The Journal Gazette
 
 
Sunday, May 15, 2022 1:00 am

Political notebook

Feelings strong on proposed water-sewer shift

DEVAN FILCHAK | The Journal Gazette

Fort Wayne City Councilman Glynn Hines didn't hide his feelings about City Utilities' proposed acquisition of the Allen County Regional Water and Sewer District.

Typically, Hines would say he wants to “put up” resolutions or “introduce” the resolutions or ordinances. Instead, he chose a different verb Tuesday night.

“The other three bills that I would actually like to kill in committee,” Hines said, before reading the names of resolutions that the Council previously voted against.

The City Council was split on the acquisition of the water and sewer district last year, with five members opposing it – Councilwoman Sharon Tucker, D-6th, and Councilmen Jason Arp, R-4th; Russ Jehl, R-2nd; Hines, D-at large; and Paul Ensley, R-1st.

Their concerns included the proposed makeup of the board, which – after the acquisition – would have had a majority of city-appointed members, despite all of the district's customers residing outside city limits.

Water and sewer district officials recently changed the makeup of the proposed board to match the current board, which has a majority of county-appointed members, but that didn't seem to change some of the city council members' opinions.

Nevertheless, the council voted 5-4 to introduce the latest version of the acquisition. Arp was the only opposing vote from last time who supported the introduction. He clarified after the meeting that his vote meant only that he supports discussing the deal – not the acquisition itself.

The proposed acquisition would save the district's 3,150 customers about 30% on sewer bills after City Utilities takes on the district's debt and services. City Council will discuss the acquisition at a future meeting.

Chamber's view of lawmakers dims

The Indiana Chamber of Commerce's annual report scoring state lawmakers on key business legislation saw overall marks – ranging from 41% to 88% – fall from last year.

The scores ranged from 42% to 97% in 2021. The Legislative Vote Analysis, released last week, evaluates legislators' voting records on economic and business issues.

Indiana Chamber President and CEO Kevin Brinegar said the report indicates that the average scores for House Republicans were down this year.

“A key reason for this was the House pushing for onerous mandates on employers regarding COVID-19 vaccine requirements and paying for testing of unvaccinated employees. This was an important and concerning development,” he said.

The House pushed for stronger language blocking vaccine mandates. In total, the success or failure of what the chamber said were 33 key pro-economy, pro-jobs policies – introduced in bills or amendments – was used to determine lawmakers' scores, which are available on the Indiana Chamber's website at www.indianachamber.com/lva.

Here is how northeast Indiana legislators fared in the Indiana Chamber's report:

• David Abbott, R-Rome City – 81%

• Rep. Martin Carbaugh, R-Fort Wayne – 77%

• Rep. Phil GiaQuinta, D-Fort Wayne – 59%

• Rep. Dave Heine, R-Fort Wayne – 81%

• Rep. Chris Judy, R-Fort Wayne – 68%

• Rep. Matt Lehman, R-Berne – 76%

• Rep. Dan Leonard, R-Huntington – 75%

• Rep. Bob Morris, R-Fort Wayne – 85%

• Rep. Curt Nisly, R-Goshen – 45%

• Rep. Ben Smaltz, R-Auburn – 75%

• Rep. Dennis Zent, R-Angola – 81%

• Sen. Liz Brown, R-Fort Wayne – 84%

• Sen. Justin Busch, R-Fort Wayne – 81%

• Sen. Sue Glick, R-LaGrange – 79%

• Sen. Travis Holdman, R-Markle – 83%

• Sen. Dennis Kruse, R-Auburn – 70%

• Sen. Andy Zay, R-Huntington – 70%

FWCS board rated commendable

The seven-member Fort Wayne Community Schools board on Monday celebrated a distinction it received from the Indiana School Boards Association.

The elected body reached the “commendable” level as part of the Exemplary Governance Award for demonstrating an outstanding commitment to continuous improvement and professional learning through active participation in trainings, seminars and conferences.

The majority of the board had to attain 75 points or more to achieve the accomplishment.

Members Rohli Booker and Jennifer Matthias each received the “commendable” level with 75 points while Julie Hollingsworth and Maria Norman reached the “advanced” level with 125 points.

Anne Duff, board president, encouraged the four to pose for a picture during Monday's meeting.

“Ham it up,” member Steve Corona said.

“On behalf of the other three slackers, thank you,” member Noah Smith said, prompting laughter.

Other boards that received “commendable” status included Bluffton-Harrison MSD, DeKalb County Central United School District, East Allen County Schools, South Adams Schools, Southwest Allen County Schools and Whitley County Consolidated Schools, according to the school boards association.

Individual recipients included Liz Hathaway of Northwest Allen County Schools; Jennifer Bennett and Brad Mills of Southwest Allen County Schools; and Jenny Blackburn, Steven Screeton, Todd Buckmaster and Paulette Nellems of East Allen County Schools.

Jim Chapman and Ashley Sloboda of The Journal Gazette contributed to this column.


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