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Nashville's Municipal Consultant Dax Norton On Preparing For Fall Tourists, Police Budget

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Unknown Speaker
Hello and welcome to Ask the mayor on WFIU I'm Joe Hren. This is the fourth week of the month. And as always, we have Nashville's municipal consultant DAX Norton. Welcome and Hello.

Unknown Speaker
Yeah. Hello, how are you?

Unknown Speaker
Hi. I'm well, how were you?

Unknown Speaker
Wasn't it already? Wasn't it just fourth, fourth? Wednesday of the month?

Unknown Speaker
It seems that way. And you know what, I think it's something with the positions all of you are in because this happens with every mayor. Every week. It's the first week Are you sure, Joe?

Unknown Speaker
I know. It's crazy. It's my long

Unknown Speaker
time flies Time flies. Well, you know, end of September we're going to get to I want to talk a little bit about the tourism industry there and in Nashville in a little bit, but we always usually start the show with the Coronavirus update, Brown County was in the red now is in the orange state COVID metric 12% all test positivity rate, that we still keep hearing about health care workers hospitals in crisis mode. You know, half the state yet unvaccinated? we you know, we talk about this every week, just because it's you know, just such a pressing issue. But those who aren't affected. You know, it's not maybe as higher priority, but for those who are and people who are sick or dying, obviously, it becomes a high priority. So, you know, we've heard in Monroe County testing centers coming back, and some vaccination spots being built, what's the word there in Brown County,

Unknown Speaker
say same Testing Center came back to the Music Center, I believe and, and but, you know, people are still pretty diligent on, you know, doing the things they need to do to stay safe in the county. in Nashville, it seems that it's still on people's minds. So it hasn't gone away. But there are still business owners who are requiring, you know, some face coverings in their businesses, there are others who aren't. It's just kind of hit and miss. But I think everybody is understanding that, you know, that Brown County natural, we're going to get a lot of people that don't live there and so hard to control that population. Correct. And I think that all the measures that were taking place, last year, will be in place. This year, there weren't really any, you know, mandates that were brought brought upon anyone by the governmental entities. just common sense, common courtesy. And if if somebody has said, You know, I don't really want to shopping in here without a face covering on and please, we want to encourage everyone to, to adhere to that. And if not, there are mechanisms that can be used to remove you from this facility. I don't think we've seen a lot of out of the ordinary or angry or people who are courteous to others in the area.

Unknown Speaker
What elements do local leaders need to make those decisions on? COVID?

Unknown Speaker
You know, I think it's a matter of, is it you know, is it out of control? neon Do you do we feel it's out of control, especially on the sickness side, you know, in as much fat as you possibly can perceive. It's out of the hands of the health department's now and back into the notes into the hands of the the town council and I believe the county commissioners now, both have stated, you know, we're not going to mandate anything, but please, like I just said, Please use caution. Common Sense. good hygiene, common courtesy. I think that they've they've used all the information they could possibly use from medical sources to make those decisions and now it's it's always been kind of a wait and see, you know, the schools had to change course. Most schools in the state change course. didn't even get a month in before you start seeing mass mandates coming down in the school systems all the way up to the high school. All ages. So it's it's a it's a, it's always a moving target seems. And you just have to really pay attention to the health numbers and health statistics to, for them to understand how to make the decision that they need to make, they need to go to a mandate of sorts, I know that there have been larger cities around us or near us that have not necessarily in the state of Indiana, I don't think it's happened in the annex. And maybe in Monroe counties, some I'm going to place places like Columbus, Ohio, now have a human if you're vaccinated, you're wearing a mask if you're inside period, places like Raleigh, North Carolina, I'm gonna go down a list of cities and it's starting to change course. So it's just a moving target. And we just had to pay attention closely and listen to the medical professionals.

Unknown Speaker
To follow up on that. I mean, do you feel like the governor the state is doing what they can to trickle down that data that information are doing their part and making local leaders jobs easier?

Unknown Speaker
Yeah, I believe so. The state health department in conjunction with the local health department's local health department's been great in Broward County you know, they've worked with multiple different Coalition's of leaders to, to keep the pandemic as much at bay as possible, because, you know, we we have to rely on people coming to visit. So it's critical that people are healthy, and that business owners are in their businesses and, and that they feel safe. And so I believe the state has done a good job trickling down information to the locals, locals can make their decisions.

Unknown Speaker
And I believe I heard the Brown County music Center's taking more strict COVID precautions in October, I think he might have to show either a negative COVID test or a vaccination card, I think to even get in the building. Is that right?

Unknown Speaker
believe you are correct. So you know, I mean, we know it's been discussed even going back to virtual meetings. I know in the national town council side. Um, masks sometimes are worn sometimes they're not. So it's a it's a like I said, it's, it's it's just moving the goalposts continue to move. And we've got to move forward with them.

Unknown Speaker
Well, last month, we got an update on the town budget as those I believe there's a timeline, I think I believe it's always an October that right, it has to be submitted to the state

Unknown Speaker
by November 1. So you have to have held your public hearing. At least, you know, a good amount of time prior the National Council is, is I think September 30, is their chosen date, to hold the public hearing on the budget, then the adoption of the budget schedule for the regular October meeting, which I believe is the 21st. I remember correctly. And that gives them a time if changes need to be made a little bit of time, if anything needs to be made between the 30th and public hearing and November 1 date. So

Unknown Speaker
the Nashville democrat reported on the police budget trying to increase that line, not everyone seemed to be on board. What what's the issue there?

Unknown Speaker
You know, there was some a couple, some council members who they were, you know, they're taking their role of being the, you know, I I try to I try to encourage them with their number one role is to watch out for the taxpayer dollars. And the constructive budget. And sometimes that's overlooked. I know, in my career, it's been overlooked by other elected officials I've worked with. And so I think a couple of them was really wanting to dive into the budget this year, and look and see, you know, are they spending money on their priorities? I think, yes, they've done so they realize that it's a small budget. There's not a lot of things to cut. Maybe there's a better way to spend monies that are coming in on different items. And then, you know, I don't it looks like that that process has been a good educational process to learn how this budgets really constructed. And that, you know, 24 seven security from, from a policing perspective is is important. And how do you fund it and fund other priorities? And so I think that's what they're doing right now. They're really taking apart some of the additional funds, not just the general fund. How do we use those words? What are they eligible to be used for? Can you pay off some debt? Can you eliminate, you know, other items, it doesn't eliminate personnel? Can you increase the productivity of personnel through, you know, market rate increases, it's a fairly decent process, sometimes contentious. I think people are used to the budget as being not rubber stamp. But you know, this budget as small as the town of Nashville has, is really just not a lot of room to work with. And, you know, public safety takes up a good portion of it, but I think as they dive in, they learn, you know, if they can shift money from from there to to a different Fund, and the percentage of public safety takes up is actually not as high as it has to be. It needs to be to vote to properly fund public safety activities. But I think they've just asked, you know, especially the chief police just Can you give us facts? And, and I want to use the word justify that sounds defensive. But, you know, please let the public know why it cost this much money to run a 24. Seven department and why we would need one. So good questions asked. I think good response, the public responded, it seems that the public participation process has waned quite a bit through the last couple of budget hearings. But in the last budget hearing was incorrect. I think it was very productive. And council members didn't do their job of diving in and having a good understanding of how the appropriations work, where they should go and what their priorities are.

Unknown Speaker
just interesting to hear some of the same issues pop up in different communities, because we just talking about the Bloomington police say they are overworked, underpaid, they're leaving to other communities. The city maintains the budget is fair, and it's just not a great time to see people entering that type of workforce that you know, police enforcement. Does that sound familiar at all to you?

Unknown Speaker
I bet we could talk to 10 communities and we can get the same 10 answers. Joe? I think what this comes down to potentially is a is a state house issue, and how budgets are actually allowed to be revenue and especially is allowed to be gathered in communities, levy controls that we have here, along with the constitutional tax capsule into place, you know, 1012 years ago, that's now putting a strain on local budgets to the point where, you know, what does it cost to operate in revenue is really coming in to cover those operational costs. Not not fat in the budget, not overspending not using money. The wrong way, I think that most most communities I've worked with, they use it the right way, there's just there's just not enough money, especially in places like Nashville that has had stagnant growth. That's not a bad word. It's just it hasn't. communities that have tremendous growth, they they they can get the revenue they need, based on the percentage of growth, but places that have stagnant assessed value growth, like round county and National Zoo, it's really tough to keep up with the the current costs of these items, as these things change and how we do them. And you know, radios cost more than they did technology's expensive vehicles are, I think I heard the other day vehicles are at an all time high for new new vehicle, average prices in all time, I probably 30% higher than should actually be just because of the market. So I think we really need to look at working with our legislators in Indianapolis to figure out, you know, different remedies to some of these issues, because as you've seen, it's not just national Rock County, it's statewide.

Unknown Speaker
Wow. And then we've been talking about how the town has to we're looking to fund water sewer infrastructure you mentioned last month, but grants would be so key. And I think two months ago, you talked about how the Brown County State Park is funding some infrastructure to get those services. What is there anything new to report on those?

Unknown Speaker
Well, I can I will thank the state 23 communities received the grant money from the swift program, which is the State Water Infrastructure grant fund that was created from the 50 million of the $100 million of state received an RPA capital projects money from the federal government and And 23 communities received grant dollars Nashville receive 2 million. Our ask was, I think 5 million. But the 2 million is good. And it will help rehabilitate the wastewater treatment collection system and plant. And now the now the utility service board and the Council have to talk about additional capital projects. But yes, you bring up another really good point of what's probably inching our way to becoming the state's number one crisis. And that is the provision of safe for service and provision of note, taking that use water away from your home and treating it. I think I heard a stat of $1.7 billion dollars is needed just to fix small systems in the state of Indiana just to fix and does not expand and does not, you know, innovate and does not increase technological capacity just to fix. And that's I think I heard 500 some odd communities applied for assistance through the swift grant program. 23, refunded. So that should tell you something

Unknown Speaker
really interesting. Article two about fixing the town's drainage problem with that was just a tap of about $11 million. But it was interesting to me to read about how a town can form a utility, I guess to help fund and structure it is that right?

Unknown Speaker
Any town can form a stormwater utility to pay for the infrastructure that's underground. Think about it, that's a stormwater infrastructure is everywhere. But we don't treat that. So we don't most places don't have that utility. And so the trouble is, when places small as Nashville is what what's the impact even on creating utility and putting a rate in is reasonable, it's, it would take probably 50 years to get half of the $11 million that you would need if you didn't want to price residents out of the market and business owners out on the market on what you're going to charge for a stormwater rate utility rate. So you know, these are these are issues as well. When you see that daunting number of $11 million, and you have zero revenue coming in, you have a little bit of revenue from food and beverage, food and beverage is allowed to be or no from CCD CCD is allowed to be used. Kim cap development can be used in Nashville for stormwater but that's what 30 grand a year. So that's a big whale. That's it. That's a big whale to chew. Once again, so you're looking at $30 million and fixes to the water and wastewater side $11 million in fixes to the stormwater side. That doesn't even include road and sidewalk infrastructure, which Ada ramps alone I think are about $200,000 that needed to be done by Ada mandates in town Nashville. So it's a it's a task that the council i think is taking seriously. You know a lot of unfunded mandates that they need to they need to do and they have a budget of about a million dollars a year all funds combined. On the tax side is about a million bucks a year. And on the on the utility sides about $2.5 million a year just not a lot of revenue coming in.

Unknown Speaker
Well, I know we're getting close on time, but I did want to see if you had any announcements or any special things that you'd like to say or maybe some note to to those who are thinking about coming down to Nashville this coming month. October will be here before you know it and I would assume that month is probably when you see the most visitors.

Unknown Speaker
It is come on down. Please be safe, be courteous. If a mask is warranted by business owner, please wear it. Any information you may need is obviously the visitor center. Jane, Alice and her staff do a great job. So they're there they're ready to go. The business owners need your support to move on to another year. And so I think everybody's ready and ready to fall and Nashville and Brown County as as far as fall goes. So.

Unknown Speaker
Alright, well, thanks so much for your time. Appreciate it and we'll get an update and see how it's going about four weeks.

Unknown Speaker
Great. Talk to you soon. Thanks.

Unknown Speaker
Okay. Thank you. Bye
Nashville Municipal Consultant Dax Norton

Nashville's Municipal Consultant Dax Norton on Tuesday's Zoom Interview (Zoom)

In this week's "Ask The Mayor" program, we visit with Nashville municipal consultant Dax Norton and talk COVID during tourism season, police budget, and more.

On this week’s installment of Ask The Mayor, Nashville's Municipal Consultant Dax Norton addresses these issues and more. Listen to the full conversation with Indiana Newsdesk anchor Joe Hren by clicking on the play button above, or read some of the questions and answers below. A portion of this segment airs 6:45 and 8:45 a.m. Wednesday on WFIU.

This conversation has been edited for clarity and conciseness.

Hren: We've heard in Monroe County that testing centers are coming back, also reported the state is working on that too, Brown Co. was in the 'red' state COVID metric and now orange, what's the next step in Nashville?

Norton: Same, testing center came back to the Music Center, I believe and, people are still pretty diligent on doing the things they need to do to stay safe in the county. In Nashville, it seems that it's still on people's minds. So it hasn't gone away. But there are still business owners who are requiring face coverings in their businesses, there are others who aren't.

But I think everybody is understanding that we're going to get a lot of people that don't live there and so hard to control that population. This year, there weren't really any mandates that were brought brought upon by the governmental entities. Just common sense, common courtesy. There are mechanisms that can be used to remove you from this facility. I don't think we've seen a lot of out of the ordinary or angry or people who aren't courteous to others.

Brown County Music Center
Admission to Brown Co. Music Center will include proof of a negative COVID test or vaccination in October. (WFIU/WTIU News)

Hren: What elements do local leaders need to make those decisions on COVID?

Norton: I think it's a matter of, is it out of control? Do we feel it's out of control, especially on the sickness side? It's out of the hands of the health department now and back into the hands of the the town council and I believe the county commissioners. Both have stated we're not going to mandate anything.

I think that they've used all the information they could possibly use from medical sources to make those decisions and now it's always been kind of a wait and see. The schools had to change course. Most schools in the state change course. Didn't even get a month in before you start seeing mask mandates coming down in the school systems all the way up to the high school.

Hren: The Brown County Democrat reported on trying to increase the town's police budget in what's already a tight budget, not everyone seemed to be on board. What the issue there?

Norton: I try to encourage them - their number one role is to watch out for the taxpayer dollars. And sometimes that's overlooked. I know, in my career, it's been overlooked by other elected officials I've worked with. And so I think a couple of them really wanted to dive into the budget this year, and see if they're spending money on their priorities? I think, yes, they've done so. They realize that it's a small budget. There's not a lot of things to cut. Maybe there's a better way to spend monies that are coming in on different items.

24/7 security from a policing perspective is is important. And how do you fund it and fund other priorities? And so I think that's what they're doing right now. They're really taking apart some of the additional funds, not just the general fund. I think people are used to the budget as being not a rubber stamp, but a budget as small as the town of Nashville has, is really just not a lot of room to work with. And public safety takes up a good portion of it.

But I think they've just asked, especially the chief police, can you give us facts? And please let the public know why it cost this much money to run a 24/7 department and why we would need one. So good questions asked.

READ MORE: Council Wants More Money For Bloomington Police, Says BPD Is 'A Sinking Ship'

Hren: It's interesting to hear some of the same issues pop up in different communities, because we just talked about the Bloomington police who say they are overworked, underpaid, they're leaving to other communities. The city maintains the budget is fair, and it's just not a great time to see people entering the police force. Does that sound familiar at all to you?

Norton: I bet we could talk to 10 communities and we can get the same 10 answers, Joe. I think what this comes down to potentially is a Statehouse issue, and how budgets are actually allowed to handle revenue, levy controls that we have here, along with the constitutional tax capsule put into place 10 to 12 years ago that's now putting a strain on local budgets to the point where, what does it cost to operate in revenue is really coming in to cover those operational costs. Not not fat in the budget, not overspending, not using money the wrong way.

I think that most communities I've worked with, they use it the right way, there's just not enough money, especially in places like Nashville that has had stagnant growth. That's not a bad word. It's just it hasn't. Communities that have tremendous growth, they can get the revenue they need, based on the percentage of growth.

It's really tough to keep up with the current costs of these items, as these things change. Radios cost more than they did, I think I heard the other day vehicles are at an all time high for a new vehicle, probably 30% higher because of the market. So I think we really need to look at working with our legislators in Indianapolis to figure out different remedies.

Hren: We've been talking about how the town has to also fund water, sewer infrastructure, but grants would be key in that.

Norton: I will thank the state, 23 communities received the grant money from the SWIF program, which is the State Water Infrastructure grant fund that was created from the $50 million of the $100 million the state received from RPA capital projects money from the federal government.

Nashville received $2 million. Our ask was, I think $5 million. And it will help rehabilitate the wastewater treatment collection system and plant. And now the now the Utility Service Board and the Council have to talk about additional capital projects.

But yes, you bring up another really good point of what's probably inching our way to becoming the state's number one crisis. And that is the provision of safe for service and provision of note, taking that use water away from your home and treating it. I think I heard a stat of $1.7 billion is needed just to fix small systems in the state of Indiana - just to fix and does not expand and does not innovate and increase technological capacity. And I think I heard 500 some communities applied for assistance through the swift grant program - 23 were funded. So that should tell you something.

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