Sewer board’s work, leadership affirmed after ‘alleged misconduct’ meetings

The Brown County Council took no action at a public meeting called immediately after an executive session about possible misconduct.

Instead, council members and other speakers affirmed their support of the leadership and the work of the Brown County Regional Sewer District Board.

The purpose of the executive session was to make sure the Bean Blossom sewer project continues to move forward, council President David Critser said after the public meeting.

He said the council had received information that there was a problem with someone involved in the sewer project. But after members heard a report from sewer board President Evan Werling during the private executive session Monday night, Critser said the problem had been solved.

This was the second executive session within eight days that the council had called to discuss information concerning “alleged misconduct” of an individual over whom the council has jurisdiction.

Brown County Health Board President Jim Zimmerly said he understood it to be an effort to remove Werling from his position as president of the sewer board, and Critser responded, “You’re the first to bring it up.”

Critser would not talk on the record about any specific incident that led to that discussion.

Zimmerly and two other speakers said Werling has “vital management skills” and removing him from the board would be a mistake. Werling’s term on the sewer board lasts through 2018.

Zimmerly told the council that it had taken a bit of work to learn all the personalities involved in the issues the health board is involved in, which includes a years-long effort to extend sewer service to the Bean Blossom and Woodland Lake area. He said he would do whatever it takes to make sure that the sewer project comes together, which he said is “greatly needed and has been for the last 20 years.”

Sewer board member Terri Schultz told the council that the board has been trying to work through the Indiana Rural Community Assistance Program’s steps to complete a wastewater project, and No. 1 — which reads “assess the level of need for a project” — “has been our biggest problem,” she said.

The sewer board — which has seen some recent changes in its membership — has been studying various options for wastewater treatment for years. In the past, it had looked at partnering with the Helmsburg Regional Sewer District.

Late last year, the board solicited and received a proposal from the Nashville Town Council to make use of the town’s excess sewer capacity and run wastewater through new lines down to Nashville.

In February, the sewer board voted unanimously to build its own wastewater treatment plant somewhere in the Bean Blossom area instead, citing a large cost difference between the Nashville and Bean Blossom options.

Werling said in the March 7 sewer board meeting that parts of the contract Nashville proposed were surprises to him and he did not renegotiate it because “when somebody pulls that on me, they don’t get a second chance … and I don’t want to deal with you.”

Council members Critser and Keith Baker said they were confident after hearing from Werling at the executive session Monday night that the sewer project would move forward in a professional manner.

Woodland Lake resident Paul Nelson said he would have liked to have heard the private presentation made to the county council about the status of the sewer project.

Critser said the public probably could hear it by July, but Werling said it may be discussed as early as the regularly scheduled sewer board meeting at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, April 4.

Werling also scheduled a special meeting for 10:30 a.m. Monday, April 3 with representatives of the USDA and State Revolving Loan Fund to discuss sewer project financing.

Both meetings will be in the Salmon Room of the County Office Building.

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Sara Clifford has been raising a family in Brown County since 2005 and leading the Brown County Democrat since late 2009. In addition to editor, she is the beat reporter for town government and writes columns, features and general news stories.