News and Tribune

September 12, 2013

Clark County Council districts redrawn, again

Commissioners vote 2-1 to ‘compact’ districts; Perkins calls action ‘purely political’

By MATT KOESTERS
matt.koesters@newsandtribune.com

CLARK COUNTY — The district maps for the 2014 Clark County Council race have changed again, for better or worse. And that depends on who’s asked.

The Clark County Commissioners approved a redesigned council district map Thursday on a 2-1 vote. The Republican commissioners who supported the move said they did it to “compact” the districts, but Democrat Commissioner John Perkins called it a “purely political” move to help Republicans on the council.

“Whatever anybody says, tonight’s decision was purely political, and that’s to keep Brian [Lenfert] and [Danny Yost] from running against one another. That’s my opinion,” Perkins said.

Commissioners President Jack Coffman acknowledged that Lenfert and Yost would be primary opponents in District 2 under the redistricting done by former commissioners Ed Meyer, Les Young and Mike Moore in 2010, and that the new map would keep Yost and Lenfert separated. But he said the move to modify the maps was to correct a mistake made by the prior administration.

“We just determined because they were fragmented and everything, and we wanted to make them more compact, and this was the period of time that we could do it before [the end of] this year, so we went ahead and did it at this point,” Coffman said. “And also, we did it because of what was done previously last year by the previous administration, they did split two council people into the same district.”

The move will provide clarity to voters as to who represents their district, Coffman said.

Clark County Democratic Party Chairman Bob Bottorff said in an email to the News and Tribune that the move was made to benefit Lenfert, who represents Council District 2.

“Apparently, Lenfert was a major contributor to at least one of the commissioners’ campaign finance committee,” Bottorff wrote.

Lenfert acknowledged he had contributed to the campaign of Clark County Commissioner Rick Stephenson, but said he was unsure of the amount and would have to refer to his checkbook and Stephenson’s campaign finance report to confirm how much he gave him.

Stephenson supplied the News and Tribune with a copy of his campaign finance form, which shows Lenfert contributed $200 to his campaign. In the column showing cumulative contributions, the number listed is $2,000, but the total at the bottom of the column is $1,900.

“It’s an extra zero,” Stephenson said. Stephenson joked that he wished someone would have given him $2,000 for his campaign

Though he was not a commissioner in 2010 when the maps were redrawn, Perkins said there was nothing malicious about the previous commissioners’ move to put Yost and Lenfert in the same district.

“The commissioners did not intentionally split anybody’s districts,” Perkins said.

Lenfert acknowledged that he would no longer be in the position of having to run in a primary against a fellow Republican council member, but said the map did him no favors, noting that traditionally Republican precincts in Sellersburg and the north end of Clarksville had been removed from his district, while parts of Jeffersonville were added to his district in the new map.

“Which [district map] looks more gerrymandered?” Lenfert asked. “Which one looks more Republican?”



ANOTHER MEETING, ANOTHER CHANGE ORDER

The deeper workers dig into the Silver Creek bridge, the more expensive it gets.

Work on the Silver Creek bridge, which connects Spring Street in New Albany to Brown Station Way in Clark County, was originally awarded to Gohmann Construction with a bid of $147,215. The commissioners have already approved a change order that puts the price around $217,000, but it turns out they may need to pay even more.

County Attorney Brian Dixon told the commissioners that as Gohmann workers re-sounded the bridge after the top layer of asphalt had been milled off, they discovered more problem areas in the second layer.

The cost for the two outside lanes of the bridge, using the latex overlay approved in the original bid package, will now cost $280,240 to complete if pursued, Dixon told the commissioners. By using a modified asphalt material, the bridge could be resurfaced completely for about $261,000, he said.

The commissioners declined to act, instead opting to table the decision and recess the meeting until Monday at 11:30 a.m. The commissioners expressed concern over the possibility of litigation because of changes to the scope of the project as originally bid out and the increase in cost.



TOLD YOU SO

Perkins, reading from a prepared statement, criticized the commissioners’ decision to transfer $800,000 from the cumulative bridge fund to the rainy day fund to pay for insurance bills, and pointed to the rising cost of the Silver Creek bridge work as evidence that there should have been a reserve for bridge emergencies retained.

“One week to the day of the reversal of the commissioners’ position not to support the county council’s general fund obligations, the commissioners were informed that the longest bridge in Clark County was in much worse condition than had been indicated,” Perkins said. “The initial bid of $147,000 has at least doubled and perhaps more. This fix would at best be temporary and might last approximately five to 10 years.”

Perkins defended the decision of the commissioners to increase the rate of the cumulative bridge fund in 2012, and noted that the fund’s rate had been reduced when the county council implemented a wheel tax, but the commissioners hadn’t restored the bridge fund to its previous rate when the wheel tax was repealed.

“If a previous council had not voluntarily reduced the levy [in 2007], the current county council would have $1.5 million more this year and in subsequent years available for the general fund,” Perkins said. Perkins said that number was provided to him by accountant Jill Oca and financial advisor Dan Eggermann, who works for the county on a contract basis.