Indoor Sports Complex RFP

I had the honor and privilege last evening (10-22-2019) of offering the motion to issue a Request For Proposals (RFP) to build an indoor sports facility on the site of the former America’s Best Inns and Suites at Eastern Boulevard and I-65.
The RFP calls for a developer to create the complex on a 4.1 acre tract of land where the motel had been situated. The development, now being called the Eastern Boulevard Gateway Sports Complex, is an opportunity for qualified developers to create a complex that is “harmonious with the neighborhood character” and include indoor facilities for sports such as but not limited to soccer, tennis and basketball.
Clarksville School Board President Bill Wilson, who sits on the Redevelopment as a non-voting member, said the development would interface with the school corporation’s sports activities in addition to serving to attract traveling teams and tournament play. The facility will augment the town’s existing outdoor sports facilities that already attract many out-of-town teams for league and tournament play adding to the local economy with lodging, meal and shopping expenditures.
Developers must submit their proposals by November 26 in order to qualify to be considered as the primary developer. The site will be leased to the successful developer for an initial period of 25 years with two optional 5-year extensions being made available. The town will retain ownership, but because of the lease arrangement, the developer will pay property taxes on the development.
The existing hotel complex is to be demolished by the end of the year to make room for the development. In the end, the town will own the site and collect rent and taxes on the development.

My position on Police and Fire

Remember, the operative word in “Political Action Committee” is “Political.”

As we approach the Nov. 5 General election, I want to make sure you know my position on our police and fire departments, both of which have become politically active through Political Action Committees (PACs) in this election cycle.

I fully understand the desire of their members to work to maximize the benefits they receive for their services to the town. In my opinion, we have incredibly qualified and committed employees in both departments. Both have gone above and beyond the call of duty time after time.

This year both departments interviewed Town Council candidates and most of their questions dealt with negotiations on salaries and benefits. It should come as no surprise that they have chosen to endorse those candidates who are in line with their salary and benefit wishes. That is why the PACs exist.

The town must provide fair wage and benefit packages to all town employees and that means that not everyone can have everything they want. I have worked hard to provide police and fire with the best benefit package we can afford as well as providing both departments with the manpower, equipment and training they need to do their job safely and effectively. When I came on the council in 2012, the base salary for a 1st class police officer was $1,619.09 per pay. Today, that figure is $1,913.47. That’s an 18 percent increase. In 2012 a 1st class firefighter received $1,544.38 per pay. Today, that number is also $1,913.47 or a 24 percent increase. Both police and fire receive the town’s insurance package for $1 per year. That gives both departments a decent benefit package and helps with employee retention.

There is a deeper issue

But there is a deeper issue that you, the voter, should be aware of. When you are approached by a representative of either PAC, ask their position on retention of the respective department chief. If they are honest, you will learn that within the departments, there are factions pushing for replacement of the two chiefs; Fire Chief Brandon Skaggs and Police Chief Mark Palmer. Not all members hold this position but those most active in the PACs who are contacting you should be asked their position on the matter.

I want to make my position perfectly clear. If I am re-elected to the Town Council, I will not replace any department head in the town for political reasons. The council took the step of granting department heads the status of permanent employees. This protects them from political changes in the future. While I can’t think of a department head who has not made their share of mistakes, I fully stand behind all of them and my position is that we have one of the best overall management teams in our region.

Employees must be evaluated in a professional manner and on an ongoing basis and I will ensure that happens, however they must not be replaced summarily for political reasons or because a PAC feels a new department head can get them a better benefits deal.

Don’t get me wrong, not all members of either PAC want this change. It is your job as a voter, when approached by someone in either Political Action Committee to ask them if they are trying to bring about changes at the top of their respective department. If they do and you support their cause, then, vote for the candidate they support. If they are seeking to fire the existing police or fire chief and you oppose that action, then I ask for your support.

I love being a public servant. I love working on your behalf for the town. I love talking to you about issues facing the town and answering your questions about the town and its projects. But I thoroughly hate the distasteful and occasionally deceptive environment that permeates the community prior to a town election.

Remember, the operative word in “Political Action Committee” is “Political.”

I must be fair to all town employees

The Clarksville Police Political Action Committee (PAC) has announced the candidates it will support in the upcoming election. As with the Clarksville Fire Department Political Action Committee, I did not receive their endorsement. This is not a surprise because I have steadfastly held to the position regarding salary negotiations that I cannot guarantee salary and benefit increases that exceed the limit of what the State of Indiana allows as an annual increase in Clarksville’s tax levy.

Both departments are among the highest paid and have the best benefit packages of all town employees. The Police PAC wanted a guarantee that I would support compulsory arbitration on their salary package. My response was that I am willing to negotiate with them but that I cannot give them more money than the state gives the town as an annual increase in our levy. Doing so would be to deprive all other employees of a fair salary increase.

I have supported requests for new hires and equipment purchases from both departments and feel strongly that we have the best police and fire department in the area. They are deeply involved in our community and I am very proud of them. However, I cannot offer a promise of a blank check when it comes to salary negotiations. When you look at their salary and total benefit package, I believe they are being paid well above what almost all other town employees receive.

While I would love to have their endorsement, I cannot ignore the fiscal responsibility I have to the residents of the town and to all other town employees.

A regrettable non-endorsement

I received a letter today (7-31-19) from the Clarksville Fire Political Action Committee thanking me for participating in their interview process but advising me that they will not be endorsing my candidacy. It’s regrettable, but not surprising. I understand there is a group of firefighters who want to replace Chief Brandon Skaggs. I do not support that effort. He has done an exemplary job in my opinion and is moving the department in the right direction.

The Council has also been involved in salary negotiations with firefighters and regrettably cannot meet all of their requests and stay within the budget the state allows for Clarksville. I did vote to create a fire territory in concert with Jeffersonville Township which will allow for a one-time reset of the tax levy allowed for fire services and hopefully allow the town to meet more of their requests. It is easy to promise all sorts of things in a campaign. It is totally another thing to have to live within the town’s budgetary constraints.

River Falls Mall Redevelopment

The Town of Clarksville, through its Redevelopment Commission, has entered into an agreement to purchase a large portion of the River Falls Mall property by this Fall in order to facilitate its redevelopment. Below is a link to the formal press release on the project and some additional background information. Additionally, I am providing a link to Clarksville’s Annual Report on Tax Increment Financing (TIF) as required by Indiana statute. The report outlines the state of Clarksville’s TIF district and explains where its revenue comes from and current and future financial commitments of TIF.

Thank You For Your Support

A big THANK YOU to everyone who came out and supported me in the May primary. My vote total nearly doubled the combined vote totals of both Republican candidates in the 2nd District race.
You have my word that I will continue to be a servant leader representing all residents in Clarksville. To those who didn’t vote for me, I will do my best between now and the General election to win your support.
Clarksville benefits the most with qualified candidates who have experience in town government and a vision for Clarksville’s future that will benefit everyone.
I applaud all candidates who took the initiative to put their name on the ballot and offer to become a servant leader.
Again, thank you for your support. You will soon hear the many plans I have for a great future for Clarksville.

New Fire Territory

Clarksville has joined Jeffersonville Township in creating a Fire Territory to serve both units of government. The action was by unanimous vote of the two governing boards and paves the way to adequately funding fire protection.

Clarksville has dealt with under funding of its fire department over the years because of the maximum tax collection imposed by the Indiana Department of Local Government Financing which established the maximum amount of taxes that could be raised decades ago. In the intervening time, the needs of the town have grown substantially while the tax levy has been limited to around 3 percent growth annually.

The result has been that we have seen a gradual reduction in the ability of the town’s fire department to provide adequate protection. The matter is compounded by the fact that the department is now asked to provide first responder services to back up and, in some cases, in lieu of ambulance service.

Our business districts have grown substantially as has housing. The result is that the department has been stretched to the breaking point and the lives of our firefighters, as well as residents and business customers, have been at growing risk.

Creation of a fire territory allows the town to partner with another unit of government and establish a new base rate that can provide adequate protection in personnel and equipment. The move has the potential to impact property taxes. Residents who are already at the property tax cap will see no increase. Those who are below the cap will see an increase. Residents of Jeffersonville Township outside of the town have paid only 4 cents per $100 of assessed valuation while town residents have paid around 55 cents per $100 of assessed valuation. The fire territory will even out that disparity.

In the end, the increase in fire protection services could reduce insurance rates by giving the town a better fire protection rating.

The unanimous vote of the council shows the determination of the town council to improve safety for our firefighters as well as businesses and residents. We have not taken this action lightly. We realize that because staffing levels of the department are a fraction of levels recommended by national fire safety experts, lives and property have been placed in jeopardy. The move to create the fire territory will help rectify that staffing disparity and allow us to save annually for replacement of fire trucks in order to avoid costly bond issues.

A word of thanks

Democrat Kenny Brown signed up to run in the Clarksville Town Council 2nd District race but withdrew his candidacy on Monday, February 11 to help clear the field for the primary. Not only that, but he has extended an offer to work on my campaign. I want to publicly extend my thanks for his decision which helps present a stronger field in the second district race.

Kenny is related to former Clarksville Town Councilman Don Tetley who has also volunteered to work on my behalf. Their actions show their devotion to the Clark County Democrat Party. I want to extend a public thank you to Don as well for his support.