Local News Politics

Fischer Appoints New MSD Board Members

Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer has appointed three new members to the Metropolitan Sewer District board of directors.

Last month, three members resigned amid reports that their companies benefited financially from MSD contracts that were not competitively bid. The chairman of the board stepped down voluntarily when it was reported that his company received almost $600,000 from MSD.  Fischer asked the other two members to step down.

The mayor’s appointees are:

  • Yvonne Hatfield, a former teacher with 16 years of business experience.
  • James Craig, an attorney with Tachau Meek whose interests include business and economic development.
  • Tom Austin, CEO and owner of Universal Linen Service. He is a former environmental specialist who performed surveys and inspections of waste water treatment facilities.

The board also adopted a new ethics policy that some members of the Metro Council say doesn’t go far enough.

Local News Next Louisville

Fleming Says MSD Board Should Go Further With Ethics Changes

Several members of the Louisville Metro Council say the Metro Sewer District board’s recent change in ethics policy is a good first step, but it doesn’t go far enough.

After reports showed that several MSD contracts were given to businesses owned by board members, council members and the mayor called for changes. At least two board members resigned and Monday, the board adopted a new policy that bars members from doing business with MSD.

Councilman Ken Fleming previously said MSD should place itself under the Metro Government ethics code, and he stands by his statement.

“I would like for them to try to adopt that, or adopt most of it to implement within their organization, but I think they’re taking a good first step toward transparency and to shore up their ethics policy,” he says.

Councilmen Kelly Downard and Jim King both tell the Courier-Journal MSD should adopt the city ethics code as well.

Dalton Main contributed to this report.

Local News Politics

MSD Selects New Chair, Vice Chair; Adopts New Ethics Policy

The board of directors for the Metropolitan Sewer District selected a new chairman Monday and adopted a new ethics policy.

This action comes after Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer, who appoints board members, called for a shake up.

On Friday, former Chairman Audwin Helton stepped down in the wake of reports that his company had benefited financially from MSD contracts that were not competitively bid.

The board met today and selected Arnold Celentano as the new chairman and Doyle Stacy as the new vice-chair.

“Mr. Cellentano is a retired engeneer” says executive director Bud Schardein, “he has had experience on another sewer board, in New York State and he has been on the board for several years, he represents the Old Louisville Area and has always been a very active board member.”

The board also unanimously voted to enact a new ethics policy without any debate or discussion.

“The new policy was approved,” says Schardein, “to simply state that no board member or immediate family member of a board member can do business or hold a contract with MSD while they sit on the board.”

Fischer has also asked that two other board members whose companies benefited from no-bid contract to step down.

Last week, board member Marty Hoehler announced he would resign, but board member Beverly Wheatly, who was reportedly missing from today’s meeting, was not available for comment on her status.

Local News Politics

Chairman of the Board at MSD Resigns

The chairman of the Metropolitan Sewer District’s board of directors resigned today Friday.

The resignation comes just a week after the Courier-Journal reported that Chairman Audwin Helton’s private company received almost $600,000 dollars in contracts from MSD that were not competitively bid.

Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer announced the resignation this morning and requested that two other board members resign as well. Marty Hoehler and Beverly Wheatley also own companies that benefited from contracts with MSD.

The mayor appoints members of the board.

Fischer is encouraging other local boards and commissions to enact ethics rules to prohibit board members from doing business with the organizations they serve.

Local News Next Louisville Politics

MSD Awating Word From FEMA on Grant to Buy Flood-Prone Homes

The Ohio River is receding, eliminating the threat of floods for many Louisville residents. But parts of the city are still prone to floods, and not because they’re near the river.

The river wasn’t a factor in the August 2009 flood. That’s when heavy rainfall inundated sewers, causing water to flow into streets and houses.

The Metro Sewer District’s solution to the problem is to buy homes—mostly in west and southwest Louisville—and destroy them to create absorbent ground and keep rainwater out of the sewers.

MSD director Bud Schardein says the district will offer a fair value for homes.

“You’d have to get into negotiation before you make any determination on that. We’re not going to offer people a pittance. Homes will be appraised. We’ve done this before in some of the suburban areas and it’s met with a great deal of success,” he says.

When the idea was first proposed, some residents questioned whether the sale price of their homes would be enough for them to relocate to another part of the city. Schardein says no one will be forced to leave.

Schardein optimistic the Federal Emergency Management Agency will approve the city’s grant request, and he hopes to hear from the agency soon.

“I’m told it’s going to be in the very near future. What that near future is could be a month, two months. I just can’t pinpoint it,” he says.

Local News

Ohio River Holding Three Feet Above Flood Stage

Despite additional rainfall, the Ohio River is holding at about 26 feet, three feet above flood stage.

Metro Sewer District Director Bud Schardein says he expects the river to stay there for the next three or four days, even though slightly more rain is in the forecast for Tuesday.

“Were still in a holding patter, we are operating 14 flood pumping plants. They’re doing their job, they’re pumping this rainwater that is hitting the city into the river; and there are no reports of flooding behind the walls or the levee.”

Schardein says River Road will remain closed in some places for a few more days and urges residents to continue using alternate routes.

Local News

Ohio River Reaches Flood Stage

The Ohio River has officially reached minor flood stage.

At about 11 PM Wednesday night the river surpassed the official flood stage of 23 feet, and was running Thursday morning  at about 24.7 feet, almost two feet above flood stage.

The river is expected to exceed 28 feet this weekend, but the National Weather Service says they are still trying to get a handle on the amount of rain that fell upstream.

Mike Callahan with the National Weather Service says he was surprised by the amount of rain that fell in Louisville Wednesday afternoon, which is the main cause for the current flooding.

“When you get heavy rain locally, you’ll get a fast rise and a quick crest but it won’t be prolonged,” Callahan says “when you get the heavy rain upstream especially if it crosses most of the basin then you’ll get a prolonged rise but it’ll go higher.”

MSD Director Bud Schardein says standard flood procedures are working properly today. “We close off all the underground pipes that drain to the river so that water can’t back into the city” he says, “we close streets as the water rises at elevation, and we turn flood pumping plants on to pump whatever rainfall in the city falls, over the floodwall and into the river.”

9 of 16 floodwater pumping stations have been activated and it is estimated that 3 or 4 more pumping stations will be activated over the weekend. Some sections of River Road have been closed due to the flooding.

The National Weather Service says they are still analyzing data from the rain upstream to determine the full effects.

Local News

With Rain Predicted, MSD Remains in “Holding Pattern” on Flooding

by Dalton Main

The Ohio River is just below flood stage and is expected to stay there for the next few days.

Rain and melted snow from further north have left the river high. It crested Monday morning about 18 inches below the 23-foot flood stage. MSD director Bud Schardein says even though rain is predicted for later this week, the river should remain below flood stage.

“Right now we’re just basically at a holding pattern, and It’s still early in the spring. I’ve seen the river stay several feet above pool for a couple of weeks before and that’s not untypical this time of year,” he says.

There is less than an inch of rain in the forecast for Tuesday night and possibly a half inch for Wednesday. The water level is expected to drop slightly before the rainfall.

The National Weather Service cancelled Monday’s flood watch.

Local News

Council Passes $330 Million MSD Bond

The Louisville Metro Council has approved a bond issue for the Metropolitan Sewer District.

MSD requested a $330 million bond that would be guaranteed by the city. The money will mostly go toward federally-mandated sewer improvements. The district plans to repay the bond through a 6.5 to 7 percent rate increase over the next three to four years.

MSD sought and won a $180 million bond issuance for similar improvements last year. Council majority caucus spokesperson Tony Hyatt says the frequent rate hikes are uncomfortable, but they could be worse.

“MSD had pretty much told us if they had wanted to, they could’ve had huge rate increases in double-digits, but in these tight economic times, they thought it was best to go for the rate increases they needed at the time to keep the projects going,” he says. So while no one likes a rate increase, we are under a federal consent decree to correct the problem.”

The council approved the bond issue at its regular meeting Thurday evening.

Local News

MSD Still Pursuing Buyouts To Prevent Flooding

The head of the Metropolitan Sewer District says more storms like the one that caused last year’s flash flood are likely in the city’s future, and he wants to prepare local infrastructure.

More than seven inches of rain fell in just over an hour on parts of the city on the morning of August 4th, 2009. The rain was too much for Louisville’s drainage system to handle, and flood waters damaged homes, businesses, government buildings and vehicles in parts of west, central and south Louisville.

MSD Director Bud Schardein stops short of blaming climate change or other causes, but says these kinds of weather incidents are becoming more common.

“There was about 8-10 inches of rain that fell in Chicago in several hours,” he says. “In June, there were people who died—I believe 20 or so—in flash flooding in the Ozarks due to a very heavy, very intense rain event in a very short period of time and just a week later in Oklahoma, the same thing occurred. This is a trend.”

Schardein says MSD is applying for federal grants to buy homes in flood-prone areas and replace them with green space. The open lots would absorb water during storms and help prevent the sewers from overflowing.

“If we’re successful, and I think we’re going to be with some of these, then we’re going to be able to offer those homeowners the opportunity to leave that area where they’re vulnerable—relocate to another home,” he says.

Schardein says the district is eyeing about 130 homes for buyouts. So far, he says homeowners have been receptive.