By Lasca Randels
WARSAW — A good portion of the Kosciusko County Commissioners meeting Tuesday, April 28, involved discussion about the eventual reopening of county offices.
On March 31, a motion was approved to extend the county offices’ closure for two weeks, provided that it was not greater than Gov. Eric Holcomb’s extension, and to keep county offices closed to the public for one additional week following the reopening of county offices.
On April 14, Commissioner President Brad Jackson reiterated intent to stick with that plan after the Governor’s order was extended.
The current stay-at-home order expires Friday, May 1. Holcomb will be making an announcement on that date as to whether Indiana will extend its stay-at-home order.
Commissioners agreed that if the governor does not extend the stay-at-home order, county offices will be open for all employees beginning Monday, May 4, but closed to the public for an additional week. If the Governor extends the order for another two weeks, the county will follow the order.
The question then turned to what should be done if the order is partially lifted. If the order is partially relaxed, that could be a gray area, commissioners agreed.
“If he (Holcomb) relaxes it, I say we reopen,” Commissioner Brad Jackson said.
Commissioner Cary Groninger added, “There are a thousand what-ifs.”
Groninger asked County Auditor Michelle Puckett if there is a backlog of work or if things have been slow enough that there won’t be enough for everyone to do if the full staff is reinstated.
“I think it definitely depends office-by-office,” Puckett said. “My office – especially the real estate department – they will have work to do.”
Puckett said she was not sure if other offices would have enough to do if the county offices are not open to the public.
“I think if he doesn’t reinstate the order the way it is now, if he relaxes it, we reopen,” Jackson reiterated. “I think we’re being smart about this. I mean, it’s got to open. We can’t stay hunkered down forever.”
Commissioners then discussed ensuring that proper protective equipment is on hand and being used by employees.
“I would also encourage you guys since we will be closed to the public for a week … to come in when all the employees are here and go office to office to see what personal protection equipment they do have or what additional equipment they will need just based off of the office in general and what those employees are feeling at that point about returning to work,” Puckett suggested.
That way, Puckett said, they could determine the comfort level of employees and see if they have any ideas about enhanced personal protection equipment.
County Administrator Marsha McSherry said additional PPE items have been ordered, with some expected to arrive this week and other items not arriving until sometime in May.
Kosciusko County Commissioners also approved a document proclaiming May 2020 as Motorcycle Safety & Awareness month.
The proclamation requests that Kosciusko County citizens be cognizant of the need for care and awareness at all times as they live, work and travel the streets, roads and highways throughout the county.
Rhonda Hardy and Tom Brembeck were at the meeting as representatives of Kosciusko County American Bikers Aimed Toward Education.
Commissioners announced they will be sending letters to Senators Ryan Mishler and Blake Doriot requesting a review of the Motor Vehicle Highway Restricted Fund.
Indiana Code 8-14-1-4 designates that 50 percent of MVH revenues be deposited into the MVH Restricted Fund and the remainder deposited into the MHV Unrestricted Fund.
According to the commissioners’ letter, historically, highway departments have spent 30 percent of revenue for restricted uses and 70 percent for unrestricted uses.
“The current restrictions have created an excess of cash in our Restricted Fund and a shortfall of cash in our Unrestricted Fund,” an excerpt from the letter reads. “The current legislation has created a shortfall for payroll in the amount of $1.6 million, requiring an additional appropriation to be approved by Council to meet the needs of the highway department.”
“Basically, we’re having, without going into too much depth, issues with the state allowing us to spend money like we need to,” Jackson said. “They give us enough money — but they don’t let us spend it where we need it.”
The letter states that this has placed a financial hardship on the county that cannot be sustained in the coming budget years and ends by asking that the Senators consider removing the 50/50 restrictions in MVH funding.
In other news:
- Area Plan Director Dan Richard recommended that a request to vacate by Wawasee Marina Inc. be continued until May 26.
- Commissioners signed and approved a 2019 end-of-year report from the county highway department.
- Kosciusko County Highway Department Superintendent Steve Moriarty received approval to reduce the speed limit at EMS B33 Lane and B34 Lane from 35 mph to 20 mph.
- Moriarty also received approval for speed limit ordinances at Chapman Lake Drive and T13B Lane. The speed limits are already posted in those areas but ordinances are needed to enforce the existing speed limits.
- On CR 700E in Pierceton, the speed limit in town is 25 mph. Moriarty said as soon as it comes out of 25, it turns automatically to 55 mph even though it’s not posted. Commissioners approved changing this to 35 mph so that it goes from 25 in the city limits to 35 in the county.
- The next regular meeting will be 9 a.m. Tuesday, May 12.