By Liz Shepherd
WARSAW — Kosciusko County Council tabled discussion on whether to contribute to an emergency loan program set up by the county’s economic development office for small businesses hurt by the pandemic.
Discussion on the proposal by Kosciusko County Economic Development Corporation (KEDCo) will be readdressed at its June meeting.
Some council members cited the potential negative effects COVID-19 may have on the county’s own budget, while others said they want to see what type of financial need businesses still have in the future.
“We don’t know where we’re going to be sitting and we have no idea what kind of financial impact COVID-19 is going to have on county funding,” said Council Member Joni Truex.
KEDCO’s CEO Alan Tio asked council members Thursday night, May 14, to consider supporting the program, which will make available loans of up to $10,000 to support business recovery and job retention for businesses with 50 or fewer employees. The loans would be available for up to 24 months at 0% percent interest with deferment of the first payment up to six months.
A dollar figure was not proposed.
KEDCo has received $100,000 from the City of Warsaw and $245,000 from the State of Indiana. A panel established by KEDCo has already begun reviewing and approving applications from businesses for the loans.
Tio said there are about 20 businesses that have applied for a loan.
“We have four that we have brought to our loan committee for approval,” said Tio. “They’re averaging between asking for $8,000 to $10,000.”
“I think it’s too early,” said Council Member Doug Heinisch. “We need to protect our resources first and then once we have a better handle of that, we can decide what we do with them. It’s an admirable cause, but I think we need to wait a little longer and understand what our resources are before we move forward.”
Truex made a motion to decline the proposal, with three members voting in favor and four opposing.
Council Vice-President Ernie Wiggins then made a motion to table the conversation to the council’s next meeting, which passed 4-3, with Truex, Heinisch and Council Member Mike Long voting in opposition.
Along with Wiggins, voting to table the topic were Kim Cates, Sue Ann Mitchell and Council President Jon Garber.
In April, Warsaw City Council voted to work with KEDCo by providing up to $100,000 for loans for businesses within the city.
The $245,000 received by KEDCO is from the Indiana Office of Community and Rural Affairs.
In other business, Kosciusko County Community Corrections staff requested approval from council members to apply for three grants. The first request came from Maggie Brauer, Kosciusko County Drug Court case manager. Brauer asked for permission to apply for a $500,000 adult drug court and veterans’ treatment court discretionary grant.
“We would be using the funds to expand the services available to our drug court participants,” said Brauer. “Those funds would be used to assist with recovery support services, like childcare, transportation, vocational or educational services. Currently, the participants are responsible for paying pretty much everything that they have to do. This would help ease the burden on them and would allow them to access far more services because they don’t have the financial means to. A lot of them start college classes or a lot of them struggle to find childcare while going to meetings. That would help offset those costs for them.”
County council also gave Kosciusko Community Corrections Executive Director Barry Andrew permission to apply for the 2021 Community Corrections grant, which averages $360,000 each year, and the 2021 Drug Court grant, which averages $70,000.
Andrew said the Drug Court grant mainly covers employees’ salaries and benefits, while more than half of the Community Corrections grant would cover fees for home detention bracelets.
Council members approved Brauer and Andrew applying for the grants.
At the end of the meeting, Council Member Kimberly Cates asked about the possibility of incorporating the purchase of materials for live streaming council meetings into the 2021 budget.
“I think it would be a good outreach,” said Council Member Sue Ann Mitchell. “People could be watching what we’re doing right now and we would be much more transparent that way.”
“We work for the constituents and they need to know what’s going on,” said Cates. “Transparency is important.”
Council members also discussed the possibility of partnering with the City of Warsaw to hold meetings in Warsaw City Hall. The council asked County Administrator Marsha McSherry to bring up the concept to the Kosciusko County commissioners.
Several county department heads were also present at the meeting to discuss how their work has been affected by COVID-19, as well as what methods they are implementing to keep employees and citizens safe. An article on the departments’ updates will be featured as a separate item on the InkFreeNews website.
The next council meeting is at 6 p.m. Thursday, June 11, in the Kosciusko County Justice Building multipurpose room.
Editor’s note: Due to an editing error the original dollar figure concerning OCRA was incorrect. It has been corrected.