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Monday, December 2, 2013

The Hometown Informer

Page 6

EDITORIAL

Part One: River Bluff Road Investigation By: David Shelton

This editorial is in reference to the current boondoggle involving corruption, cover-up, the misappropriation of county funds, manpower, and equipment. Lies have been printed, in an effort to conceal and cover this up. The spin doctors have been very busy on this one. WE, the people, do not believe for a second that these actions are acceptable, on any level. Below, facts will be presented in the form of reported news accounts and by identification of other key facts discovered about this illegal action(s). On Friday, September 27, it was first reported on the Facebook page “Take Back Vincennes” that the Knox County Highway Department was preparing to pave a private road, and unnamed connector road, just north of Vincennes. The road was identified as North River Bluff Road. A physical inspection of the road, on that date, revealed North River Bluff Road and the connector road had already been prepared for paving. Dozens of small white survey flags, all of which displayed the inscription, “Knox County Highway Department 812-882-2884” were observed, and photographed. Research completed on that date revealed that North River Bluff Road, the connector road, and the road that is connected to North River Bluff Road, were all PRIVATE ROADS. Notification had been received that the County Highway Department had planned on paving the road on Tuesday, October 1st. After the posting on TBV, on September 27th, the Knox County Highway Department and County Commissioners were apparently contacted by the Vincennes Sun Commercial. In an article, published on Tuesday, October 1st, Knox County Highway Superintendant Ron Cardinal was attributed with the following statements. “The only paving project the county is undertaking this fall, he said, is on Keller Road…” Superintendant Cardinal further stated that “There aren’t any other county paving projects ongoing, at the moment, though”. Later in the same article, Knox County Commissioner Rowe Sargent was also interviewed… “Sargent also said the commissioners have not given the go ahead on any paving projects at this time, with the exception of Keller Road.” Still in the same article… “Cardinal said a private project on North River Bluff Road, just north of Vincennes, is causing some confusion as to what the county is funding. “The people who live on the road are paying for that project on their own.” “Dave O’Mara, a company from Washington, is paving that. The County’s not paying for that.” An inspection was completed on Tuesday, October 1st, which revealed the only paver owned by the Knox County Highway Department had been delivered to the paving site. This paver was photo-documented, as it was located in the grass, near the cul-de-sac end of Sugar Maple Road, adjacent to the connector road to North River Bluff Road. Also noteworthy was the fact that in the October 1st edition of the VSC, no notification of an upcoming County Commissioners meeting was printed. On Wednesday, October 2nd, a fullsize work crew from the Knox County Highway Department were documented as they worked on paving North River Bluff Road, and the connector road to Sugar Maple Road. Four separate inspections were completed, from approximately 8:00 a.m. through approximately 2:00 p.m., during which multiple Knox County Highway Department vehicles were observed/documented at the scene. Multiple County Highway employees were also documented as they completed the paving work. AT NO TIME were any vehicles observed at the location, which belonged to Dave O’Mara construction. On this date, the VSC posted a notice of an upcoming Knox County Commissioners meeting for Friday, October 4th, 2013. Meeting was scheduled for 8:00 a.m., in the Commissioners room, Knox County Courthouse. (Please note that most regularly scheduled meetings are held in the Eva Hill Auditorium, Good Samaritan Hospital. These meetings are almost always in the evening.)

On October 3rd, Thursday, the VSC again posted a notice of the upcoming, October 4th Commissioners meeting. On October 4th, Friday, the VSC posted the last notice of the Commissioners meeting, scheduled for that date, at 8:00 a.m. (Are not special meetings prescribed to be advertised as such?) (Isn’t the reason for special meeting also to be published?) It was reported on this date, by various local radio stations, that residents of North River Bluff Road appeared before the Commissioners and presented to them a check, in the amount of $18,000.00. It was further reported that the same residents then asked for the county to take over the private road and make it a public, county road. (Please Note: Multiple County Council members have contacted the Knox County Auditor and have inquired about this purported check. The Auditor stated that she has not seen the check, and that it has not been in her possession. Keep in mind, all monies are mandated by state law to be appropriated in, and out. If a check had been presented to the Commissioners, it would then have to be forwarded to the County Auditor.) On Sunday, October 6th, The VSC had another newspaper article about the Road, in which it was reported the county received over 2000 feet of freshly paved road. The article continued by stating “It’s a road the county already maintained to an extent because there are school buses from three different school districts that travel the road,” said county attorney Dale Webster. “The property owners have agreed to have the repaving done and have already written a check.” Originally, the road was expected to be paved by Dave O’Mara Construction, INC., of Washington prior to the county receiving the road. But when residents offered to pay for material, wear and tear on the vehicles and employee wages, the county agreed to do the work. “We refused to do anything until we had the contract in hand signed by all of the residents dictating how much they had to pay and what we were responsible for, but you know, it was a really good partnership between the landowners and county,” said commissioner Larry Holscher, “They paid us the (Indiana Department of Transportation) rates, so we thought that would be acceptable.” Commissioner Donnie Halter said the project started several months ago when crews were in the area to replace a crushed culvert. “We had to replace that culvert because of the school bus traffic, and because we gave up a ton of property earlier this year with our county roads, we thought it made sense to add this one into our books.” Halter said. “The roads we gave up didn’t have the school bus traffic, and they weren’t heavily traveled roads. This one isn’t necessarily heavily traveled, but dos have several school buses every day. This gave us an opportunity to take into possession, at absolutely no expense to us, another road we can add to our mileage and get money for from the state,” he said. “This is a win-win situation, and it’s a partnership with everyone working together.” Let’s take the above account from the VSC article paragraph by paragraph. How long has the county maintained this private road? Was it legal to maintain private property, at taxpayer expense? How much in taxpayer dollars has been expended on this private road? What other private roads are being maintained by the county? The transportation directors from Vincennes Community School Corporation, South Knox School Corporation and North Knox School Corporation were contacted. All three related that their respective school corporations do not run buses on North River Bluff Road. The transportation director from Rivet related that they have a bus that runs that area, but did not state specifically North River Bluff Road. The mention that the property owners have already written a check brings up a

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few questions: Where is the check? Who wrote the check? How much was the check written for? How did they come up with the amount? Has the check been appropriated into the county funds? It was reported that “…the residents offered to pay for material, wear and tear on the vehicles and employee wages, the county agreed to do the work.” How was the amount to be paid by the landowners calculated? A copy of a previously submitted proposal, given by the Knox County Highway Department to the Knox County Parks Department, for work at Ouabache Trails Park, was obtained and reviewed. Utilizing this itemized proposal, it was an easy matter to figure what the landowners should pay. When you factor in the provided cost for the use of Knox County Highway Department vehicles and equipment and employees, the cost to Knox County taxpayers to pave Bluff Road would be over $12,000. This figure DOES NOT include labor and equipment used to deliver the paver and roller to and from the jobsite. This figure also does not include the labor, county employee insurance costs, FICA and Social Security contributions, equipment, and materials, labor and equipment utilized during the replacement of the culvert, on North River Bluff Road. How much was expended to install the culvert? Measurements of the work-site revealed two, 20’ sections of 24” corrugated steel pipe were used, as well as a culvert connecter band. An inquiry at Vincennes Industrial Supply revealed the cost of the culvert pipe is $20.31 per foot, for a total cost of $812.40. Other materials included a dump-truck load of sand, four yards of concrete, at the cost of $384.50, and the labor of one operator, two laborers, and one truck driver. Also utilized during the replacement of the culvert were one wheeled excavator and one dump-truck. So, to answer the question of how much for the culvert, the total cost of the expenditures by the Knox County Highway Department would be right around $3000.00. That would mean that the total cost to the taxpayers of Knox County for all work completed on North River Bluff Road, and the connecter road, would total nearly $15,000.00, when all related costs are factored in, not counting the cost of the asphalt. Commissioner Holscher was quoted as saying, “They paid us the (Indiana Department of Transportation) rate, so we thought that was acceptable.” Funny thing about this is that there is NO SUCH THING as an INDOT rate, as confirmed by two ranking employees of the Vincennes District of INDOT. This would mean the quoted statement of Commissioner Halter, where he stated, “This gave us an opportunity to take into possession, at absolutely no expense to us, another road that we can add to our mileage and get money from the state”, is incorrect and false. As far as being a “win-win” situation for the county, additional revenue from the state would not pay for the work for well over 20 years. The topic of North River Bluff Road was relatively quiet until another VSC article that appeared in the Sunday, October 20th edition. In the article, the following was related: “The residents along River Bluff Road had started looked into repaving their road with a private contractor, Dave O’Mara Inc. But after realizing Indiana Code allows taxpayers to request services, they did just that. “We started to look and examine the process of what it was going to take to repave the road and that’s when we, as a neighborhood, approached the county,” Said resident Phil Rath. “We had 100 percent of the neighbors sign the petition and 100 percent of the neighbors paid for the materials to have the road paved.” Where is this petition? Why no mention of a petition in the Oct 4, 2013 Commissioners meeting? The residents shelled out more than

$17,000.00 for materials, he said, paid directly to Dave O’Mara, and no money has been exchanged with the county for the project to date. Instead, the residents signed over the rights to 2,000 feet of freshly-paved road to add to the county and agreed to donate 1.25 acres owned by Rich Kopp adjacent to the county’s highway garage in Vincennes.”” Please note that due to county righta-way regulations, the property owners signed over 20 feet of land, from the center point of the road, on each side. This area encompasses over two acres. The land purportedly donated to the county, next to the highway department garage, is basically worthless. The previous owner had repeatedly appealed the assessed value due to the fact that it was useless. Further research revealed the purported donated land was not connected to the Knox County Highway Department. The land is actually an old railroad bed, totally landlocked, with NO road frontage, located on the other side of U.S. 50. Again, if this “deal” had been in the works for several months, why did the Commissioners put up a fence around the highway department property, if they knew more land would be added? This question is mute due to the fact the donated land is not adjacent to county property. County attorney Dale Webster reviewed the petition prior to signaling the okay to the highway department, and found no problem with the agreement. “This is a road the county has maintained for a number of yours because it’s been used by school buses,” Webster said. “They did a survey and provided us with that survey, which we’ve recorded. When was survey completed? Who completed survey? As of 10-2-2013, Knox County Surveyor Dick Vermillion was completely unaware of any work being completed on North River Bluff Road, let alone any survey. A survey was recorded in the Knox County Recorder’s office on 10-10-2013. This document, however, appears to be a forged/altered document. A close inspection of the recorded survey revealed it was actually a survey completed for landowner on North River Bluff Road, on April 4, 2000. The distances and width of the road way were superimposed onto the document. Also, the address listed for A to B Surveying, LLC, was identified as 20 N. 4th Street, Vincennes, Indiana. There is no such business at that location. A to B Surveying is actually located at 26 N. 5th Street, Vincennes, Indiana. Also on the document, the total roadway transferred to the county totaled 2,330 feet. The surveyor whose name appeared on the document was contacted on 10-222013. Mr. Brian Resenbeck related that he, nor his company have completed any work related to county right-of-way on North River Bluff Road. Mr. Resenbeck stated that it appeared that an earlier, recorded survey was used, with new markings, to present the appearance of a new survey. Mr. Resendbeck further stated that IF he had completed the work, it would have been completely typed, with no handwritten notations. Also of interest is the fact that no survey/monument locations were given for the River Bluff Connector Road, which indicates, again, no survey was completed. “They petitioned for the road, they paid for it, we obtained it. And we obtained additional land behind the highway garage, which will make that area safer, so I really don’t see there’s any problem with what’s happened,” he said. “I don’t see anything that’s the least bit unusual or incorrect by this.” When was petition presented to commissioners? Repeated inquiries at the Knox County Auditor’s office revealed there is no petition on file.

Part 2 of this story will contiue next week.

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