Friday, November 18, 2005

Their Man Mitch Strikes Again

CLARIFICATION: We've subsequently learned that the news is even worse - they're not just privatizing, they're shutting the facility completely (presumably to sell). Stay tuned.

In my estimation, the following is news. I can think of only two reasons to withhold this item from publication: 1) to allow 150 or more area families one last weekend without the discomfort of knowing their job security is threatened, and 2) to allow Gov. Mitch Daniels (R) and his public relations staff to hone their rhetoric for a big, splashy press conference on Monday.

Strike that. I imagine Gov. Daniels will arrange to be as far away from the state capital as possible on Monday and will send out some hapless cabinet member to face the media.

A single, but reliable source informs us that the state of Indiana will announce the turnover of Silvercrest Children’s Development Center to a private contractor.

Silvercrest provides services to children with multiple disabilities and four state psychiatric hospitals provide services to children with serious emotional disturbance. Although the service needs vary by diagnoses, many children with disabilities require similar services, including:

Case management
Respite care and/or respite beds
Family counseling
Family involvement
Family training
Self help skills
Group counseling
Individual counseling
Recreation/activity therapy
Medical treatment/monitoring including dietary
Assessment and evaluation
Habilitation training
Behavioral specialist staff
Physical therapy, occupational therapy and speech therapy
24 hour a day/seven day a week consistency in therapy milieu
High control strategies
Locked units

Silvercrest Children’s Development Center, under the auspices of the Indiana State Department of Health, provides services to children with multiple disabilities. Located in New Albany in southern Indiana, Silvercrest provides services to children throughout the state, with the majority of children coming from the southern part of Indiana. By statute Silvercrest provides assessment, remediation therapy, and program development to children ages birth to 22, who have 2 or more disabilities. Children are referred to Silvercrest by their local education agency (LEA) and the average length of stay is approximately 12 months.

Services are also provided in the community for children with multiple disabilities. These services are coordinated by the local education agency or the Indiana State Department of Education, Division of Special Education, and include community services, alternative residential placements within the state, and residential placements in other states. Children with the same types of disabilities as those receiving services at Silvercrest are currently receiving services within their communities.

(Data taken from the Governor's Council on State-Operated Care Facilities Final Report)

From that report: Recommendation #13: The Council recognizes the important role that Silvercrest plays in providing services to children with multiple disabilities. In keeping with the goal of providing services as close to home as possible, the Council recommends that the Department of Education, Division of Special Education and the Department of Health develop a collaborative plan that draw on their expertise to further expand these type of services throughout the state. This plan should be developed by December 31, 2001.

That's the O'Bannon/Kernan solution. What does Their Man Mitch offer? And why did those particular state employees endorse Daniels in last year's election?

Learn more about New Albany's contribution to the care of children at the official Web site here

We invite those of you who work at or with, or have been served by Silvercrest at some time, to contribute your thoughts about the idea of the state relinquishing control over the facility to a for-profit company.

For the Record

Somebody's lying. No great surprise, I'll grant you, but nothing more clearly demonstrates the utter inability of some people to tell the truth than the conversations circulating regarding last evening's city council meeting.

I was there. In fact, the audience was filled with progressives. The only civilian in attendance whose progressive credentials are lacking departed the meeting before any actual business was conducted. Perhaps Tim Young Productions can persuade their client to make the tapes available to the public. I know they will verify the following report.

City Council took up an ordinance to increase sewer tap-in fees by about 40% last evening, passing the ordinance on first reading.

Beforehand, Mr. John Miller pled the case that these fees, particularly with the increase, serve as an impediment to fostering the type of housing this city so desperately needs in its core area. New Albany's Community Housing operation offers this city the best opportunity in sight for economic development, cash inflows, jobs, and safe and fair housing. The locally contributed money triggers an additional nine times that in federal grant money to rehabilitate some of the 3,000 substandard homes in New Albany. Moreover, that $15 million then become available to leverage several multiples of additional funding for the same types of projects.

Seeking recognition during the public comment portion of the meeting, I asked the council to consider that one of the ways it could promote infill development, which I presume they prefer to sprawl, would be to calculate the rate increase in such a way that it would allow for preferential waivers, discounts, subsidies, etc. for developments that meet the objectives of the city's five-year plan. Acknowledging the need for the sewer utility to operate on a firm financial footing, I suggested the council should amend the ordinance to raise the tap-in fee by an amount sufficient to cover such subsidies.

Mr. John Rosenbarger, who wears many hats, including planning and redevelopment, made a compelling case that such waivers can, should, and are used regularly to promote desirable development. In fact, he suggested that those very waivers can also be leveraged as a local contribution that can be matched by federal and other grant funds.

At no time did anyone in the room oppose the idea of raising the tap-in fee to meet the obligations of the sewer utility. I REPEAT. NO ONE AT ANY TIME RAISED ANY OBJECTION TO THE BOOST IN TAP-IN FEES.

Anyone who tells you a liar. Anyone who facilitates the same is aiding and abetting the spread of disinformation.

We'll lay it out in numbers next week. If the current ordinance is sufficient to meet the obligations of the sewer utility, then a slight boost in the fee would give the sewer board or the council the ability to give a hand to deserving projects that meet specific criteria. NACH's project is clearly one of those, but setting that aside for a moment, we ask: Can no one on the council envision a circumstance where the city might want to ENCOURAGE development by waiving the fee or establishing a fee structure that won't be such a gross impediment to (really a theft from) preferred projects? If they can see it, then why not pass an ordinance that makes it possible in the future without harming the financial stability of the utility?

A Fine Night Downtown

New Albany's Main Street organization, Develop New Albany, saw fit to honor ourr store with its Horizon Award on Thursday, Nov. 17, during that group's annual meeting. This is one of four Pillar awards the organization gives out each year, and we are honored to be selected in our first year.

Also honored Thursday in a presentation by staff member Jane Alcorn were three other "pillars" of the community, as defined by the boundaries of the Urban Enterprise Zone.

The Redmen Club took the marble trophy for its architectural contribution to the city with the Renaissance Award. In just a short time, the Redmen built a new club building on Main Street and built it in such a way as to strongly complement the historic character of that section of town.

The architectural firm of Michell Timperman and Ritz earned the Foundation Award for its contributions to the business community.

And Al Goodman was honored with the Achievement Award, granted to an individual who epitomizes the spirit of New Albany Business.

Here are those nominated, with the "winner" in bold. I put winner in boldface because they each were deserving.

Horizon Award
Destinations Booksellers
Federal Hill Cafe
Hornblower Marine Services
Martha's Attic
Patch as Patch Can Quilt Shop

Renaissance Award
Aunt Artie's Antiques
The Calumet Club
New Albany Fire House
The Redmen Club
State Street Flooring
Third Century Properties

Foundation Award
Coyle Dodge
Harvest Homecoming
Kraft Funeral Service
MainSource Bank
Michell Timperman and Ritz
Terry Middleton's Kick Boxing and Karate
The Office Supply Company
Sassy's Flowers
Schad and Palmer
Mike Smith Firestone

Achievement Award
Al Goodman
Mike Ricke
Rich Robinson

Each of these nominees has a story to tell and I wish I had the time and space to tell it. Let them know how much you appreciate them, next time you visit. We invite you to share with us your impressions and we'll add them on to this story.