Redevelopment groups still studying housing issue

Redevelopment groups still studying housing issue

The town and county redevelopment commissions have come to a loose agreement to get a formal study done in hopes of building more affordable housing to Brown County.

Lack of affordable housing has been discussed for years in school board, county and town government meetings, and its impact has been felt in the form of declining school enrollment and a shrinking tax base.

The commissions agreed to talk to the Indiana University School of Public and Environmental Affairs about making a Brown County housing assessment one of its projects for the spring of 2017. That could cost as little as a couple thousand dollars, said county redevelopment commission member Jim Schultz.

County redevelopment commission member Keith Baker also organized a meeting Oct. 4 for local builders to gather their expertise about what types of housing could be built in this market, at what price range, and where.

Town redevelopment commission Bob Kirlin, who’s also a real estate agent, told both commissions that without a formal study proving to potential developers that there’s a market for a certain kind of housing here, it’s unlikely that anything will be built that could be called “affordable.”

“There’s a million other places they can go in Indiana and make pretty good money,” he said.

What the groups hope the study will tell them is at least what kind of housing is in demand, how much those buyers would be able to spend on it, and perhaps what developers would need to be able to build, like easy access to utilities or a cluster of homes in a certain area to cut down on costs.

Consensus among the group was that housing would need to be priced to appeal to young families — around $150,000 or less, and any rental properties would need to be offered without strict income restrictions. But just saying that isn’t enough to get housing built; builders and banks need proof of the needs and wants, Kirlin said.

“We own quality of life,” Schultz said.

“The trend is for people to want to live in safe and secure areas.”

“There’s a need for housing every group, but we need to focus on rebuilding Brown County, so we need to focus on the young families … who have jobs who are going to contribute to Brown County and rebuild the school system and pay taxes, basically. Thats what we need,” said county redevelopment commission member Bruce Gould.

Town considering new traffic ticket fees

The Nashville Town Council is considering a proposal from the Nashville Police Department that would lower the cost of tickets for moving violations, yet keep more money from them for local use.

At the request of council, Chief Ben Seastrom reworked the fine schedule. His proposal lowers the local fine from $15 to $10.50. However, the state still requires at least $119.50 to be charged in various fees for tickets, he said. So, under the proposal, a ticket for a violation such as running a stop sign would cost $130.

Right now, the total fine for a stop sign violation is $156, Seastrom said.

Nashville officers don’t often write speeding tickets because the town’s ordinances are vague, allowing a fine between zero and $10,000, Seastrom said. Cleaning up that language was another motivator for altering the ordinance, he said.

Currently, the town of Nashville keeps very little ticket money.

Of the $119.50 the state requires to be charged, $70 is the actual ordinance violation fee. Of that $70, $38.50 goes to the state, $14 goes to Brown County and $17.50 goes to Nashville. The rest of the state-required fine goes toward various other fees, Seastrom said.

Under Seastrom’s proposal, the town could get $28 per ticket.

The town also would continue to receive $4 per ticket for “law enforcement continuing education.”

If the ticket is paid late, a $25 fee could be added, payable to the town.

The council hasn’t voted on that proposal.

Town Attorney Andy Szakaly has been working with Brown Circuit Court Judge Judith Stewart to create a town traffic court day or time. Seastrom said in order for a municipality to write a local ticket and not a state ticket, it has to have the local capability to review them.

If the judge rules a ticket invalid, the ticketed person would pay no court costs and no ticket fines, and the town would get no ticket money, Seastrom told the town council. If the ticket is upheld, no additional court costs would be added either, he said.

Another option is a deferral program, which erases the ticket from a person’s record if they pay a higher fine and follow the conditions of the program. The town could keep $118.50 from each deferred ticket, according to Seastrom’s proposal.

Any new fees or procedures wouldn’t go into effect until a new ordinance is drafted and published, Szakaly said.

Town budgeting for more road work in 2017

The town of Nashville’s advertised budget might look a little different than what it asked for last year, but the result will be about the same.

The reason is that the “game” has changed, said Nashville Clerk-Treasurer Brenda Young.

The town is advertising $675,000 for its general fund for 2017. Last year, it advertised $945,000.

In the past, it has been common practice among local government units to advertise the budget high and anticipate cuts from the Indiana Department of Local Government Finance.

This year, new legislation streamlined the process, Young said.

The town was advised to advertise its “bare-bones” budget with a minimal 10 percent of padding in some places, and to ask for additional appropriations as needed, she said.

Young said $20,000 was moved from the levy of the general fund to the motor vehicle highway fund, in anticipation of another state road grant opportunity in 2017. Having more money to put up as a state grant match could mean more of the town’s road work getting done.

She said it’s likely the town will have to use some of its economic development income tax money to bolster the general fund next year.

In addition to moving money out of general to help fix more roads, the town is looking at needing to replace the police station’s roof, which is leaking into trash cans and overhead lights.

Young said the town may also have to be tighter with its state riverboat gambling money, which had been a place it could pull from to make donations to community projects.

The town has received notice of a possible lawsuit related to the death of a Bartholomew County teenager who was pursued by an off-duty Nashville Police Department reserve officer. That officer has since resigned.

That isn’t a budget consideration, though. Council member Alisha Gredy — who also works for the town’s insurance agent — said the town carries insurance that should cover some costs.

In September, the council OK’d up to $15,000 of consulting work with accountants HJ Umbaugh & Associates to do some long-range financial planning for needs and wants.

The firm told the council that it could issue about $800,000 in general obligation bonds for projects, which would be paid back by increased taxes. However, the council has no plans to do that at this time.

A public hearing on the budget will take place at 6:30 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 6, at Town Hall.

INDOT conducting local public transit meeting

The Indiana Department of Transportation will lead a meeting to discuss public transportation Wednesday, Oct. 12, from 10 a.m. to noon at the Brown County YMCA.

The meeting is intended to identify community transportation needs, according to an INDOT news release. Users, potential users and those involved in public or private transportation are encouraged to attend.

INDOT also has a transportation needs assessment survey posted at surveymonkey.com/r/IndianaTrips.