This blog reports events and interesting tidbits from Rensselaer, Indiana and the surrounding area.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

A long meeting

The May meeting of the County Council was a long one, lasting over two hours. I got there a few minutes late after a few preliminary items but in time to hear the discussion about whether the web site should be updated weekly. At present people can find their property-tax status on the web (I think here) but the data are only updated three times a year. The Treasurer wanted to know if they could be updated weekly at a cost of $500 per month. However, the discussion took a different turn, and in the end the council decided there was no need to have these records viewable by the public from the Internet (they are still viewable in the Court House at special terminals), so that item will be dropped from the website.

Next was a discussion of the CASA program with Judge Potter. At present juveniles who are suspected of being abused or neglected are required to have either a lawyer or a CASA volunteer assigned to them. Judge Potter argued that having the volunteer was cheaper than the lawyer. The CASA program had been run by Gibault until they left last fall, and then the county took it over. After a lengthy discussion, the council approved an additional $32K to fund the program.

The next big item was a presentation from the director of the Jasper County Public Library. The Library Board approved a proposal to add an insulating decking when the Rensselaer Library is re-roofed this year. The pipes froze because they were placed above the insulation in the ceiling, which looks like a design flaw to me. An architect thought the most cost-effective way to deal with the problem so that they do not freeze again in the future would be to add this decking. (I do not know enough about construction to understand exactly what this decking consists of.) The Library has the money--about $120K--available in its Library Improvement Reserve Fund, but needed Council approval to use that money. The Council approved. 

The cost of repairing the library and replacing materials destroyed in the flood was mostly covered by $254K from insurance.

The Rensselaer Fire Department gave a report on their plans for a new fire station, most of which was a repeat of the presentations that have been given to the City Council. The City Council was hoping that the County Council might contribute to funding the project, but at the end of the meeting, after the presenters had left, the council members showed considerable reluctance to spend any county money on the project. They reasoned that they had not helped other fire departments (such as the Remington Fire Department) in the past and did not want to set a precedent that would encourage future department building to seek their funding.

The Sheriff told the Council that the State Legislature had made major changes to the criminal code, expanding the classes of felonies from four to six. Those convicted of the lowest two classes would no longer be going to state Department of Corrections prisons but would serve their terms in county jails, community corrections, or on home detention. The Sheriff said that the changes would increase the population count at the county level and thus increase expenses. The Department of Corrections wanted these changes, and did a bit of manipulation of the prison population (by shifting people from county jails to the prison system) to get the results that would support their position.

The Department of Corrections did a staffing survey of all county jails and most of them seem to have been deemed short staffed. There is no penalty for being short staffed, but if an incident occurs, the county may bear liability. Jasper County Jail has 18 staff members but the report says they should have seven more to be fully staffed.

The meetings for the Air Show continue and the state police are now aware that they will need to contribute to traffic control for the three days of the air show. There is concern that people will try to pull off to the shoulder of the Interstate to gawk and that will cause accidents. 

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