Perry Township Board Meeting Minutes: June 9, 2015

The meeting is called to order at 3:13 pm

Members Present: Barb Sturbaum, Susie Hamilton, Jack Davis, Dan Combs

Non-Members Present: Pat Combs, Sharon Yoder, Kevin Robling, Novella Shuck, Forrest Gilmore (Shalom Community Center), Dwayne Gordon (Wheeler Mission), Levi Combs (Mt. Salem Cemetery Preservation Society), Branden Surigao (Mt. Salem), Lauren Slavin (Herald Times), Renee Chambers (Housing Network)

Agenda

  1. Mt. Salem Cemetery Preservation Society Appropriation
  2. Detox Center: New Beginnings/Wheeler Mission
    1. Pros and Cons of Selling the Martha's House Building
    2. Shelter Housekeeping: Paying the Employees

Mt. Salem Cemetery Preservation Society Appropriation

Dan and Pat Combs leave the building at this time in order to avoid any semblance of a conflict of interest with this presentation. Levi Combs is here on behalf of Mt. Salem Cemetery Preservation Society to state that their organization is prepared to assume the management of maintenance responsibilities for the cemetery property. These responsibilities include finishing the fence and regular mowing maintenance.

He has two letters to present to the board, one requesting funding for the completion of the fence and one requesting funding for the mowing expenses for the remainder of 2015. Next year’s expenses of course will be requested at the time of the Townships 2016 budget approval. The fence request is for $900 for a 90-foot section of fence, to complete the fencing around the property. They did solicit bids for this and received three. The maintenance funding request is $1,600 for mowing and removal of a tree. Jack asks if all the transfers of signatures, etcetera for the organization are now in order, and Levi states yes.

Barb moves to appropriate $2,500 for the maintenance and fencing to Mt. Salem Cemetery Preservation Society. Jack seconds this motion and all approve.

Detox Center: New Beginnings/Wheeler Mission

There has been a lot of movement on the issue of the shelter/detox center in the past couple of weeks. At the last board meeting, the board approved (in general concept) to work with Wheeler Mission on a shelter/detox center in the Martha’s House shelter building. Since then, Wheeler Mission’s board has met, and they had questions that they appointed a subcommittee to explore. These questions included: Would Perry Township be interested in parting with (selling) the property? They also took the opportunity to tell us that if there are other organizations in Bloomington that are interested in using our building, Perry Township should look into that as a possible alternative to Wheeler Mission, too. Dwayne states there were 20 board members present and there was a long question and answer session. Their subcommittee meets tomorrow June 10th, and the idea of purchasing the property is exploratory at this point.

Dan states that Forrest with Shalom Community Center had previously asked about using Martha’s House’s building, and so upon hearing this news from Wheeler Mission, he contacted Forrest and told him if he wants to put together a proposal, now is the time. There is also a meeting today at 5pm for elected officials, the community foundation, and any other interested parties to discuss the possibility of a housing proposal. Shalom, The Housing Network, City Council, County Council, County Commissioners, the Mayor, and HAND were all informed of this.

Regarding the option of selling the property (to Wheeler Mission or others), Kevin has told Dan previously that it would be the same process as selling to a private entity, with appraisals, proposals, etc..

Sharon and Pat have gone through the Township budget and (where available) shelter data, and the Township has $45,000 available to cover expenses for an emergency shelter. If the shelter employees’ wages stay the same, this would cover slightly over 3.5 months of expenses; if we pay a living wage (which the Township has committed to in the past), it would only cover three months, beginning on 6/30/15. At that point, if people in the community are interested in keeping the shelter open, they will need to demonstrate that they also will be interested in helping with expenses. Perry Township has contributed at least $1,000,000 to the shelter on Rogers Street since 1992, and the City has contributed $300,000-$350,000, while the county has contributed about $50,000 in that time.

Barb asks which governmental agency has responsibility for sheltering, legally. Dan states that the County Homes Statute is the only instance in which the responsibility of housing people is given. The County has been reluctant to provide funding for shelter though because they state they would have to defund other things. Dan will emphasize at the 5pm community meeting tonight that if the county cannot contribute, the Township cannot keep on doing so either.

Pros and Cons of Selling the Martha's House Building

Discussion is opened on the subject of selling the Martha’s House building in the future.

Cons Include:

The Township would have no control over what the building becomes and what it is used for. It could become a religious center or another Shalom Center. Kevin states that when the Waldron was sold to Ivy Tech (for $1), they had caveats in the contract about what the building could be used for. This could significantly decrease the value of a property though, giving Wheeler Mission a disincentive to buy it. It would also be a long (8-12 month, perhaps) process to sell it.

The community would also lose a sheltering asset. Though Wheeler Mission is good, the Township would not have the ability to refer our clients/residents into shelter. Again, this is something that can be added into contract caveats, but the more restrictions there are, the more onerous the process (and Wheeler may not like the restrictions). If sold, the shelter would also have to temporarily close at some point. The Township would not have the money to keep it open for the 8-month sale process.

Pros Include:

The Township would no longer have ongoing expenses (for utilities, property taxes, etc.). We do have a five-year use lien that requires we use the property for shelter for at least 5 years that does not end until 2018, and we would have to pay our way out of that agreement.

Jack asks if the building has been appraised recently, and it has not, so the Township has little idea what it could be worth. Jack advises our first step before making any judgments is to get a value on the property, perhaps by calling a realtor. This would give us market value (before any caveats we may require), but it would be a start.

Dan is currently very disinclined to put the Martha’s House building on the market. In making a final decision, he would count for one vote and the board would count for a second vote. If the two votes do not come to an agreement, the issue is deadlocked and no action takes place. Dan wants to first see if others may come in to help with a sheltering organization.

If nothing comes of the community meeting this evening after the board meeting, Wheeler Mission is still on the table. Dwayne states they were worried about how fast the deal was moving, as well as legal religious issues. Dan states that there is a level of trust lost for New Beginnings (the unofficial name for the now largely Wheeler-led project), since they did not tell the Township about Wheeler Mission’s involvement until practically the last minute. Dwayne states they do not think this was purposeful, but they were trying to keep their options open and neutral until things were official. Dwayne states the reason Wheeler Mission likes the idea of a detox center is because it would get people off the street who have something in their system. Dan’s concern comes in when there is nothing to base the detox center on in Indiana. There is no winning model for this enterprise and that is why Amethyst went out of business as a detox service, too. At this point, while soliciting community involvement on a shelter service, he wants a detox center to be taken off the table.

Shelter Housekeeping: Paying the Employees

The Township will have to take over the shelter regardless, even if for no other purpose than to manage moving people out of it. We have enough money in our shelter funds to make payroll for shelter employees until around October 1st. If we do this, The Township needs to either hire the shelter employees as temporary employees or hire a temp service to handle their employment. Dan’s real concern about hiring the employees directly is the township would be responsible for unemployment, and the employees lose the money that they have paid in over the years into it because we are a governmental organization. Sharon has contacted Express Employment about using their services for the Martha’s House.

Barb asks if this is the course of action that Dan recommends and he states yes. Sharon states that if we want to pay an employee $10/hour, Express Employment would charge us $13.76 (with similar but varying scales for other rates of pay). This is worth it to alleviate Township responsibilities to employees though, and Dan heavily stressed that we not underestimate the unemployment benefits issue. Martha’s House has five employees that we will manage for three months. We can then revisit the issue in October.

Dan states that back when Shelter Inc. ceased operations, Community Kitchen was kind enough to acquisition the employees briefly, but he does not believe anyone will do that now for three whole months unless we pay them a substantial incentive. He also states that the county has temporary employees, but when we asked how they are allowed to do this, the auditor was not sure.

Barb makes a motion to contract with Express Employment for 3 months to employ the Martha’s House staff. Susie seconds the motion, and all vote in favor.

Barb motions for the 3 lowest paid employees at Martha’s House get wage raises to $10.00 per hour. Jack seconds the motion, and all vote in favor.

Barb moves that Louis (who has not had a raise since Martha’s House came into existence) gets a raise to $12.50 per hour. Jack seconds the motion and all vote in favor.

Tonya, who has worked at Martha’s House 12 years and been building manager since 2011, makes $14.42 per hour, and the board expressed that they were comfortable with that amount at this time.

These individuals will not be Township employees. They will be Express Employment employees, and the board is approving the amounts they will contract with Express Employment to pay. The board signed the Amended Township Form 17 (which sets the hourly wage), which Kevin states should not be necessary if they are not our employees. Dan states this is just cover for if we are audited, as the State Board of Accounts told us to fill this salary resolution out. The board and Dan all signed the form.

The next meeting is set for July 14th at 3:15pm. At this meeting, the board will revisit the idea of ownership versus disposal of the Martha’s House property. As an overview of today, the board resolved to contract with Express Employment for Martha’s House’s employees for the next three months. As Kevin stressed (and wants firmly on the record), these will be employees of Express Employment contracted to continue work at the Martha’s House shelter. They are not Perry Township employees.

Barb adjourned the meeting at 4:26pm.