By JONI TRUEX
Builders Association Kosciusko Fulton Counties
The Warsaw Police Department hosted the latest session of the Kosciusko Leadership Academy. Police Chief Scott Whitaker welcomed everyone.
Representing city government, Charlie Smith shared he was in the third class of KLA and was representing Warsaw Mayor Joe Thallemer.
Councilman Smith shared that Warsaw has been fortunate to have mayors who are also experienced businessmen. This experience has helped with the city management and the $24 million dollar current budget.
Warsaw is much smaller than most people realize. All of the big box stores located here are usually located in a much larger municipality. There are 78,000 people in the county, but only 13,559 in the city of Warsaw (2010 Census).
A few of the more controversial issues the mayor and city council deal with are residents wanting new businesses, however, not in anyone’s backyard; homeless shelters; calls about trash pick up; balancing coverage of police protection and the city building downtown.
Ongoing and recent developments, include the creating of the network of bike and walk trails, improving downtown Warsaw, transportation initiatives and the new technology park are also hot topics. The mayor wants everyone to know his door is always open
Representing county government, Kosciusko County Councilman Larry Teghtmeyer stated two thirds of the county population lives outside of corporate limits. The increase in summer population adds to the numbers.
There are over 1,200 paved miles of road in the county. The county highway department continues to experience a shortfall in their budget. Kosciusko County has the lowest tax rate in the state. Only a few counties have a lower income tax rate. There are over 100 lakes in the county. When the economy suffered the downturn, several homes were listed for sale and some still haven’t sold. The longer school years have not helped the lake housing situation.
County initiatives include working with the city in the funding of a full time economic developer in order to protect our interests and the E911 dispatch center. Kosciusko County, KEDCo, OrthoWorx, Grace College, Ivy Tech and the Kosciusko County Community Foundation are working together like never before.
State Representative Rebecca Kubacki spoke to the KLA class about state government. She explained legislators make laws. There is a lot of pressure on legislators to introduce bills. Every legislator cannot be an expert on everything, that is why legislators look to lobbyists in the state house. The lobbyists have the information and are specialize in a certain field. Legislators talk to them to get an overview and seek lobbyists knowledge. It is important to gather facts before making a decision on a bill. Working with lobbyists, the legislators develop a sense of who is being realistic and honest.
Rep. Kubacki believes her role includes spending time and playing an active role in her community. Discussing topics with residents allows her to know what the people she represents want. There are always more items in a bill than appear. Working together, both democrats and republicans is how gridlock is avoided and things accomplished.
One of the pieces of legislation that Rep. Kubacki has introduced is making pseudoephedrine a scheduled drug. Common sense will tell you who is buying meth. Limiting purchase amounts created smurfs and more smurfs (those who will buy the pseudoephedrine in exchange for meth or money). The problem of meth manufacturing still has not been solved. The costs of securing a prescription for the drug is small in comparison to the costs the meth problem is causing – jails, clean up, police, medical, and the damage to the family units, especially children of meth users. The Sheriff’s Association and Police Association do not support this legislation – they remain neutral on the subject. Rebecca urged people to contact their representatives and senators and ask them to support the bill making pseudoephedrine a scheduled drug.
The speakers then offered the following advice to the audience: Educated people that care about their communities should make plans to serve someday. Women especially need to be involved in politics. Stay informed. Don’t take things for granted. Local government is very important. KLA is a great start – take it to the next level. Everything happens locally – get involved.
The next KLA session will be held on Oct. 22, at the K-21 Healthcare Foundation for Human Services in Kosciusko County.
KLA is a not for profit organization devoted to serving Kosciusko County by encouraging leaders and future leaders to dream and create a better community through white paper projects. Alumni, cadets and interested parties are encouraged to register through the KLA Website at www.kosciuskoleadership.org.