By David Slone
WARSAW – Kosciusko County Council is the purse strings of county government and Thursday evening the Council approved several expenditures, but it also heard about a department receiving some money.
After County Treasurer Rhonda Helser made a salary ordinance amendment request, Councilwoman Sue Ann Mitchell, who serves as the third vice president of the Association of Indiana Counties, presented Helser with a check for $50,864.89 from the AIC.
“I went to the AIC Board meeting today and they presented me with this check to present to Rhonda out of the TRECS (Tax Refund Exchange and Compliance System) money. This is where money is being set aside out of people’s refunds that owe county money that they have failed to pay,” Mitchell said. “This amount – $50,864.89 – Rhonda tells me is the third largest amount that was received from the state.”
Helser said, “We were third in the state.”
Mitchell said there are many, many units, not just county government. “The AIC administers it, but it is not only county government. Many, many different units are able to use this. So proud of the job. Thank you, very much.”
The Council then applauded the treasurer’s efforts.
Kosciusko Economic Development Corp. Chief Executive Officer Alan Tio made the same pitch to the Council as he did to the Commissioners Tuesday about reallocating $50,000 from the COVID small business relief fund to KEDCO’s new MedTech Accelerator Studio. He also requested the county make a three-year commitment to support the program with $50,000 in 2023 and 2024 as well. The money in the small business relief fund, which the Council supported funding about 12-18 months ago, was never used.
The new program will encourage medical technology companies to start and grow in the county.
Councilwoman Kathleen Groninger asked Tio how KEDCO was going to identify companies they were going to reach out to. Tio said the reason they were calling it a “Studio” was because they were going to work with local companies to identify where are the needs and gaps in the industry and then go after and recruit people to start companies to meet those needs.
Groninger asked how would they identify those people.
Tio said they were going to partner with a nationwide group called Generator that sponsors these kind of programs.
Councilwoman Joni Truex said that while she thought it was a great program and supports it, she would only support it one year at a time because the Council will change hands after the 2022 election and she didn’t think the Council should obligate itself for more than a year at a time. She made a motion to approve $50,000 this year and then revisit it annually.
The Commissioners, County Auditor Michelle Puckett informed the Council, approved $50,000 a year for three years contingent on what the Council decided. Puckett said in the county’s Economic Development Income Tax (EDIT) fund, in the 2022 budget, there is a line item for KEDCO special projects for $250,000. The $50,000 will come out of that budget line item.
Councilwoman Kimberly Cates seconded Truex’s motion to approve $50,000 for one year and revisit it annually, and the motion passed 7-0.
Tio also suggested the Council could reallocate the other $50,000 of the $100,000 in the COVID small business relief loans fund to KEDCO’s existing revolving loan fund. Like the Commissioners, the Council said they would take it under advisement.
Puckett presented four 2022 salary ordinance amendments.
She said after the Council approved the salary ordinance in October, the wage committee met and had a few different circumstances arise.
“The first change that is being proposed to you is a change in the header. And it will change the way the department heads view their employees when they reach certain levels of service,” Puckett said.
The second one has to do with elected officials who have 10 years of service and how their bump in pay is paid out, while the third one has to do with the assessor’s office employees’ lump sums based on certification. The fourth amendment is in regards to the county clerk’s election pay and how it’s paid out.
The Council unanimously approved all four salary ordinance amendments.
County Administrator Marsha McSherry presented three grants that already were presented to the American Rescue Plan Act Committee earlier this week and the Committee approved recommending them to the Council.
The first one is for $2.4 million for the public safety communications project; the second is for $522,881.48 for the project EDIT reimbursement; and the third is for $771,669.85 for administrative expenses. On the administrative expenses, McSherry said that will help pay for any legal services or anything of that nature. The amount is 10% of the $7.4 million the county received so far from ARPA. Mitchell said it’s not going to any one person.
In other business, the Council:
• Approved the Kosciusko Coalition on Drug Education (KCODE) 2022 budget for grant awards, as requested by County Prosecutor Dan Hampton.
Amounts awarded include $5,000 to Kosciusko Cares; $3,000, Kosciusko County Sheriff’s Office DARE; $4,000, Warsaw Police Department DARE; $3,000, Tippecanoe Valley High School; $2,700, Kosciusko Jail Chemical Addiction Program; $1,300, Purdue Extension; $3,000, Bowen Center; $3,000, Serenity House; $6,000, Rose Garden Recovery; $7,000, Fellowship Missions; $2,000, Claypool Police Department; $8,201.37, Winona Lake Police Department; $1,280, Silver Lake; $3,000, Fellowship Missions; and $4,518.53, Prosecutor’s Office.
The total of all grants is $76,000.
• Approved for Kosciusko County Highway Superintendent Steve Moriarty to apply for a federal grant for bridge 123, on Packerton Road, south of Pierceton Road. This is an 80/20 matching grant and the bridge is projected to be built in 2027. The estimated project cost is $2,236,550, and the county’s portion would be about $489,000 over the next four years if the county is awarded the grant.
• Approved an additional appropriation of $3,107.50 for postage for the KCSO.
• Approved the salary ordinance amendment as requested by Helser. She said an employee has reached her three-year anniversary. The annual salary of the treasurer deputy is $35,784.
• Reappointed Lee Ann Rock to the Bell Memorial Public Library Board of Trustees for another four-year term. Her term will expire Dec. 31, 2025.
• Approved the Council appointments for 2022 except three, which aren’t ready, as moved by Mitchell.
The appointments include Dan Woods, Alcohol Tobacco Commission; Jon Garber, Area Plan, nonprofit committee, Strategic Planning Committee; Kathleen Groninger, Community Corrections Advisory Board, wage committee, Michiana Area Council of Governments; Mike Long, Emergency Management Advisory Board, nonprofit committee, Solid Waste; Joni Truex, Kosciusko County Economic Development Commission, Redevelopment Commission, wage committee; Sue Ann Mitchell, KEDCO, Strategic Planning Committee, wage committee; Kimberly Cates, nonprofit committee, Strategic Planning Committee, Warsaw Community Development Commission; Brock Ostrom, PTABOA; Jan Orban, Redevelopment Commission; Ernie Wiggins, Warsaw Economic Development Commission.