Candidates for State Representative District 22, Kosciusko County Sheriff, Kosciusko County Commissioner Southern District and Kosciusko County Council Fourth District, were on hand to meet constituents and answer preselected questions Monday evening.
Approximately 200 attended to speak to and hear responses from the candidates. The evening was hosted by the Kosciusko Chamber of Commerce at the Center Lake Pavilion, Warsaw.
Each candidate was given two minutes to tell about themselves and two minutes to answer questions. No questions were taken from the audience. All questions were answered in alphabetical order initially, followed by answers on a rotating basis.
Candidates for county sheriff — Patrick Jamison, Libertarian; Travis Marsh, Independent; and Aaron Rovenstine, Republican — responded to such questions as handling the growing jail population, curbing the methamphetamine problem in the county, strengthening the partnership between the sheriff’s department and other agencies; and defining and plans to address the greatest law enforcement challenge in the county.
Jamison’s responses to the questions included, expanding the work release program and making a person’s stay in jail one in which they would not be comfortable or not want to return. Regarding the meth problem, he would favor making the ingredients more difficult to get while balancing liberty and justice. Having the sheriff be out in the public, visible and working with the community would strengthen a partnership. Solving the challenges faced in the office, Jamison noted improvising, adapting and overcoming obstacles could resolve the challenges and for the residents to be good patriots, helping keep the county under control.
Marsh joked about using a big field with a giant electric fence to handle the jail population, but on a serious note stated the capacity is there but more manpower is needed and look at options with work release. Noting heroin has reappeared in the county, Marsh noted a more functional website where tips could be sent in and all agencies working together sharing information could assist in curbing the problem. He also noted open communication between all agencies is needed. For him the greatest challenge of the office is budgetary and suggested the use of grants, having no color scheme for squad vehicles, fundraisers for programs as some options.
Rovenstine, who added a few stories to his responses, noted there are still uncertainties on the jail population with the new change in criminal sentencings, availability of alternative sentencings and new drug court. He pointed out the county was the first to be proactive in the meth problem, which made the county among the top in the state. Education of the public, an aggressive drug unit and higher bonds would help curb the problem. He noted good cooperation between police and the public can strengthen a partnership. Rovenstine noted the challenges he sees are infrastructure issues, having 1980 technology and repairing it with band-aids and mental health issues of inmates.
Candidates for county commissioner Robert Conley, Republican and Gale Owens, Democrat and county council Dan Damron, Democrat and Jon Garber, Republican, respectively answered questions relating to areas within these offices. Among the questions were replacement of lost revenue from the elimination of the business personal property tax, concern over the economic future and strength of the local economy, Kernan-Shepherd Report of eliminating county commissioners, county council, township offices and restructuring county government; and funding of the highway department for the future.
Conley noted providing a more attractive county for recreation and work is what brings people to the county and an attractive tax rate can help with with lost revenue. Regarding highway funds, Conley referred to the surtax and wheel tax which will not only provide funds for the county but towns as well and next summer road improvements should be noticeable.
Owens noted the county needs to look outside of the orthopedic workforce with the county’s best asset being the middle class. Owen pointed out Silver Lake was able to pave all its roads without raising taxes and noted the county needs to watch what it is doing instead of making a burden on everyone.
Damron noted he will keep fighting the medical device to keep jobs in the county. He also noted he was against the wheel tax and there are other ways to come up with the funds.
Garber noted the county needs to be diversified in its industry and employment. He noted the implementation of the surtax and wheel tax would get the roads up to snuff and the tools are available.
All four candidates are against the Kernan-Shepherd report and in favor of keeping local people overseeing local government.