Many of us have seen brown water swirling out of our faucets lately, sparking renewed questions around who can be held responsible. How can we filter out the facts from the talking points?

The facts show that Mayor Bob Hall neglected his responsibility to manage Charlestown’s public water system during his last three terms as mayor since 2008.

An inspection of our water system by the Indiana Department of Environmental Management (IDEM) on December 19, 2018 found “significant deficiencies” that can “cause an immediate health risk.” The Inspection Summary Letter dated January 7, 2019 also lists problems that had been identified during previous inspections but were never corrected. You can read the letter here: Inspection Summary Letter (Some photos in the original letter were redacted by IDEM in my public record request due to Homeland Security protocol.)

Bob Hall’s mismanagement of the water utility put our health and safety at risk.

  • Water Utility employees were exposed to hazardous circumstances while in the performance of their daily job duties. The report documents that the system had no “continuous chlorine analyzer” to warn operators of gas leaks (p. 6-7). Chlorine gas can cause significant damage to a person’s lungs and upper respiratory system. Also, the inspection showed that there was no water in the emergency eye wash station (p. 8). A mayor has the responsibility to provide for employee safety.
  • Community members have also been placed under significant health and safety risks under Bob Hall’s management. This includes water customers and those who visit Charlestown for church, school, or shopping.
    • The inspection shows that there was no Emergency Response Plan for our water utility. In the event of a major natural or human made disaster, there was no plan to maintain operation (p. 12).
    • We also had no back-up power generator in the event of extended power loss. This means we had no way to pump more water from the wells once our storage tanks emptied. One ice storm or tornado that knocked out power for several days could have left us without water in our tanks (p. 7). Bob Hall was notified of this problem in both 2013 and 2016. In 2013 he told IDEM that he had a plan to fix it, but by the date of the 2018 report it was still not repaired.
    • Our city is currently without proper fire protection. The inspection found “numerous” fire hydrants and valves throughout the city that do not work and noted that“these hydrants and valves are a necessity and must be replaced in order to fight fires” (p. 9). IDEM informed Bob Hall of this problem in both 2013 and 2016 but repairs were still not made by the time of the 2018 inspection. In 2011, when Bob Hall ran for reelection, he published a campaign ad that claimed he repaired the hydrants. The IDEM report raises questions about the accuracy of this ad. You can view that ad here: Bob Campaign Ad

Many of the deficiencies documented in IDEM’s inspection were within Bob Hall’s power to correct.

  • The report documents that Bob Hall received IDEM’s recommendation to install a back-up power generator for the wells in both 2013 and 2016 and confirms that Bob sent them a response saying that he would do so. However, Bob never corrected the problem (p. 5).
  • Needed repairs included basic housekeeping such as cleaning trash off the floor, removing old lead washers and dead insects, keeping containers properly stored, and repairing a rotted roof from a previous water leak (pp. 5-6).
  • Regular cleaning of the system was neglected. The report notes that storage tanks should have been inspected at least every five years. The inspector found debris and vegetation around the raw water basin and noted this as a “significant” problem. The report shows that Bob Hall was notified of this problem in 2010, 2013, 2016, and in 2018 but never fixed it (p. 11).

We need a filtration system.

  • The report notes on page 5 that our manganese levels averaged .29mg/L in 2018, which is significantly above the recommended standard of .05mg/L. IDEM confirms that filtration will “help with water quality and complaints of dirty water.” The report notes that Bob Hall received this recommendation in both 2013 and 2016 (pp 5 and 7). Representatives from Indiana American Water confirmed our need for filtration in the open house they hosted on May 22, 2019. In 2008, when Bob Hall took office he returned a grant that would have provided Charlestown with filtered water and stopped work on the filtration plant. (You can review the Board of Public Works meeting minutes where he ordered work on the filtration plant to stop here:Board of Public Works 01/02/2008) Bob chose instead to use chemical treatment beginning in 2011, which failed and was described at the IAW open house as “snake oil” for its known ineffectiveness. Keep in mind that the need for filtration does not do away with the need for new lines as well. We actually need BOTH for our system to be repaired. We also need all of our fire hydrants to work in order to flush the system properly.

We had the money to fix our system.

  • Money from our Tax Increment Financing (TIF) districts could have been used to provide us with clean water. In 2011 a pamphlet distributed by Bob Hall estimated the cost of repairs to the system in the $2 million range (his ad above has the link to this pamphlet). By 2018 those estimates reached $7 million. From 2008 to 2018 the city spent $6,438,491 out of its TIF fund. Much of this money could have been invested in our water system. (You can review a spreadsheet that shows where the money went here: 2008-2018 TIF Spending Summary).
  • The IDEM report also acknowledges that small rate increases were needed to keep up with inflated maintenance costs. Had we received small increases over time, it wouldn’t have gotten to the point where we needed the large one (p. 13). This kind of management is the duty of the city’s executive. 

Since IAW purchased our water utility in March, they have been working to correct many of the things Bob Hall neglected. At the open house in May, IAW provided before and after pictures that showed that they have installed a chlorine detector, cleaned the building, and properly stored the treatment tanks. IAW also cleaned our wells and installed a back-up power generator after repairing the pump on well #1 which offers us the cleanest water. From the looks of things they have begun the process of cleaning the storage tank on Gospel Road, which may explain the increased incidents of brown water we are seeing in parts of town. At the open house they also said they are working on a plan to repair, replace, and add new fire hydrants across town since estimates show over 60 not working.

In the coming months as IAW works to repair Bob’s neglect, we will likely see things get worse before they get better. IAW knows we need filtered water and they know we need to clean our system. Their track record in fixing the things left unaddressed for a decade by Bob already gives me hope that they will eventually get us clean water.

Conversations about our water dominate most of our online and many of our in-person dialogues and have for a number of years. This IDEM report shows us things we never knew before and helps us clear up many of our misconceptions. This report filters the facts from the myths. Yes, we need filtration. Yes, we could have fixed it during Bob Hall’s time as mayor. Yes, Bob Hall had the knowledge and ability to repair it, but ignored IDEM’s warnings and notices.

So, how to spot the facts going forward?

  • Get your info from real experts, like people who can back up claims with evidence like the IDEM report.
  • Be skeptical when you hear people say that critiques like this are just “venom” or point to other actions like sidewalks or Christmas lights – these are logical fallacies designed to distract you from the issue at hand and are a sign that you should watch out!
  • Remember that the action or inaction of previous mayors isn’t the issue here. The facts show that Bob could have addressed these problems and didn’t. Other mayors are not running for reelection this year and Bob’s performance is what we’re measuring. This report shows a serious lack of proper management of a major responsibility of the Mayor’s office. 
  • Be wary of information that Bob shares without evidence to back it up. Remember that he made the decision to put a chemical in our water based primarily on information he received from the company that sells the chemical.

Moving forward, when you have brown water, run your cold water slowly until it clears. Do not turn on your hot water as the manganese will hurt your water heater. Check your water before you wash a load of clothes. And finally, remember Bob Hall’s performance record on this very basic function of his job and vote for change and responsibility in November. For more on what kind of change you can expect from me, I encourage you to check out the Infrastructure section of my plan for Charlestown here: https://trevaformayor.com/issues/.

time-for-changeCharlestown needs a change.

Our current leadership style is one that values TRANSACTIONS in a system of promises and rewards. The focus is on EXCHANGEprogress for votes. In the next four months before the election we’re going to see announcements rolling out of City Hall on a regular basis. Parks, parties, paving, purchase of property…some of these will appear quiet flashy and make big news. But there’s a danger is accepting quantity over quality. What happens when the exchange process fails?

My leadership is TRANSFORMATIONAL. I look to the bigger picture and motivate people toward a lasting, quality future. I believe in ENGAGEMENT. I ask how I can help inspire others to lead so we can all become change agents in our community. My focus is on YOU, not the number of swift announcements I can make. That means that I work consistently for enhancements and I do it in full communication with YOU, not just in the last hour to make a quick impression. Transformational leadership is THOUGHTFUL, STRATEGIC, and INCLUSIVE. I’m going to do the right thing, not just do things right away.

As we move toward November, consider the style of leadership we need. Quality will build a firm foundation for our future generations.

Learn more about my platform here: https://trevaformayor.com/issues/

#trevaformayor #charlestownfirst

 My entire platform with action steps is currently available here: Issues 

Many of these goals are on-going projects and reflect the initial things that I’ll begin to address right away, but will take time to complete. Recently, however, I was asked to explain my goals in a timeline for my first term if elected. I’m happy to answer this question.

Charlestown First GrpahicIn my first year as Mayor my top priority is providing more information to you and giving you opportunities to become involved. Right away I will ask the Common Council to repeal Resolution 2016-R-3, which stifles public comment, and instead establish reasonable guidelines for meetings that encourage people to share their thoughts and concerns. Within the first year I want to see public meetings broadcasted live across social media platforms. I will also make budget information, meeting agendas, council and board decisions, and all public information more easily obtainable on our city’s website. It should be easy, not difficult, for you to be involved and get answers from your elected officials. Meetings of the Common Council will have a different “flavor.” I will welcome questions from attendees, and attempt to answer them that evening.  Attendees, and all council members, will be treated equally, with respect and dignity. All council members will receive information about proposed legislation at the same time, far enough in advance to research and evaluate the issue, and discuss it with their constituents.

Improving transparency isn’t the only element of my platform, but it’s one of the first things I can do for you. 

The first year will also involve some assessment work. I’ve promised to re-evaluate our use of TIF to make sure we’re using it in the most responsible way. I will also evaluate our infrastructure needs across all neighborhoods, and review our parks and recreation opportunities to see what is being used and what we still need. The Community Activity Center’s facilities, including the splash park,  miniature golf course, and skating rink, will be open on Sundays.

Before we can move forward we need a full understanding of where we are. Decisions about improvements will be made carefully with full evaluation of their merits and many opportunities for residents to share their feedback. Take for instance the frequent request for a city pool that we see on social media. I, personally, would love for Charlestown to have a pool, but before we take that step we need to understand our financial situation and assess our immediate community needs. I can’t promise you a pool in year one, but I CAN promise you we will investigate it as an option.  

The first year also brings a unique set of challenges as we move on from some of the poorly managed projects of the current administration – namely development in Pleasant Ridge and the resulting lawsuits against the city. The city needs an ethical and fair property maintenance code that doesn’t resort to immediate punitive measures but works in collaboration with property owners. Right away I will ask the Council to take up this issue in a way that does not rely on the use of excessive fines or eminent domain to take property from people and put it into the hands of private developers. Whether you own a home or vacant land, I will not support plans that strip you of your property rights. I also think it’s vital to explore means of helping property owners who have difficulty maintaining their property due to age, disability, or income restrictions. If we are willing to invest resources to attract out of town developers, we should also be willing to invest in our citizens. 

My motto, Keeping Charlestown First, means that we welcome development without displacing current residents.


At the end of my first year in office I want to present a State of the City review that summarizes what we have, prioritizes what we need, lists possible amenities, and gives you an action plan of how we’re going to move on those things. And you’ll be involved the entire way. In the first year I will have a Community Table event. If it is well-received and productive, I will have three more that year. You can learn more about this idea here: Community Table

In year two of my term you’ll start to notice things moving as we put into place the needs identified in the first year plan. In addition to continuing established traditions, like Christmas City and Founders Day, by the second year you’ll see the implementation of some new social programs designed to strengthen our families. Early intervention for at-risk teens, peer-parent support for families in crisis, and confronting the opioid epidemic are just a few of these things. By the end of my third year I also hope to see an expansion of our Elementary and Middle School after school programs to help ease stress on our working families.


The fourth year of my term will see action on the long-term projects listed in my platform. We’ll see infrastructure improvements and plans for continued maintenance of our roads and sewers. Drainage and storm water runoff are significant concerns. By the end of year four I hope to have secured a partnership with Charlestown State Park to provide more recreational opportunities for our residents and to attract visitors. 

In January of each year I’ll issue a State of the City Address. This public event will be a time for us to evaluate our success along the way. It’s not effective to look back at the end of a term. Good evaluation happens along the way.


Cities are complicated. Serving as your Executive will involve a commitment to pursuing big goals with the critical ability to re-evaluate when plans require modification. At the end of my first four years, you will find that you’ve been kept informed along the way and that you’ve been a part of building our future.

 

Tonight a woman asked me a question that I needed to revisit prior city ordinances to answer. I went to the City of Charlestown’s website and selected the Ordinances for 2019. I was greeted by a blank screen. None of the Resolutions or Ordinances approved by the City Council have yet been posted online.

While my platform addresses plans to provide financial accountability, repair our infrastructure, and expand our recreational and social services, I also maintain that we can only accomplish these things effectively with full transparency.

On the evening of the Primary Election Mayor Bob Hall criticized my commitment to providing transparency and told Jason Thomas of the News and Tribune that his administration is an “open book,” and that “All of our records, all of our finances, everything is online.” (News and Tribune Article 05/07/2019).

It seems Mayor Hall is mistaken. 

Screen Shot 2019-05-10 at 10.44.22 PM
Image captured 05/10/2019 11:00 PM
  • Resolution 2019-R-1 A Resolution Modifying the Charlestown Economic Development Area and Allocation Area – Approved 01/07/2019
  • Resolution 2019-R-2 Confirms the City’s Adoption of the Americans with Disabilities Act – Approved 01/07/2019 
  • Resolution No. 2019-R-3 – A Resolution of the City of Charlestown Common Council Approving a Resolution of the City of Charlestown Redevelopment Commission Creating the Renaissance Project Economic Development Area and Approving an Economic Development Plan – Approved 01/22/2019
  • Resolution No. 2019-R-4 – A Resolution Approving an Interlocal Agreement for the Joint Use and Operation of the Jeffersonville-Clark County Animal Shelter – Approved 02/04/2019
  • Resolution 2019-R-5 A Resolution Directing the Disposition of Net Proceeds from the Sale of the Water Utility  – Approved 03/04/2019 
  • Resolution 2019-R-6 – A Resolution Establishing the Name of a Neighborhood Park in the City of Charlestown in Memory of Officer Ben Bertram – Approved 04/01/2019 
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Image captured 05/10/2019 11:00 PM
  • Ordinance No. 2019-OR-1 Additional Appropriations Ordinance (Police Station) – Approved 02/04/2019
  • Ordinance No. 2019-OR-2 Zoning Ordinance Ace Hardware – Approved 02/04/2019
  • Ordinance No. 2019-OR-3 – Checks Over 2 years – Approved 02/19/2019 
  • Ordinance No. 2019-OR-4 –  An Ordinance Amending Ordinance No. 2018-OR-23 An Ordinance Establishing Property Maintenance Standards Within the City of Charlestown, Indiana – Approved 03/04/2019 
  • Ordinance No. 2019-OR-5 – An ordinance establishing a fund for the utility subsidies – Approved 02/19/2019 
  • Ordinance No. 2019-OR-6 – Additional Appropriations Ordinance – Approved 04/01/2019

You can read summaries of all city meetings and listen to the recored audio at my blog site: TalkingPoli.com

At the heart of every political campaign is the question:


Which candidate should be elected?


The Charlestown Mayoral race this year presents voters with choices. With an incumbent who faces a primary challenger, voters will decide on May 7th who will face me in the fall.

We have options for change this year. The first question we face is do we need change? In order to answer that question we can look to the performance record of the incumbent. 

image1-23.jpegIn the city’s most recent newsletter, current Mayor Bob Hall said that he will “continue sticking to the comprehensive plan” that his administration adopted in 2016.

As you consider whether or not Mayor Hall should be elected again, you can look to the action steps in that plan to see if his performance has been successful.

 

  • Out of thirteen “immediate” action steps to be completed by 2017, the city only reported progress on FOUR of them.

    • √ “Revise the zoning ordinance and subdivision control ordinance & streamline the development review process.” 
    • NOT DONE  “Provide all development-related information online.” 
    • √ “Promote existing events & brand and market new and existing events.”
    • NOT DONE  “Integrate public services into areas of new construction and growth.” 
    • √ “Continue Clearitas and water main flushing program.” 
    • NOT DONE  “Improve the perception of water quality.”
    • NOT DONE  “Complete a five-year parks and recreation master plan to plan & implement projects.”
    • NOT DONE  “Identify and support existing substance abuse programs.”
    • NOT DONE  “Develop a business incubator in Charlestown’s downtown.”
    • NOT DONE  “Become certified as a Main Street Community.”
    • √ “Identify and establish redevelopment areas.”
    • NOT DONE  “Provide information about unsafe living conditions online.”
    • NOT DONE  “Create a facade improvement program.” 
  • Out of twenty-three “short-term” action steps to be completed 2018 – 2020, the city has only reported progress on THREE of them.

    • NOT DONE “Determine the feasibility of using impact fees.”
    • √ “Create a consistent brand for Charlestown & promote Charlestown through a public relations campaign. 
    • NOT DONE “Adopt a complete streets policy.”
    • NOT DONE “Connect parks, community facilities, community centers and neighborhoods.”
    • NOT DONE “Coordinate road improvements with water/sewer improvements.”
    • NOT DONE “Adopt access management regulations.”
    • NOT DONE “Complete the Bethany Road Project.”
    • NOT DONE “Improve traffic on County Road 403 and US 31.” (US 3?)
    • NOT DONE “Determine the feasibility of trolley transportation for special events.”
    • NOT DONE “Identify secondary educational opportunities programs and facilities.”
    • NOT DONE “Encourage new subdivisions to include neighborhood parks.” (Although parks are going in, the CITY is putting them in, not “encouraging” the subdivisions to do it.)
    • NOT DONE “Explore the feasibility of a revolving loan fund.”
    • √ “Evaluate existing TIF & provide Tax Abatement.”
    • NOT DONE “Identify priority areas for public art and amenities & provide incentives if public art is incorporated into a development plan.”
    • NOT DONE “Preserve Charlestown’s history through programs and historic markers.”
    • NOT DONE “Pursue tax and federal grant programs to provide low and moderate income housing.”
    • NOT DONE “Provide wider sidewalks in areas that require build-to-lines.”
    • √ “Provide pedestrian amenities.”
    • NOT DONE “Perform a feasibility study for a youth sports complex.” (The consultants from Klipsch-Card hired to do this in 2017 abandoned the plan before it was complete. *Edit* Since this time the mayor has announced a conceptual design for a park but no cost estimate or detailed feasibility plan has been made available.)
    • NOT DONE “Review and revise the At-Risk Rental Inspection Program.” 
    • NOT DONE “Provide a formal reporting mechanism for unsafe living conditions.” 
    • NOT DONE “Promote a clean-up program throughout Charlestown.”
    • NOT DONE “Continue to add wireless hot spots in new parks and public spaces.” 

 

 

You can view the list on page 75 of the Comprehensive Plan on the City’s website here: 2016 Comprehensive Plan.  Do you think the mayor has performed well when measured by his own plan for success? It’s not enough for an incumbent to TELL you he’s doing a good job. You have the right to assess the information for yourself.

If you decide that Charlestown needs a change, then look to the candidates’ platforms. Ask questions of those running for office. Ask how they plan to be held accountable to you at the end of four years if they’re elected.

My platform is linked here: Issues.

I can also be reached:

  • by phone (812) 896-5647
  • through email – trevaformayor@gmail.com
  • on my social media pages
    • Facebook: @trevaformayor
    • Instagram: treva_e_hodges
    • Twitter: @ctowntreva

I’m happy to tell you how I can work with you to Keep Charlestown First.

 

Early last year I learned that an abandoned, dilapidated building behind my home had a chance at new life. A buyer wanted to purchase the building, renovate it, and operate it as a candle factory. Unfortunately, the buyer was forced to back away from that purchase because the City of Charlestown would not consider a zoning variance required for them to operate their business. 

This building borders my property and causes me great worry. Rust, offensive graffiti, overgrown vegetation, and structural damage make it a health and safety hazard. In May 2018 I took my concerns to the Board of Public Works (see that meeting here: 05/21/2018 Board of Public Works) When my request for action by that Board was ignored, I took my concerns to the Common Council meeting the next month (see that meeting here: 06/04/2018 Common Council Meeting)

At that meeting, Mayor Bob Hall

  • admitted that the building is a problem,
  • confirmed that there had been a private sale that the City obstructed, 
  • said that he would announce plans for the building within 60 days. 

What were the plans for that building?

The City wants to buy it for “Renaissance II.” 

LM Bag 1

Today, one full year after I voiced my concerns, that building remains vacant, dilapidated, and has actually gotten worse since now they no longer even mow the grass or maintain the property at all.


This is what GROWTH looks like in Charlestown today.


Instead of allowing the free market to thrive, instead of encouraging private real estate transactions, instead of welcoming businesses or companies that provide jobs and tax revenue, our current administration denies many of these opportunities. 

And now the City finds itself in a bind.

After publicly declaring on multiple occasions in Redevelopment Commission and Board of Public Works meetings their intent to purchase the L&M Bag Company property that borders my home and an additional 10 acres of land along Highway 62, the City finds itself unable to follow through. 

LMBag OfferNow our Redevelopment Commission is passing around several versions of a PowerPoint presentation begging developers and investors to take a chance on the properties. You can view one version here: Redevelopment Gateway Presentation 2019

We’ve seen this development strategy before with the Renaissance Project. Yet again the City is offering to buy private property, spend more money on demolition, then sell it to an investor for ONE DOLLAR.

This is the existing “growth” and “development” we have in Charlestown. When we vote we are choosing what strategy we want. Do we want to continue using tax payer money to give property away to developers? VOTE!