News From Terre Haute, Indiana

Election 2012

May 3, 2012

Vigo County Commissioner - Democrat

TERRE HAUTE — A Rose-Hulman graduate in software engineering will square off against an incumbent commissioner seeking a fourth term for the Democrat nomination in the May 8 Primary Election.

Commissioner Judith A. Anderson has served as a county commissioner since 2001 and previously served on the Vigo County Council. Challenger Sean P. Feeney currently works as a systems administrator at Sony DADC while he pursues a master’s of business administration from Indiana University’s Kelley School of Business.

There are no Republican candidates for the primary election.

Anderson points to accomplishments of a new county medical clinic; completion of a connecting route to the 641 bypass; future road improvements; and a continued effort to enhance economic development in the Vigo County Industrial Park.

Feeney said he would like to implement a tax incentive for property improvements; resolve a train problem that regularly blocks traffic; and would like to see open, transparent bidding for county contracts.

Feeney said many neighbors in Terre Haute and the county have rental homes that landlords refuse to repair “because if they fix them up, they get taxed more. I have talked to a number of landlords who think the best way to approach the problem is to defer those taxes for a couple of years, then phase them in over a number of years. It is similar for business with tax abatements,” Feeney said.

Feeney said commissioners can push the idea forward, even with state representatives.

He said the county should work to help install railroad overpasses and underpasses, as well as improved railroad crossings in the county and in the city of Terre Haute to help reduce traffic congestion from railroads. He also favors establishing “quiet zones” declared in sections throughout the city and county to “prevent horns from blowing all night long.”

The county, Feeney said, needs to make its bidding process more open. “It is as simple as just posting all open contracts on the county’s website and open up the bidding to any community business. I don’t know why we don’t do that now, but it is something I would like to see happen,” Feeney said.

“When you hear about things, it is after they have selected a contractor or vendor. That should be up on the county website a month before. Why aren’t RFPs, request for proposals, up on the website and publicly asking for the bids?” Feeney said.

In addition, minutes to commissioner meetings have not been updated online for the past two years. “We have no idea what they have been up to,” he said. “Why are the minutes not up to date?”

A review of the county’s website, www.vigocounty.in.gov, shows no posting — by commissioners or by the county auditor, who serves as secretary to that board — of the minutes from commissioner meetings. Minutes from meetings of the Vigo County Council are posted on the website.

Feeney said an effort should be made to enact a county/city waste disposal contract. “Why not expand our base a little bit, which might lower the rates for everyone, and have one contract. At the same time, why not make it free recycling? I think we all need to sit down at a table and just push for an agreement,” Feeney said.

Anderson said the opening of a new county medical clinic is a “bonus for our employees and the savings to the county as far as the funding of our insurance will be a great number, but the benefit to our employees and the money they can save is something that I feel very good about being able to do as a county commissioner.

“We have talked about this for several years. My involvement in state associations has shown me that this was a trend in other counties, but it was a struggle to finally get someone to come in and actually show us how it would work for us and do that,” Anderson said.

The county has completed its Canal Road project, which links Terre Haute’s 13th Street corridor, to state’s 641 bypass project, slated for completion at the end of 2014. “That was a long time in coming,” Anderson said, including an effort to have the interchange at Interstate 70 and Indiana 46 redesigned for better traffic flow and future economic development.

“Now that we have accomplished that, it will allow us to do some other major repair to roads, as all of our money had been tied up in that 641 bypass portion,” she said.

Commissioners have implemented a five-year road improvement plan. “We have carried this out for several years. There have been some lean years when we couldn’t fully fund what we wanted to,” Anderson said, “but we have had some cooperation with the County Council and the means to make several roads improvements.”

The council approved $1.5 million last year and $2 million this year from the county’s Rainy Day fund for county road improvements.

Some road work planned for this year includes installing the county’s first round-about at the intersection of Hawthorn and Fruitridge avenues.

“The engineering work on that is done and the letting for construction will be sometime before the end of the year,” Anderson said. “That will help with traffic coming out of the city’s northside industrial park. It is now a four-way traffic stop and this will allow traffic to be continuous,” Anderson said.

The location will be a good testing site for a round-about. “If it does what we plan, we will definitely see more of them probably in the county,” Anderson said.

She also points to improvements at the Vigo County Industrial Park, which has several international companies. “Nobody does this alone, but anything that I have had a part in at the industrial park or serving on boards and committees, I am very proud of that because it helps taxpayers in Vigo County. That is my everyday goal, to do something better,” Anderson said.

Feeney said his business experience and education is important, as a commissioner serves in a similar role of a chief executive officer of a business. “You have to make sure that you have a well running county government. You are in a bit of a support role for all county offices and the 700-plus county employees,” he said.

Anderson said her experience, which also extends to 12  years serving on the Fayette Township Advisory Board and as township deputy assessor, has helped her understand the importance of many levels of county government. “I admire degrees and education, but there is no degree that makes you a better commissioner than experience,” she said.

Howard Greninger can be reached at (812) 231-4204 or howard.greninger@tribstar.com.

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