Common Council Meeting 12/16/2019

City-NEws-e1455073509249The Charlestown Common Council met for a regularly scheduled meeting on Monday, December 16 at 6:30pm. Following is a summary with some audio of the meeting. *My recorder malfunctioned and stopped recording at about 10 minutes into the meeting. The partial recording is posted.*

  1. Call to Order/Pledge of Allegiance led by Ted Little
  2. Invocation led by LC McCawley from Charlestown Church of God
  3. Determination of a Quorum and Roll Call: Member present were Michael Vaughn (District 1), Tina Barnes (District 2), Ted Little (District 3), Brian Hester (District 4), and JT Cox (At Large). Also in attendance were Mayor Bob, Clerk Treasurer Donna Coomer, and city attorney Michael Gillenwater.
  4. Approval of Agenda
    • Motion to approve made by Ted Little
    • Seconded by Michael Vaughn
    • No Discussion
    • Unanimous approval
  5. Approval of prior meeting’s minutes, current claims, and payroll allowance docket from 11/29/2019 to 12/08/2019 combined into one motion for approval
    • Motion to approve made by Brian Hester
    • Seconded by JT Cox
    • No Discussion
    • Unanimous approval
  6. Ordinances and Resolutions
    • Resolution No. 2019-R-20 – A Resolution Authorizing Intervention in Pleasant Ridge Lawsuit
      • Motion to approve made by Ted Little
      • Seconded by Michael Vaughn
      • During discussion Michael Gillenwater said that several years ago the city was named as a defendant in a lawsuit filed by the PRNA and residents of Pleasant Ridge. The lawsuit seeks an injunction in the way the city enforces its property maintenance code, which was rescinded by the council after a decision by the court of appeals, and they have not yet adopted a new property maintenance code. He said the November trial was delayed due to the judge’s family issues and the trial will be rescheduled. He said part of the relief the plaintiffs requested relates to the way the council deals with enforcement of a code. He said the way he reads the lawsuit it could restrict the rights of the council in relation to penalties that might be adopted by the council. The enforcement of ordinances is up to the administration but passing of ordinances are set by the council. Up to this point he believed that the council and administration were aligned in the lawsuit. On Friday the judge will set another date for trial. According to Mr. Gillenwater, if the plaintiff’s request affects the city council then he thinks they should be named as agents in that case. He said this resolution would allow them to ask the judge to allow the council to become party to the lawsuit if the judge agrees the decision could affect their rights in trial or settlement negotiations. The resolution authorizes a filing with the court to request they be added as a party to the lawsuit.
        • Brian Hester asked if this will set a precedent for 5-10 years down the road that they will have a seat at the table? Mr. Gillenwater said no, this is just for this lawsuit.
        • Tina Barnes asked why is this not being left to the next council. Mr. Gillenwater, said because there is a pre-trial meeting scheduled for Friday. If the judge gives assurances that he’s not infringing on their rights then they might not want it. But the way he reads it they are asking that the city never be allowed to have daily, accumulating fines. He believes that decision should be made by the council, not a judge. If the city administration chooses not to enforce things that’s fine and that has been enforced that way before.
        • Ted Little asked a question about the penalty that can be set for fines. Mr. Gillenwater said that the council should be allowed to make those decisions. The council gets to decide what ordinances are in place and the administration has the right to decide how to or if to enforce them. He said if the plaintiffs say they’re not infringing the council’s rights then the council doesn’t need to be involved, but he’s not convinced that they aren’t asking for that. He said this is a preemptive type ruling.
        • Ted Little asked if it’s passed, will the council have the right to ask the mayor to be involved in conversations about the lawsuit and find out what’s going on and share with the council? Mr. Gillenwater said the council always has the ability to request the mayor work with them and the mayor can likewise reach out to the council. He said they’re getting ready to set a trial date and he doesn’t know how far out it will be.
        • Ted Little said if there’s been no changes to the current lawsuit then passing this has no bearing on it. Mr. Gillenwater said that the plaintiffs have asked for nominal damages (less than $10) this just guarantees the council a seat at the table. He said if the new council doesn’t want to do this then they can withdraw from the case but he thinks the current council has talked to some of the new council members about this.
        • Ted Little said that one of his concerns is that he sat on this council and passed an ordinance to annex a part of the city and then a new mayor de-annexed that area. He thinks the council should be included in conversations about the lawsuit. He said that as of today this lawsuit doesn’t have a financial impact on the city (the rest was unclear). He said the new council can always handle it again next month.
        • Mayor Hall said he doesn’t see a downside to adopting the resolution tonight because if the judge says they’re not involved then they aren’t, but he recommends passing it. He said judges shouldn’t be able to infringe with the separation of powers.
      • Mayor Hall called for the vote. Council members Michael Vaughn, Ted Little, Brian Hester, and JT Cox voted yes. Tina Barnes voted no. 
    • Resolution No. 2019-R-21 – A Resolution Approving Funding
      • Motion to approve made by JT Cox
      • Seconded by Ted Little
      • During discussion Mayor Hall addressed the settlement of the lawsuit that took place last week. In regard to the settlement with the landlords, the settlement was pushed by the insurance company. He said that people on his side didn’t think the landlords deserved any money. He said the cost over the last year has been over $1 million so the insurance company encouraged the city to go to the settlement table. He said the city wanted to get it behind them too. The terms are that the insurance company will pay $1.2 million, the developers will pay about $215,000 and the city will pay $100,000. The insurance company agreed to send the city $150,000 for the continuation of the PR lawsuit. They said they will not cover the mediation so there will be a few outstanding bills relating to that. He said that the mediator said that none of the parties were happy in any of the rooms. He said he’s glad it’s behind us as a city and it’s over. Brian Hester asked if there was an admission of guilt and Mayor Hall said no, there was no admission of guilt. He said he thinks it was legal extorsion because the plaintiff’s drove the costs up. He said the city gets sued often and insurance companies settle because often it costs more to go to trial than settle. He said he hopes the pleasant ridge cases will be over soon.
      • Mayor Hall called for the vote and it received unanimous approval
  7. Old Business
    • Danbury Oaks – Mayor Hall said the plan commission held a hearing for Danbury Oaks to be approved for a PUD proposal. He introduced Ordinance Number 2019-OR-20 which approves the recommendation of the plan commission.
      • Tina Barnes asked for a copy of the ordinance and Mayor Hall said it will be drafted according to the plan commission’s recommendation then presented. Mr. Gillenwater said that the plan commission is an advisory commission and if the council votes to approve it tonight then he will put it together and they can vote on a second reading. Mayor Hall said this will constitute the first reading and the new council will look at the second reading. Tina Barnes asked if they should wait since they don’t have an ordinance to review. Mr. Gillenwater said if they vote on it in the meeting after the plan commission makes the recommendation then they don’t have to publish a public meeting notice. Brian Hester said they had a public hearing at the plan commission. Mayor Hall called for the vote and it passed unanimously then Brian Hester noted he forgot to ask for a first and second.
    • Motion to approve made by Brian Hester
    • Seconded by JT Cox
    • Mayor Hall called for the vote before discussion and Brian Hester requested he wait until after discussion so he could explain what happened in the plan commission meeting of which he is a member. 
    • During discussion Brian Hester said residents who attended the plan commission meeting were concerned about traffic and that the developers addressed their concerns. He said that they were concerned about lighting and the safety of turning off 403 onto Balmer Lane. The developers are aware and will address those concerns as well.
      • JT Cox said this involves his neighborhood and that he’s lived there about 13-14 years since the neighborhood was half-way developed. He said recently houses are selling quickly to fill a housing need. He said everyone is happy with how things are going. He said one of the things he liked about his house was the 67 acres empty behind his home, but he understands the need for growth so he’s excited about the new development.
      • Ted Little said he wanted to address the new council and executive coming in. He said that 403 is a very heavily traveled road and a lot of work needs to be done to accommodate the travel. He recommended the city work with the county to develop a roundabout or turning lanes to help. He said there have been talks about a new road connecting 403 at Danbury to Highway 62 and that houses can be built there.
      • Mayor Hall said he was in a meeting like this 18 years ago when Danbury Oaks was proposed the first time when people from Lakeview/Highview expressed similar concerns.
    • Mayor Hall called for the vote and it received unanimous approval
  8. Mayor Hall said that this is his last council meeting. After the recount did not change the results on Saturday he said he notified the press that he is conceding the race. He thanked the city council for their work in the last four years. He said that a lot of good has come out of the city in their term. He said he hopes they will work with the new administration and that nobody wins if Charlestown doesn’t succeed. He said in regard to Pleasant Ridge, six years ago when they started the Blight Elimination Program that the cry has been to hold the landlords accountable and tear down the damaged houses, and leave everyone else alone. He said he thinks they accomplished those goals. They held the landlords accountable and tore down bad houses. He said crime is down in the neighborhood and regardless of the hype, they’ve never asked a homeowner to move. As he closes the Pleasant Ridge issue, he said it’s been difficult, but there are good things that have come out of it. He wished everyone well. He said it’s been an honor to serve with Donna Coomer and thanked her for her long term service. He thanked his team and staff with whom he has been able to serve.
  9. Adjournment
    • Motion to adjourn made by Ted Little
    • Seconded by JT Cox
    • Unanimous approval

Partial audio here:

Author: Treva Hodges

Resident of Charlestown, Indiana. Advocate.

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