did on Sept. 5.

At the Sept. 10 first reading of the GO bond proposal, president of Monroe County’s board of commissioners, Julie Thomas said about the election board’s recommended choice of a vendor: “We take what the election board recommends very seriously, but we also feel that we should do a look-see at what else is out there and see what we are missing.” Thomas said the county commissioners “are the ones who sign the contract,” so they want to have a look at all the machines that have been certified.

The county current leases equipment from Hart. Cockerill said on Friday that the RFP includes requests for lease offers. But Cockerill said he didn’t think the county will receive any responses that include lease offers.

At the Sept. 10 first reading of the bonds, councilor Trent Deckard cautioned against waiting too long to acquire the election equipment. Deckard was co-director of the Indiana Election Division from 2011 to 2015. For the spring primaries, he said, early voting is only about 200 days away. “I know about the certification process, counties getting machines, counties training on machines, and then counties discovering the inadvertent things that have maybe gone wrong with the system.”

On Friday Cockerill sketched out a possible timeline, that envisions a contract signed before Thanksgiving. “It would be great if we achieved that,” Cockerill said. He said if the equipment is delivered by February, the training can be done in March. “It’s going to move very quickly,” Cockerill said.

Asked after Friday’s work session if he’s comfortable with the RFP timeline, Deckard said he thought it gave Monroe County an adequate buffer. What he saw sometimes when he was with the state election division was counties, elsewhere in the state, that waited until the last minute.

Land Acquisition: Quarry heritage land not source site of Superfund pollution

Also still on the list of projects to be paid out of the GO bond is the acquisition of some land northwest of the interchange of I-69 and SR-46. The idea is to convert the land, which includes some old quarry holes, to a limestone history destination point.

On Friday a dollar amount got attached to the total cost of the purchase: $1.49 million.

On Friday, councilors Geoff McKim and Marty Hawk had a brief exchange on the environmental history of the site. Hawk said she was against the purchase, because of that history. McKim pointed out that the parcels the county is considering for purchase don’t include the one that was the source of the PCB pollution. The property the county is considering does have an environmental restrictive covenant on it that recites its history as part of an area polluted with PCBs:

The Real Estate is part of an area designated by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) as the Bennett’s Dump Superfund Site (Site). In September 1984, EPA placed the Site on its National Priorities List (40 C.F.R. part 300, Appendix B) pursuant to the federal Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act (CERCLA) because the Site had been impacted by polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs). In 1985, Westinghouse Electric Corporation, a predecessor to CBS Corporation (CBS), entered into a Consent Decree, as amended, with EPA, the Indiana Department of Environmental Management (IDEM),Monroe County and the City of Bloomington to remediate the Site.

For the western portion of the site, no restrictions apply on the use of the land.

Restrictions on the central and eastern parts of the site involve a prohibition against changes to the remediation pipes that are in place. Also prohibited is any development that affects drainage to or from the site, or changes in the water levels in the quarry holes.

The $1.4-million figure was based on the asking price of the different property owners, plus the cost of appraisers, and other costs that would be associated with a land deal, county attorney Jeff Cockerill said at Friday’s work session.

At its regular meeting on Wednesday, Sept. 25, the county commissioners approved a $5,520 contract with First Appraisal Group, Inc. for the first set of appraisals.

Breakdown of Bond Projects

Highlighted in green are projects identified at Friday’s work session as those for which bonds probably don’t need to be issued.

Highway Needs
Gradall/2 way radio 1 $383,000
Tandem dump truck/snowplows,spreaders/2way radio 4 $608,720
Hot box 1 $60,000
Highway Subtotal $991,720
Fiber to MCG Data center 1 $100,000
Fiber Subtotal $100,000
Revamp Nat U Hill Technology
Sound system/Amplification $20,000
Recording system $7,850
Video/enhanced viewing $8,230
IT infrastructure/wiring $15,000
Flooring $30,000
Nat U. Hill Subotal $81,080
Propane Vehicle Conversion
Propane Infrastructure $50,000
Vehicle retrofit 3 $30,000
Light truck 3 $45,000
Propane Subtotal $125,000
Vehicle Replacement/Refresh $250,000
6 vehicles + 1 Coroner need vehicle
Health, Building, Community Corrections, Pool, Coroner
Vehicles Subtotal $250,000
Probation Vests $25,000
Low Treasurer Software $10,000
Vending Machines 4 $30,000
CZJC Building Fans $50,000
Land $1,494,200
Alexander  Monument $153,000
Parking Garage (Sealant top floor) $50,000
CZJC pin tuck 3 remaining sides $225,000
Election Equipment $1,000,000
Roundabouts Design and Landscape $200,000
ADA Pave Seating area on CH Lawn $60,000
Fair Board $75,000
Misc Subtotal $3,372,200
Total of Projects $4,920,000
Underwriter’s Discount $25,000
Cost of Issuance and Rounding $55,000
Grand Total $5,000,000
Total of Projects pulled out of bond $559,080