The League of Women Voters of Brown County sent questionnaires to all candidates with opposition on the fall ballot in the following races: U.S. Congress District 9, State Senate District 44, State House District 65, Brown County Council at large, Brown County Commissioner Districts 1 and 3, Brown County Recorder and Brown County School Board. They will appear in the Brown County Democrat as space is available over the next few weeks. The League of Women Voters of Brown County — a nonpartisan organization — chose the questions. Answers appear in the candidates’ own words, though some were trimmed to fit available space.
NOTE: Brown County commissioner candidates will debate Tuesday, Oct. 11. See the forum schedule here: http://www.bcdemocrat.com/2016/09/30/candidate_forum_schedule-2/
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Please describe the occupations, training and experience that qualify you for this office.
(D) James L. Oliver: My family has a long history of dedicated service to the people of Brown County. I advocate for a return to our values: accountability, transparency and fiscal responsibility. We need comprehensive plans for cost-effective public services, public works and repairs. Our focus must be on improving roads, access to water and sewage and high-speed Internet while remaining within the confines of the budget. With experience in grant research and grant writing, I will find funding sources to fight a drug epidemic that damages our families and creates abuse, neglect, poverty and homelessness. I will listen to you and work tirelessly to build our infrastructure and attract businesses and workers while preserving our unique way of life. My experience and training are varied. I took several courses in environmental and urban geology. From farmer, to social worker, to supervisor, to caregiver, I understand the needs of average citizens because I am one.
(R) Dave Anderson: I left the Marine Corps as a non-commissioned officer in the 1960s. We learned responsibility, honesty, cooperation and patience. I know that experience has helped prepare me for everything else I have done in life. In 1967 I joined the Indiana State Police and was assigned to work out of the Bloomington Post. Over the next 24 years I served as uniformed patrolman, in white collar crime, narcotics, and finally in surface investigations. I was elected sheriff of Brown County and served from 1991 through 1998. Each year I prepared a detailed budget, and while determined to improve, educate and modernize the department, I received a thorough education in reality economics. In 1999, I opened Anderson Insurance Agency and it is still operating under my son, Chris, in Columbus. From 2003 through 2013, I operated Anderson Investigations locally. I became a Brown County commissioner in 2013, and for the last two years have been president.
(D) Tricia Bock: I live and work in Brown County and the other people who live here are my primary concern, this I believe is my greatest “qualification” for the job of commissioner. I was the quality of life director and community program representative for the American Cancer Society for 8.5 years. In the early years, I served as an office manager, and in later years had many training classes relating to social work and patient programs. I was a customer service representative for two local insurance agents (combined years, 11.5) and hold a property and casualty insurance license. I am a notary public and work as a legal assistant at Jones Law Offices. I am the Brown County representative for the South Central Community Action Program. I am an avid reader and enjoy helping people. I believe reading, understanding and listening are the things we need most in a commissioner.
(R) Jerry Pittman: Through my experience as a senior member of the Brown County Council and as a former small business owner/manager, I have gained the leadership and management knowledge that is needed to function effectively as a county commissioner, which is the executive branch of our local government.
Security, ADA compliance, energy inefficiencies and space were the deficits identified with regard to the courthouse, and these still exist. What are your plans for how to address them?
Oliver: The courthouse is perhaps the most beloved and recognizable symbol of our community. While the voters have decided that taxes should not be raised to improve the courthouse, our top priority is safety and security of the plaintiffs, the accused and the officials who use the facility, followed closely by ADA accessibility compliance. With a current budget of approximately $80,000 there is little we can do to improve the facility. Therefore, we must find alternate funding sources for improvements or redistribute money from the cumulative capital development fund. We need new bids for a entryway with adequate security and ADA compliance. This could be added at the north end of the building where it formerly connected with the jail. The space deficiencies and energy inefficiencies will be addressed at a later time contingent on the availability of funding. One alternative could be the renting of office space near the courthouse as a stop-gap measure.
Anderson: Security is of the utmost importance. We can pay reserve officers an hourly rate from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. We simply have to limit ingress and egress through one door. I believe we have the money right now to begin this. We are required by law to become ADA compliant. The bottom floor of the courthouse can be done relatively easily: wider restroom doors, new fire doors, etc. The top floor is virtually impossible to redesign. In 2014 a proposal for a new courthouse was presented. It was overwhelmingly turned down through a remonstrance. This was the correct response for our economic situation. The cost was exorbitant ($6 million to $8 million) and the presentation was poor. At that time I made a suggestion to the LWV that I would open a dialogue in 2017 regarding options for the existing courthouse or building a new one. We will let our voters decide next year.
Bock: Our courthouse is historic and should be preserved. I believe we can make our courthouse ADA compliant and more energy efficient and address security issues without building a new courthouse. I don’t think we should anticipate the need for a bigger courthouse. I believe our court is able to handle matters in Brown County. As to the question of space, I know most offices are scanning documents, but more needs to be done. Less paper frees up office space, reduces clutter and also makes those documents readily available without the necessity for an employee to search archives, or physically drive off site to get records. I would propose overtime pay for county employees and a reasonable deadline to get our documents online. If our courthouse had a fire, those documents not scanned could be lost.
Pittman: Too many issues such as the courthouse have been mired in political issues for years. My approach will be to have a diversified group of independent, experienced and talented Brown County residents who will report back to the commissioners with their recommendations. This group should be free of conflicts of interest and not associated with other special interests.
What will you do as commissioner to protect the quality and quantity of Brown County water, including any plans for expanding and improving sewer service?
Oliver: We need a long-range plan for sewer and water which delivers these services to the maximum number of homes in the most cost-effective way. We know that more customers connected to the system means a lower cost for each household. Can the Bean Blossom and Helmsburg sewer districts be combined? How can the system be expanded to include other areas of the community, especially lake communities such as Fox’s Lake or Lake LaSalle? How can we obtain water from existing publicly-owned sources such as Yellowwood Lake or privately-owned lakes? If we are unable to produce our own water supply, can we bring in water from surrounding communities? What is the most cost-effective solution to these problems?
Anderson: The Brown County Water Utility is owned by the membership of that utility. Members of the utility select the officers of the utility’s governing board. Operations and finance methods are controlled through state and federal regulation. Brown County government has absolutely no control or say in their operation. I will point out that they are currently installing 8- and 10-inch lines in the northern areas of our county. Compared to the existing 2- and 4-inch lines, this is a big and expensive improvement. The Brown County/Bean Blossom Sewer District is in the early stages getting the Bean Blossom area on board with sewer capabilities. Plans are also being made to run a line over to Woodland Lake. This will take some time as there will be some geographic challenges.
Bock: I will work with local people for the improvement of water quality and sewer systems. I am not a civil engineer or plumber, but I know that we have some good people who serve on the sewer board who are striving to improve these services for the people who live here.
Pittman: The Brown County Redevelopment Commission (RDC) and county sewer board should be reporting their coordinated plans, goals and progress to the commissioners at least every other month. This year, for the first time in Brown County’s history, with David Redding and Evan Werling leading the RDC and county sewer board, we have the coordinated leadership that is needed to begin solving Brown County’s longstanding economic development and wastewater treatment problems. Equally encouraging is the fact that both of these gentlemen are working closely with the town of Nashville to involve our entire community in solving these difficult problems.
Do you support a fire territory for Washington Township and the town of Nashville with its own taxing authority?
Oliver: If the fire territory for Washington Township and the town of Nashville is shown to be cost effective and service is improved by its establishment, then I would be in favor of it. I would prefer that the whole county remain one district as was decided in 2007. Whether to create a new territory with its own taxing authority should be decided by the voters and taxpayers.
Anderson: There are a couple reasons why I am reluctant to give a yes or a no to this proposal: 1) The inequity of the proposal between Washington Township (Nashville) and the other fire departments in the county. The idea of the fire territory is to generate money to hire full-time or paid firemen. We would need to know the full cost to the taxpayers, such as overtime, FLSA requirements, etc. The probability of other fire departments also wanting to hire paid staff is likely. 2.) What would happen to the fire district already in place in Hamblen Township? This department currently is very well managed and efficiently run. 3.) There would need to be input from taxpayers. I would not want to make any judgment either way until I received direction and opinions from those who will have to pay for it.
Bock: I do not support a fire territory for Washington Township, primarily because I do not see it solving the problem. We need more volunteers and public support of our firefighters. According to town council meeting notes, volunteer firefighters are working during the day and therefore cannot answer the calls from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m., when most calls come in. This means if Washington Township has paid firefighters, and a call comes in from another district, they will answer (providing coverage for the entire county). I have never financially supported the fire department, but it’s time we do so to make sure they have the equipment they need to be safe. As to the lowering of insurance, this is speculation only.
Pittman: Yes, in due time. However, today Brown County has one of the highest county income tax rates in the state of Indiana. This is not good for attracting businesses or new families to our community. Therefore, before spending more money, and raising taxes again, elected officials in the county and in the town of Nashville need to review how we can function more efficiently. We must eliminate duplicate services and unnecessary costs, so we can support better fire protection for our citizens.
How can you as county executive better oversee the various appointed boards and commissions and ensure they are coordinating in furthering a vision common to the county?
Oliver: The posting of type-written minutes rather than simply audio files of each of board and commission on the county website would help in the sharing of information between these entities. In addition, a summarized report and the minutes from each of the boards and commissions should be presented monthly at the county commissioners’ meeting. Vacant posts will be filled quickly.
Anderson: I believe that the president of each board should be happy to come before the commissioners at the first meeting of each quarter to report what progress has been made. Both commissioners and council members should be kept informed concerning what is taking place on these boards.
Bock: I would implement board volunteer expectation guidelines, including the following: a set number of meetings per year, mandatory quarterly reports to commissioners, stricter attendance guidelines, and mandatory public notice of meeting agendas on the commissioners’ webpage a week in advance of the meeting in order to encourage public input. Only with public input can we have a common vision. I also encourage those currently not on a committee to come forward and serve. It seems we have the same people on every board in Brown County. This must change!
Pittman: As a county commissioner, I will insist that we establish a rotating monthly schedule for the chairman or president of each board and commission to report to the commissioners and to the public, regarding their plans, goals, accomplishments and interactions with the boards and commissions that are critical to bringing improvement to our community.
What will you do to assure Brown County emergency services (ambulance, fire, police, public health and emergency preparedness) are adequate?
Oliver: What could be more important than the safety and security of our citizens and property? We need to resolve the fire district and countywide ambulance questions. In the interim, we can improve communication between emergency service providers, fund training of emergency responders, continue to improve water delivery infrastructure, and research alternate sources of water for firefighting.
Anderson: I do currently keep in close contact with these various agencies and departments. I confess that I have not been as involved as I could or should be with all of the fire departments in our county. We had issues with one fire department that have resulted in litigation and we hope that this will be resolved soon. The question of a fire territory has recently come up. I hope to meet with each of the county’s fire departments individually soon. I would want the input from each department along with the taxpayers before any decision could be made.
Bock: The first steps to adequate emergency services are to talk to those who work in those fields, because they know what they need to do their job adequately. We don’t need more studies, consultants or statistics. Too often, we pay a consultant when instead we could use those funds to pay more service people. We need to work together, not district against district, or town against county, but united, for the good of the people.
Pittman: My approach will be to have a diversified group of independent, experienced and talented Brown County residents who will report back to the commissioners with their recommendations. This group should be free of conflicts of interest and not associated with other special interests.
The board of county commissioners is responsible for the administration of county business. The board may enact ordinances and it exercises authority vested in it by the state legislature. Some examples of the powers and duties of the commissioners are: controlling, maintaining and supervising county property (including the jail, courthouse and public offices); auditing and authorizing claims against the county; receiving bids and contracts; supervising construction and maintenance of county roads and bridges; performing certain election functions; issuing bonds for borrowing (only with the approval of the council); establishing solid waste districts; enacting ordinances for fire protection and fire prevention; enacting ordinances on sewage disposal; and making appointments as provided by law.