|Wednesday, 16 September 2009 21:36|
by Don Amber
August was a pretty light month for the Commissioners.Not so the County Council. They had to trim about three million dollars from the 2010 budget.
At our first August meeting we received our attorney report from Mr. Dan Sigler.His report too was very brief. Essentially he discussed an agreement that the county and Embarq are reviewing with regard to moving a pedestal in Park 30. He also reported that the fuel agreement between the county and Whitley County Consolidated Schools has been changed to a three year agreement from a five year agreement per the wishes of the school system. Hopefully we’ll be signing this agreement soon. It has taken too long to get it approved.
Our next guests were representatives from the Parkview Wellness Group. We invited them to attend because we are convinced that keeping employees well will result in lower insurance costs (we are self-insured) and also keep the employee’s share of the premiums at a reasonable rate. Their presentation was very good. The presentation indicated that “Corporate wellness programs have been shown to provide a 3-to-1 return on investment” and that the two leading reasons for promoting wellness are; “reducing indirect costs associated with absenteeism, presenteeism, disability, and workers compensation” and “improving work performance such as productivity and quality.” They offered the county three options for the wellness program. We will review the information and make a decision soon. Next we received a presentation from the Website Committee. They reviewed three proposals, one of which was from a local source. In their opinion, however, the proposal that would get us the “most bang for our buck” was from eGov. Strategies. This firm has done numerous government websites around the United States. If you would like to see examples of their work visit www.montgomeryco.net , www.utah.gov, or www.fishers.in.us. These are but three examples of eGov’s work. It is important to Whitley County that when our website be opened (hopefully by potential new business or folks wanting to move here) they will be WOW’d. eGov is not cheap and in fact is more expensive than the other two proposals. It will cost the county $24,000 but it was decided that their experience with government sites and the quality of their work will be worth it. In my next report or two I’ll let you know some of the features that we plan to have in our website. Are there any features you’d like to see? For example, pay your taxes online?
We will be having a meeting soon with all department heads to find out what they want or need in the website.
Our highway superintendent, Mr. Michael Barton met with us to discuss his current status with regard to sealing. It looks like we might actually seal 100 miles in 2009. That would have been unheard of previously. He also discussed with us the structure of administration. He will have a foreman and an assistant foreman. The assistant foreman will be required to continue his daily duties and only becomes “management” when the superintendent and/or foreman is unavailable.
Duane Ginder, Director of EMS met with us to discuss obtaining an “Income Survey.” In an effort to secure grant funding for a new EMS building it will be necessary to determine the income status of Whitley County. No grants are available unless the county’s medium income is considered in the “low” range. Duane will continue to work with possible vendors that will perform the actual survey.
Planning Executive Director David Sewell came before the commissioners to present a request for Jon Kissinger to be appointed to the Columbia City Plan Commission. The commissioners agreed and voted 3-0 to make the appointment.
I spoke to the commissioners about two recent accidents involving golf carts. One took place on a county road and the other on private property. Our state legislature decided this year to have each county, city, or town make their own decision about whether or not to allow golf carts on roads and streets. The commissioners generally agree that until they become a problem we most likely will not legislate rules. We will consult with our county attorney about the matter though.
On August 17 we held our second meeting of the month. As always the meeting’s first agenda item is the report from our county attorney. Mr. Sigler reported that county highway workers had recently struck a natural gas line on Linker Road (Tri-Lakes) but minimal damage had been done. He also reported back to us that essentially golf carts are illegal on county roads by law. He will check surrounding areas to see how they are dealing with golf carts. It seems to be an issue around the “lakes” area of counties.
Once again we met with representatives from Parkview Wellness Group. We discussed two possible employee incentives for participating in the program. One would reduce their premium cost and the other would deal with lowering their deductible. We did not make a decision on the incentive but did decide to go ahead with the program. Currently the county has an “Inhouse Biggest Loser” program going with several participants. A great start to wellness. I want to thank our county coordinator, Amy Crickmore, for administering the program. Good job Amy!!
Every four years counties have to hire a firm to inspect their bridges. This is the year that we award the contract. In the four year period, the law dictates that two bridge inspections be completed. The good news is that this is a program in which the federal government provides 80 percent of the funding while we have to provide the other 20 percent. We have received seven proposals so a committee of myself, Brandon Forrestor, our county engineer, and Mike Barton, our county highway superintendent will review the proposals and report back at our September 8th meeting.
Mr. Barton also discussed with us that 96 miles have been sealed. We will not mill 50West this year and we will not mill Anderson Road this year but will instead do it all (mill, add 2000 tons of stone and seal) at one time next year after spring thaw. We will be restoning some gravel roads this year after sealing is done and he also reported that the striping of center lines will begin soon. A Mr. Brian Hanson, a county resident, was present to comment about the roads. He feels that we fix roads that don’t need fixed while leaving other roads that need fixing untouched. It’s always good to hear from citizens.
Following our commissioner meeting on the 17th we all attended the Solid Waste Board meeting as our position as commissioners automatically makes us members of the Solid Waste Board. Churubusco also has a representative in John Hart from the Town Board. Our current vendor, “Serv-All” has notified us per the contract that fees for their service will have to be increased in 2010. We also have another option and that is to take new proposals for service and that’s what we decided to do. We’ve been with Serv-All for several years but perhaps it’s time to see what other vendors might have to offer. One thing I can promise you is that our recycling program will become “single stream.” In other words, you will no longer have to place papers in one container and everything else in the other container. Our new contract will call for one container that will be 96 gallons and on wheels, much like the trash containers most of us currently have. I will keep you aware of the proceedings.
Since EMS was started in 1976 the county has contracted with the local hospital to provide management of the service and the county reimbursed the hospital for any loss accumulated by EMS. For the past several years the county payment has been made from the CEDIT fund. While that’s perfectly legal, CEDIT funds should be used primarily for economic development. There are alternative ways to fund EMS and my question to you this month is would you prefer a “service fee” much like recycling which is added to your spring tax bill, or, would you prefer a local option income tax. In both cases my research shows that it would cost each household between $40.00 and $50.00 annually. I know you’re probably inclined to say “NEITHER” but, honestly, to keep the level of EMS that we currently have it will be necessary to find funding other than CEDIT. Please feel free to call me at 609-2833 or email at bison1112002@ yahoo.com with your thoughts.
See you next month.