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

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Budgets and other matters

First the other matters. The temperatures may feel like summer, but the empty pool at Brookside Park shows that summer is over.
 The workmen at SJC seemed to be removing scaffolding from the east tower of the chapel.
Also at SJC, the basketball floor is being sanded and refinished. The whole area is blocked off so I could not get a picture. The floor will be refinished with a different coating, so it will be brighter.

On Tuesday night the County Council met. The main business was budget, but before they got to that,
Council made an appointment to the Board of Zoning Appeals. Unlike last month, when they had no candidates, this month they had three. One of those was deemed ineligible because he was an elected official, and after some fumbling (one member noted that they almost never had the situation where they had two candidates for a position), the Council voted 4-2 for Brian Kaluf.

The Council then took up the LOIT and after some discussion voted to keep it as it was last year, attached to the property tax.

The Council was supposed to have a public hearing on the budget at 7:30, but still had a few minutes to spare so one of the members asked the sheriff about thefts involving irrigation rigs. (My understanding of what a public hearing is must be too limited because the Council did not seem to want to open the discussion to members of the public who were in attendance.) In 2011 there were 15 thefts from irrigation rigs (some were repeats on the same rigs) and no arrests. In 2012, after the Farm Bureau strongly advocated that farmers should put alarm systems on the rigs, there were no thefts. In 2013 there were six thefts and five were solved with arrests, and in 2014 there have been four thefts and two attempts, with one arrest. All those arrested were heavily involved in drugs, and the sheriff remarked that this was true of most of the crime in the county. There was some discussion of whether scrap yards should be required to keep better records, but it was also noted that some of the copper wire was going over the state border to Illinois.

A few minutes after 7:30 the discussion of the budget began. The Council members each had a thick binder full of budget details, but on this evening they were looking at only one part of the budget, the sheriff's proposals. What followed was an hour in which the council went through his proposal page by page. Here are a few highlights that I noted. He wanted a 5% increase in salary for his employees (but not himself). He noted that his chief deputy made less than the police officers in DeMotte, and wanted to narrow the gap. He noted he had almost lost a deputy to a very generous offer coming from CSX, but the offer was not taken because the deputy would have had to move.

The sheriff also wanted to switch his administrative assistant from part time to full time. When asked about the armored vehicle that department has, he said it had been very useful last winter responding to some situations when the roads were closed. It had been able to plow through seven-foot snow drifts. His department had responded to 7364 911 calls and the Rensselaer and DeMotte police departments had handled another 800. The jail was running about 70 inmates during the summer. Because the jail has been classified as understaffed, and because changes in the criminal code will shift prisoners from the state prisons to the local jails, he would like to add four full-time positions in the jail, which would increase the staff on hand by one. (There are four shifts of workers covering the jail during each week.) He noted that because the state mental health system is broken, jails are now dealing with mental health issues that have no where else to go. He noted that the department had implemented a copay of $10 for requests to see the doctor or nurse if the inmate had funds in his account and this had reduced visits by those who were abusing the system.

After an hour of discussion, the meeting was continued until Monday at 8:30 am. The County Council, as one member noted, does not run the county, but they do fund it. Approving a budget is their most important duty.

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