SB Councilwoman calling for more transparency regarding public w - Fox 28: South Bend, Elkhart IN News, Weather, Sports

SB Councilwoman calling for more transparency regarding public works project

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There's some dissension within the ranks of the South Bend Common Council and it has to do with a pricey project to solve a stinky problem.
Councilwoman Valerie Schey says another Councilmember is holding private meetings on an issue she thinks should be public.

The project is a mandate from the EPA to reduce overflow of sewage into the St. Joseph River. Basically, when there is heavy rain in the city, raw sewage overflows into the river.  

 "This is the largest public works project in our city's history. We're looking at a price tag of upwards of $607 million and I feel very strongly that the discussions about this project need to take place in the public eye," says Schey.

The Council wants to find a cheaper solution. Schey is fine with that, but says Councilman Fred Ferlic has called on a group of citizens to come up with suggestions. She says emails show the group has met privately and that the Council never received notice about the formation of the group. She believes those meetings should have been public.

"Everything we do as a government body, is of course a matter of public record. We need to ensure that all of our practices are transparent and inclusive and that we're always accountable for all that we do," says Schey.

Dr. Fred Ferlic says a group of retired engineers and accountants called SAGE is coming up with a way to make the EPA mandated project more affordable. He says discussions aren't at a stage where the public needs to be involved. Over the phone, Ferlic said they're in the process of diagnosing the problem and the public will eventually be brought in on the process.

Schey says she plans to talk with Council President Oliver Davis to discuss transparency policies. The City Clerk says it doesn't appear Ferlic has broken any public meeting laws.

The project is a 20 year plan. So far, the administration has requested a 9% rate increase to help pay for it. Instead, the Council approved a 5% increase earlier this year.
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