Boone County Utilities
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May 26, 2004, Watchdog Lebanon What's New E-mail:
The Duke Realty I-65 Project in Boone County, as currently proposed, lacks merit for many reasons. In particular, the legal expenses problem caused by the underhanded actions of the County Commissioners creates a conflict of interest for any county officials now supporting the project.
The commissioners' 2004 budget for attorney and expert fees is $290,000. As of April 27, $522,069 in 2004 legal expenses had already been incurred. The $83,803 that was carried forward so the commissioners' 2003 budget would not be exceeded needs to be included with the 2004 legal expenses. The 2004 budget has already been exceeded by $315,872, or 108 percent, before the year is one third complete.
A conflict of interest is created when one considers how the 2004 legal expenses were incurred and the scheme in place for their payment. The legal expenses overrun is caused by the commissioners' unsupported efforts to purchase the bankrupt Boone County Utilities and premature expenditures in support of the unwise Duke project. None of the $315,872 legal expenses overrun was approved beforehand by the County Council.
Considerable shenanigans were undertaken by the commissioners behind closed doors without public input to try and pay for the unapproved legal expenses without consequence. H.J. Umbaugh & Associates agreed to accept payment for its $100,246 bill from tax increment financing bond proceeds for the as yet unapproved Duke project. Ice Miller likewise agreed to have its $90,082 bill paid by TIF bonds. This leaves $125,544 in unpaid legal expenses overrun from Bingham McHale, the employer of the county's attorney. The commissioners undoubtedly hope to finagle payment for Bingham McHale from the hoped-for TIF bonds.
County officials have a problem if they favor a Duke project supported by TIF bonds that would be used to pay for the unapproved legal expenses overrun. If the $315,872 overrun is paid for with a 20-year TIF bond at 4 percent interest, the commissioners' underhanded actions would ultimately cost the county's taxpayers $459,360. The County Council must take immediate action to negotiate payment of the legal expanses overrun using currently available funds. If the TIF funding scheme is allowed to continue, no county official can support the Duke project without properly being accused of a conflict of interest from de facto support of the commissioners' actions.
February 23, 2004, Watchdog Lebanon What's New E-mail:
Three of the many reasons why Boone County should not purchase Boone County Utilities are: (1) Customer service and accountability would be muddled. (2) The purchase funding scheme is part of a speculative undertaking that would over-burden existing county resources and result in significant tax increases. (3) There is a political connection between the BCU purchase and this May's Boone County Commissioners primary election.
The BCU management structure proposed by the Boone County Commissioners has the Boone County Redevelopment Commission as the actual government entity purchasing the sewer system and Indianapolis Water Company as the owner and operator of the water system. The Clay Township Regional Waste District would operate the sewer system. The French-owned U.S. Filter Operating Service manages Indianapolis Water.
Where would a customer complaint be handled? Both the Clay Township Regional Waste District and U.S. Filter are located outside Boone County. The ownership model that makes the most sense has local operations such as the one proposed by the Town of Whitestown.
The Whitestown proposal also offers the benefit of voter accountability. Utility operations are important public undertakings where voter accountability provides a vital control function. If Whitestown purchases BCU and manages it poorly, voters can replace the Town Board members. The Boone County Redevelopment Commission is an appointed body with no direct voter accountability.
The tax increment financing (TIF) BCU purchase funding scheme suggested by the Commissioners is really part of the Duke Realty I-65 project. This project is a speculative undertaking that would over-burden existing county resources. The result would be significant Boone County tax increases.
The proposed I-65 project is the largest ever planned by Duke and would supposedly include high-tech employers, office buildings, light industry, manufacturers, distribution centers, hotels, restaurants, retail stores, and residences. However, Duke wants to start this 15-year project next year by building 1,000 homes and 400 apartment units. Zionsville Community School Corporation would have 1,400 new students - a 33 percent increase - within a short period of time. This sudden student increase would add $11 million to the ZCSC budget, NOT including new school construction costs.
The property taxes paid by homeowners in responsible residential developments go to local schools and local governing bodies to offset increased school and service delivery costs. Progressive localities include impact fees that are paid upfront to help defray infrastructure costs. So, what kind of arrangement has Duke schmoozed and bamboozled out of the Boone County Commissioners for their I-65 project?
Boone County would provide $80 million of infrastructure to Duke free-of-charge. A TIF district, the same one the Commissioners want to use for the purchase of BCU, would be created so taxes from the project's occupants would go to make the $80 million bond payments. In other words, NONE of the taxes from project residents would go to Zionsville schools. The residents of Zionsville and surrounding townships would get a huge property tax increase to educate the students living in Duke's high-profit residential development. This tax increase would be on top of Duke's requirement that ALL county residents pay a wheel tax to pave new roads in their project!
This corporate giveaway might make some sense if Duke's project was not so speculative. Duke has identified no potential occupants for its dream community where people live and work in the same place. This can probably be explained by the fact that there are only two other similar projects in the entire nation where homeowners choose to live in the midst of commercial and industrial development.
Also, Duke cannot deliver on its promise to attract high-tech employers. Hundreds of millions of dollars have been spent in Lafayette, Bloomington, and Indianapolis to build high-tech infrastructure near their universities. Specifically, funding has been secured for the Bindley Bioscience Center in Purdue University’s Discovery Park, already the home of a new $50 million nanotechnology center. The Emerging Technologies Center has opened at Indiana University to incubate life sciences companies that use IU research. Nearly $690 million is invested in 19 life sciences projects in Indianapolis, including the biotechnology research and training center at the Indiana University School of Medicine, Eli Lilly’s drug discovery lab, a research institute at the Indiana University School of Medicine, and a sixth-floor intensive-care unit at Clarian. The vested interests in Lafayette, Bloomington, and Indianapolis will not allow Boone County and Duke Realty to come in and take ANY potential new high-tech jobs away from them. It borders on foolishness to believe otherwise. Duke is more likely to deliver additional low-pay, low-benefit distribution center jobs.
The Commissioners should approve the excellent I-65 Overlay District prepared by the Boone County Area Plan Commission. Responsible developers willing to play by the rules should then be sought. The speculative, tax-increasing Duke project, together with the related BCU purchase by Boone County, should receive no further consideration.
The Commissioner's inappropriate desire to purchase BCU for the flawed Duke project is further brought into question when one considers the politics involved. The Commissioner's plan to purchase BCU is one where "the focus of county ownership will not be a profit maximization." Hand-in-glove with this is the promise to give immediate utility rate cuts to Royal Run subdivision residents. In other words, the tax-increasing TIF district will be used to reduce Royal Run utility bills. This might deliver the deciding votes for the two incumbent Commissioners who face opposition in this May's primary.
The Boone County Commissioners are like children on Christmas morning with visions of sugar plums dancing in their heads. What we need is for someone to act like the responsible parent who must pay the Christmas bills. The Watchdog Lebanon position is that Boone County should not be allowed to purchase Boone County Utilities.
August 11, 2002, Watchdog Lebanon What's New E-mail:
Boone County Utilities (referred to as BCU) serves a four-square-mile area in Boone County around Indianapolis Road near I-65 exit 130 (for State Route 334). BCU is a privately-owned, for-profit utility that began operations in 1998 primarily to provide water and sewers to the Royal Run subdivision.
In November 2001, the Boone County Commissioners (referred to as Commissioners) petitioned the Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission (referred to as IURC) to revoke BCU’s certificate of territorial authority, asserting the company failed to provide adequate service. The Commissioners want to replace BCU with a county-controlled regional water and sewer district.
Six days of IURC hearings have been held. Also, Judge A. Thomas Cobb ordered an August 27, 2002, field hearing at Zionsville High School at which the public addressed pertinent issues. Finally, a series of post-hearing filings is scheduled by the IURC – the last on November 8 – to receive the lawyers’ final written arguments.
Even though the Commissioner’s certificate revocation lawsuit is complex, this matter is important enough for concerned citizens to attempt an analysis. Some information that can be used for this analysis has been obtained from nine newspaper articles, ads, and letters dated 05/06/02, 07/10/02, 07/16/02, 07/27/02, 07/30/02, and 08/03/02.
To try and understand the issues involved, the available information has been grouped into the following categories: (1) summary, (2) limited public input, (3) utility service cost considerations, (4) litigation cost considerations, (5) utility purchase cost considerations, (6) economic development, (7) ease of doing business, (8) environmental concerns, (9) IURC hearing testimony, (10) alleged vendetta, (11) alleged bribe. The positions of BCU and the Commissioners for each category are separately included. All of this information is listed below.
One current analysis (subject to change as more information comes available) of the issues within each category is listed next. This analysis, of course, is NOT the ONLY logical analysis that can be derived from the available information.
(1) Summary: Getting the IURC to revoke BCU’s certificate of territorial authority is the Commissioners’ first step in establishing a county-controlled regional water and sewer district. The Commissioners then think they will be able to make the I-65/State Route 334 interchange a high-tech corridor. This is unlikely. How can Boone County compete successfully for high-tech employers with Indianapolis, Lafayette, Silicon Valley in California, or the North Carolina Triad? The Commissioners are mistakenly squandering taxpayer money chasing a very speculative "investment." Boone County is basically a smaller bedroom and farming community with some limited retail, commercial, industrial, and distribution center development. A much more populous bedroom community with significantly more development (perhaps along the lines of Hamilton County), together with the accompanying larger and more expensive local government, is evidently the goal of the Commissioners. The semi-rural splendor of Boone County must be maintained. The IURC should NOT revoke BCU’s certificate of territorial authority.
(2) Limited Public Input: The Commissioners should NOT have made the decision to replace BCU with a county-controlled regional water and sewer district without a specifically publicized public meeting where all relevant matters, including cost estimates, could be openly discussed.
(3) Utility Service Cost Considerations: A county-controlled regional water and sewer district is not likely to result in lowered rates.
(4) Litigation Cost Considerations: The Boone County Council should obtain from the Commissioners in a public meeting a detailed legal expenses budget.
(5) Utility Purchase Cost Considerations: Existing taxpayer funds, a tax rate increase, and/or taxpayer-supported bonds will almost surely be needed for the Commissioners to purchase BCU. The cost will be much closer to the $15 million upper estimate than the $1.5 million lower estimate. Valenti-Held should certainly NOT be reimbursed by the Commissioners for the $4.1 million they paid to build utility lines. On December 31, 2001, Boone County had a cash balance of $20.695 million, of which $4.260 million was in the general fund. In January, Boone County then received $6.095 million more in COIT funds than was budgeted. Instead of purchasing BCU, these surplus funds should be used to provide a local homestead credit increase of up to 8% (as provided for in state law).
(6) Economic Development: The Commissioners have a grand vision of creating a high-tech corridor with high-paying jobs. Who will get these jobs? Boone County’s unemployment rate is half the national average. Is our current work force capable of transfer to high-tech jobs? The work force would probably have to commute or move in from elsewhere. Boone County’s population would grow considerably, and its citizens would end up paying more in terms of increased taxes for elaborate infrastructure, "corporate enticements," and government growth. Any local government revenue increases that exceed tax-increase costs would be decades away, and, even then, there would be no tax decreases.
(7) Ease of Doing Business: BCU does not seem to provide the "enticements" that businesses and developers have become accustomed to getting from utilities owned by municipalities.
(8) Environmental Concerns: The nine businesses ordered by the Boone County Health Department to connect to BCU lines should do so instead of waiting for a "better deal" from the Commissioners.
(9) IURC Hearing Testimony: The fact that the Commissioners did not testify before the IURC and "subject themselves to cross-examination with respect to their assertions" is irrelevant.
(10) Alleged Vendetta: The August 27 field hearing at Zionsville High School was inconclusive as to whether Commissioner Wendy Brant has a "vendetta" against BCU, or the Commisssioners are responding to credible complaints from a number of citizens.
(11) Alleged Bribe: If the IURC can determine beyond a reasonable doubt that BCU attempted to obtain a bribe from a developer to influence a rezoning decision, then the IURC should revoke BCU’s certificate of territorial authority for this reason alone. Even then, another privately-owned, for-profit utility should take the place of BCU. Under no circumstances should BCU be replaced with a county-controlled regional water and sewer district
The categorized information listed next was summarized from nine newspaper articles, ads, and letters dated 05/06/02, 07/10/02, 07/16/02, 07/27/02, 07/30/02, and 08/03/02.
BCU (07/27/02): The Commissioners began this effort in secret, using their positions to (1) disregard the principles of free enterprise and private property; (2) spend hundred of thousands of taxpayer dollars that could certainly be spent on more worthwhile projects in the county; and (3) continuously disregard all of the positive work being done by Boone County Utilities to provide excellent water and sewer service at reasonable rates to Boone County citizens and businesses, maintain and improve the environment in Boone County, and ensure the responsible installation of the infrastructure and equipment needed to handle future water and sewer demands of customers in Boone County.
COMMISSIONERS (07/16/02, 08/03/02): The Commissioners took action following cumulative complaints over a span of time from many different parties. It is in the county's best interest to protect its designated economic development corridor. While the mounting legal expenses are a serious matter, the loss of jobs and economic opportunities in Boone County's prime development corridor has already cost much more. Boone County needs to gain control of this area and the sewer and water services to protect its future. Anything short of revoking BCU’s license would be an invitation for disreputable people to operate a utility in any manner and discourage local government from seeking help from the IURC.
(2) LIMITED PUBLIC INPUT
BCU (07/27/02, 08/03/02): In November 2001, the Commissioners decided to file a significant legal action with the IURC, seeking the unusual remedy of revoking BCU’s authorization to provide sewer services. There was no public notice, and the public discussion can best be described as so vague that no one would have understood the Commissioners’ meaning. An Open Door lawsuit with respect to that unnoticed decision is pending. Indiana’s Public Access Counselor has publicly weighed in on the matter, citing that the Commissioners "unnoticed decision might well have violated state law by putting their hands to a document that was never discussed in a public meeting." Before deciding to file their significant legal action, the Commissioners made no effort to call, meet, discuss, communicate, or mediate with BCU or its management with respect to perceived differences or their perceived unmet needs of the county. In fact, the Commissioners did not attempt to communicate directly with BCU for most of the year preceding the filing of the IURC action. Instead, immediately after both Zionsville and Whitestown signed 30-year service area agreements with BCU against the wishes of Commissioner Brant, the Commissioners secretly sought legal research to file the current legal proceeding. The Commissioners filed the action without a specific budget and failed to convey to the County Council, with any degree of accuracy, an estimate as to the expected legal costs. Nobody asked the Commissioners to take the expensive, unusual road they have chosen. Other than legal input, the Commissioners have admitted they did little, if any, homework with respect to ascertaining or reaching conclusions about BCU's engineering, quality of service, its rates, or its system planning. The willingness of the three current Commissioners to utilize the authority of the county government against BCU reflects the irresponsible arrogance of power that some politicians seem to believe is their entitlement.
COMMISSIONERS (07/16/02): In the past, Boone County has been threatened with litigation from BCU when the county asked the utility to provide information important to zoning and land use decisions. Last year members from Valenti-Held, Brenwick, and Platinum development corporations came before the Commissioners during public meetings. They discussed legal actions and problems they had with BCU. In order to obtain sewer and water service, principals in Valenti-Held Corporation were required to sign a "gag" agreement with BCU preventing any subsequent negative testimony against the utility. The agreement also required Valenti-Held to support BCU's position against Boone County at the IURC. Yet, Mr. Allen Valenti and business associates approached the Commissioners in last year’s public meetings and begged the county to take action on their behalf against BCU.
(3) COST CONSIDERATIONS – UTILITY SERVICE
BCU (07/27/02, 08/03/02): Financial commitment and hard work have made reliable water and sewer utilities a reality in an area where residents had previously been unable to obtain sewer or water service. And all of it has been done at no cost to Boone County taxpayers. BCU has made developers pay for most of 26 miles of sewer and water infrastructure. Testimony in the IURC proceeding reveals that the hookup costs along Indianapolis Road are less than hookup costs in the economic development areas of Lafayette, identified by a Commissioners’ witness as the model. BCU’s monthly rates for water and sewer are reasonable and competitive for the area. BCU’s rates, which are set by the IURC, have never increased. Despite the Commissioners' complaint and attendant publicity, and Commissioner Brant's campaign literature attacking BCU, the IURC to date has received few complaints about those rates. Unfortunately, this expensive legal battle thwarts BCU’s best efforts to control costs. Would BCU like to see monthly rates lower? Certainly, but that is not likely to happen if developers can avoid paying their fair share as is supported by the Commissioners, and in light of the significant legal and management expenses with which BCU has been faced by the Commissioners' unrelenting legal spending. Commissioners claim that a county-owned utility would lower monthly fees. But in testimony before the IURC, even the Commissioners’ own hired witness failed to reflect a change in monthly rates if the Boone County government takes control of the utility. Commissioners propose a utility that – unlike BCU – would secure tax-subsidized loans, use tax-supported office space, and pay no county property tax. Would the monthly rates fall if Boone County owned and operated the utilities? Not likely. In his testimony, the Commissioners' hired witness proposed there would be no change in monthly rates, if they were in control. Rather, the Commissioners propose a utility that (unlike BCU) pays no county property tax, secures tax-subsidized loans, and uses tax-supported office space. The Commissioners' plan failed to reflect a discernible rate difference to utility ratepayers.
COMMISSIONERS (05/06/02, 07/016/02, 07/30/02, 08/03/02): Boone County officials began exploring in early May the formation of a regional water and sewer district. Boone County utility ownership would keep rates low. U.S. Filter Operating Services has offered to manage utility services for $85,000 to $95,000 a year. The BCU annual management fee is $240,000. Do any of you folks think that $90 a month, or more, for sewer and water for a home in Royal Run is reasonable or competitive? The Commissioners have received complaints about the rates BCU charged residential customers, the highest in the county. This year residents in the Royal Run subdivision complained they had not received sewer or water bills for four to five months.
(4) COST CONSIDERATIONS – LITIGATION
BCU (07/27/02, 08/03/02): Immediately after Zionsville and Whitestown signed 30-year service agreements with BCU in August of 2001, the Commissioners secretly planned further legal proceedings against BCU and failed to convey to the Boone County Council an accurate estimate of legal costs. Expensive legal efforts undertaken against BCU make little, if any, sense and are an unfortunate squandering of dollars that could and should have been better spent. After the expenditure of hundreds of thousands of dollars, the IURC hearing is not yet over and its cost may reach more than $400,000 before its conclusion. The Open Door Lawsuit (including BCU's claim seeking damages for the attorney fees incurred by BCU in defending against the legal action born in secrecy) remains pending. Another lawsuit continues against the County Board of Health's strange interpretation of Indiana law blaming the problem solver and not the polluters for septic failures on Indianapolis Road. Still another ill-advised action seeking to condemn a portion of BCU's sewer plant and equipment appears to be planned by the Commissioners, and they have begun spending more and more on that plan.
COMMISSIONERS (07/10/02): At its monthly meeting on July 9, the Boone County Council unanimously approved moving $100,000 from a Commissioners’ fund that pays insurance costs into the litigation line item. The amount spent by Boone County from January 1, 2002, to July 9, 2002, on attorneys and consultants for BCU matters was $287,210.41 (not including the costs for five days of hearings and extensive preparation related thereto in June and July). However, Commissioner Byron Loveless told the council, "we need funds for litigation. Even after a ruling at the IURC, there will still be a need for attorney fees to do whatever legal proceedings will take place. "We’ve never led you down any primrose path," Commissioner Loveless told the council. "We did not know for sure what this would cost." After the meeting, Commissioner Brant acknowledged that there is no upper limit on what the county will spend to revoke BCU’s license to operate. "Once we get through this, the rewards will be there," Commissioner Brant said.
(5) COST CONSIDERATIONS – UTILITY PURCHASE
BCU (07/27/02, 08/03/02): The Commissioners rely heavily on taxpayers footing the bill and taking control of a privately owned utility by paying little for it.
COMMISSIONERS (08/03/02): If the IURC rules in the county’s favor and allows it to own the utility, Boone County Councilman Charles Eaton said the utility purchase – with estimates ranging from $1.5 million to $15 million – would not come out of the county’s general fund. The county has no specific plans, but Eaton said he’d like to see any purchase funded from within the Indianapolis Road business corridor, possibly via a Tax Increment Funding district or a regional water and sewer district. Valenti-Held accountant Michael Jansen said that the company’s agreement to pay $4.1 million in utility lines has no provisions for reimbursement if BCU is sold. "But we believe we have a claim on those assets," he said.
(6) ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT
BCU (07/16/02, 07/27/02, 08/03/02): More than 26 miles of sewer and water infrastructure has been installed in just over four years. Where previously no sewer and water services existed or were available, BCU's hard work has made water and sewer service a reality. More than 550 homeowners and commercial customers have been hooked up. First-rate service has been delivered every day, 365 days a year. BCU is interested in providing efficient, safe, reliable, and environmentally sound water and sewer service to the citizens of Boone County. BCU has always been, and continues to be, totally committed to supporting orderly development and economic growth within its service area through the provision of responsible utility service. The evidence at a recent hearing before the IURC has overwhelmingly demonstrated that BCU's water and sewer system is well-designed, well-engineered and appropriately contemplates potential growth. Even the Commissioners’ own hired witness, an engineer, told the IURC, "Throughout the course of this, I have not challenged in any way the sizing or the facility - of the facilities that were installed in BCU's infrastructure. The size and service from anything that I have seen seems to have been more than adequate." BCU’s expert engineer found the Commissioners’ claims to the contrary to be baseless and "ludicrous." Economic expert Mark Davis testified before the IURC that the Commissioners must bear the blame for any economic development shortcomings in the I-65 corridor. "By bringing this action, (the Commissioners) have created substantial uncertainty, an uncertainty that is likely to continue to frustrate economic development efforts for a long time," Davis said. "It is the Boone County Commissioners’ filing of this action, and their continued pursuit of it, that will be viewed as an economic development negative." Mr. Davis was president of the Greater Lafayette Progress, Inc., when the automobile plant was located in that area. Mr. Davis identified key factors needed for successful community economic development efforts as including a plan, long and short-term commitment, cooperation and teamwork, coordination, consistency, ability to respond in a timely fashion and patience. Mr. Davis pointed out that the Commissioners had no economic development plan, had not been consistent, and had failed to communicate or to cooperate with other participants - such as BCU - in economic development efforts. The actual interest of the Commissioners in economic development is best revealed by their minimal annual contribution to the Boone County Economic Development Corporation of only $40,000, or less than I/7th of what has been paid in legal expenses so far by the Commissioners in their case at the IURC.
COMMISSIONERS (05/06/02, 07/10/02, 07/16/02, 08/03/02): "I’d like to make (the I-65/State Route 334 interchange) a high-tech corridor with high-paying jobs," said County Commissioner Jo Baldauf. However, BCU, perceived as a difficult entity to work with, may be flushing this vision down the drain. Developers and businesses who are potential customers have found working with the utility a nightmarish experience. Major business opportunities have been lost and delayed because of BCU. The Commissioners claim BCU has stifled developers with fees and conditions that hinder growth and line owner’s pockets. BCU’s reluctance to use profits to pay for infrastructure is why developers’ costs are high. BCU has failed to set aside as much as $2 million in user fees that should go toward new infrastructure and lacks an apparent financial plan to fund future growth. There has been testimony at the IURC questioning BCU's accounting methodologies and financial transactions. The IURC has been asked to require Mr. Cornelius (Lee) Alig to produce his business records involving BCU. Mr. Alig is BCU's main financial guarantor of record. He has been exempt in the past from public disclosure of his financial activities associated with BCU. Maybe now these documents, involving a troubled utility operating in Boone County’s rights of way, will become public records. Commissioners’ attorney Robert M. Glennon accuses BCU of "fuzzy, Enron-like accounting" with the utility’s relationship between itself and parent company Newland Resources LLC. Commissioner Loveless said "If we don’t have reliable sewer and water service, … we’re not going to have development in that area." The IURC, Commissioner Loveless said, "has stepped up" and "it looks like we are in a pretty good position." "They are definitely upset," Commissioner Brant agreed.
(7) EASE OF DOING BUSINESS
BCU (07/27/02, 08/03/02): BCU’s legal representative, Jack Wickes, Jr., said the Commissioners lack coordination and communication and rely on a "harsh demagoguery" instead of moving forward. Wickes said the Duke deal, in which Duke wanted an answer within two months about future service, coincided with a time when the Commissioners tried to block BCU’s territorial expansion. Many months ago, BCU reached a settlement accord with Valenti-Held and the two have been working cooperatively with each other. Brenwick Development Co. and Platinum Properties, however, long before the Commissioners' abrupt filing, sought relief from the IURC relating to disputes about the contract between BCU and them. The contracts relate to who will pay for facilities needed to serve their developments and the design and quality of those facilities. Even after the matter was heard and the IURC prescribed what was fair on the issues raised by those developers, they have still refused to execute an amended agreement with BCU that included the terms and conditions found appropriate by the IURC. Wickes said the clash with Brenwick Development Co. and Platinum Properties can be resolved. "In this instance, litigation has replaced mediation," he said. Acknowledging that BCU had not handled everything perfectly, Wickes said BCU did do things to assure "high quality service" and that the organization was interested in "talking with people to make it better." BCU's approach to developers has been designed to protect the long and short-term interests of BCU, its ratepayers, and the environment. Having the developers who benefit from the installation of sewer and water lines pay for those lines keeps the rates down in the future. Similarly, ensuring quality construction and a design that minimizes future maintenance reduces future rates.
COMMISSIONERS (05/06/02, 07/16/02, 07/30/02, 08/03/02):As testified to by Duke Realty’s advance project manager, BCU’s inability to deal quickly and fairly with developers cost Boone County some 3,200 jobs in a Duke Realty deal. BCU can take credit for Eagle’s Nest delay of two years; BCU failed to inform them that BCU could not serve them with water as promised because BCU did not have the authority to do so. It took a lawsuit by Valenti-Held to get service to Perry Industrial Park even after Valenti-Held built and invested $4.1 million for the lines. By the summer of 2001, it had become so bad that high-end home developers Brenwick Associates and Platinum Properties – normally competitors – joined forces in a complaint to the IURC. Brenwick is developing Sheffield Glen, a subdivision of 675 homes in Perry Township west of I-65. Platinum is planning Eagles Nest, a project of 522 homes and a 13- or 14-acre neighborhood commercial area in Eagle Township, also on the west side of the interstate. The developers have challenged BCU’s right to charge "availability fees" to extend service to the projects. In a decision near the first of May, the IURC upheld BCU’s right to charge the fees but said they must be included in its tariff schedule and subject to state oversight. Jose Kreutz, Brenwick’s vice president for operations, said "We have found it difficult, to say the least, to come up with a contract with BCU that is fair to all parties." Kreutz said Brenwick filed detailed construction plans with BCU two years ago but that the utility has refused to respond until contracts for service are signed. But Brenwick won’t sign what it considers a blank check until it has some idea of the costs of that service. "We have yet to receive a single comment from (BCU) about our construction plan," Kreutz said. "We have developed more than 5,000 lots over the course of 25 years and this is a first for us." The effect of these disputes, in the county's prime economic development corridor, is loss of jobs and needed commercial development.
(8) ENVIRONMENTAL CONCERNS
BCU (07/27/02, 08/03/02): BCU is owned by people who live close by and are involved in Boone County, and BCU is committed to improving the environment in Boone County. BCU has been part of the solution of pollution problems within its service territory - problems that existed long before BCU created the utility that stands ready to solve them. In contrast, Commissioners have recommended that polluters along Indianapolis Road, who are not connected to BCU’s sewage system, be subsidized by county taxpayers or other BCU customers. Valenti-Held accountant Michael Jansen wants Indianapolis Road businesses with failing septic systems to connect to water and sewer lines. The Boone County Health Department issued letters to nine businesses in the corridor, ordering them to connect to the lines by June 7. To date, none appeared to have connected, but Jansen said the order should be enforced "by legal action if necessary." The amount that those polluters must pay to hook up is less than if the IURC main extension rules were applied, as they are in many locations throughout the state.
COMMISSIONERS (07/16/02): Employees from the Boone County Board of Health have reported environmental problems within the BCU sewer territory. These problems have been acerbated by the delay of businesses and developers to use BCU because of disputed costs.
(9) IURC HEARING TESTIMONY
BCU (07/27/02, 08/03/02): Although the Commissioners signed a verified petition making serious allegations against BCU, they failed to testify, failed to take an oath to tell the truth before the IURC, and failed to subject themselves to cross-examination with respect to their assertions. In fact, no current Boone County official provided testimony at the hearing.
COMMISSIONERS (07/30/02): Each and every one of the Commissioners gave testimony via depositions prior to the actual hearings. They were subpoenaed by BCU’s attorneys and questioned individually for many hours while under oath.
(10) ALLEGED VENDETTA
BCU (07/27/02, 08/03/02): An unfair, misguided vendetta by the Commissioners is underway to shut down BCU. BCU has been the subject of a vendetta by Commissioner Brant since BCU’s formation in 1996. During that time she was litigating against BCU utilizing moneys donated to the Concerned Groups of Boone County Citizens (CGBCC) by private sources. Today, Commissioner Brant and her fellow Commissioners are using tax dollars to pursue the same misguided cause that Commissioner Brant led as an officer of the CGBCC. In assessing the weight to be given Commissioner Brant's allegations in her articles of late, one should consider that before the IURC Commissioner Brant failed to testify, failed to take an oath to tell the truth, and failed to subject herself to cross-examination with respect to the assertions she advances.
COMMISSIONERS (07/16/02): Several years ago, residents living along County Road 650 South, west of Interstate 65, sent a petition to the State Office of the Utility Consumer Counselor. The property owners were protesting BCU acquiring rights of way and additional "voluntary" gifts of land for the county's future road expansion plans. This was happening at the same time the county was being told at land use hearings that BCU lacked the finances to get its own lines west of 1-65, along such roads as 650 South.
(11) ALLEGED BRIBE
BCU: (this topic has not been addressed in BCU’s paid advertisements in The Lebanon Reporter)
COMMISSIONERS (07/16/02): There has been testimony at the IURC hearings that a principal in BCU attempted to obtain a $40,000 bribe from a developer to assure BCU's alleged abiIity to influence two former county commissioners to rezone land for development. Both commissioners have vehemently denied any knowledge of the alleged bribe.
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This page was last updated on 03/19/10.