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

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

meetings 09-16-2014

The Jasper County Historical Society had its monthly meeting Tuesday night. They met behind the displays for the new traveling exhibit, one featuring cartoonists from Indiana.
 Most of the cartoonists I had never heard of. There were a bunch that came from Wabash College, and several from Nappanee. The man who did the Mary Worth cartoons was from Indiana, and though I never bothered to read them, I do remember them. However, the most recognizable of the cartoons was the Garfield cartoon.
I left the meeting early to go over to the County Council meeting. The main items on their agenda were budgets. They approved the overall county budget of about $33 million dollars. They then discussed something called non-binding reviews. I think this was a chance for governmental agencies that did not need council approval to discuss what they were doing with the council. The only person who showed up was the Jordan Township Trustee.

Next was a public hearing of binding taxing units. First was the Rensselaer School Corporation, which did not have any big changes from the previous year. I do not know why the Rensselaer School Corporation was on the agenda and not the KV school corporation. The Airport Authority had good news--its proposed budget came with a lower property tax rate.

Third up was the Iroquois Conservancy budget. This group oversees the Iroquois River and its main expenditure is removing log jams. It was also interested in joining with the USGS to monitor pollution.

The last agency was the Northwest Indiana Solid Waste District. They get all of their money from the landfills in Newton and White County, where they get 10 cents and 12.5 cents per ton respectively. Those rates are set by the county commissioners of Newton and White counties. That raises $400,000 per year, which means that about 4 million tons of waste go into those landfills each year. However, the district has spent more than that amount per year, drawing down investments made when they were getting 25 cents per ton. To conserve money, they were no longer going to be making grants to cities, towns, and schools. (Most of their expenditures are in the form of grants.) The reason that their budget has to be approved by the Jasper County Council is that it is the fiscal body with the largest assessed value in the area that it serves. It has a board of 20 members, all elected officials from the various counties, with White and Newton getting extra members because of the landfills.

In addition to the budget, the district wanted the council to approve an ordinance that would allow it to take advantage of a new state law. The change in the law allows county governments to invest some of their excess funds in instruments with maturities up to five years, allowing them to get a higher return. The ordinance passed.

The person that the council approved for the Board of Zoning Appeals (BZA) at its last meeting decided he could not do the job, so the Council selected Scott Walstra to the position.

Finally, John Price moved that the Council's lawyer investigate the possibility of establishing a violations bureau. At present there is no effective enforcement mechanism for many county regulations. If a person ignores an ordinance,  the county can take the person to court, but the costs of pursuing the case will usually exceed the amount recovered. Recently the county spent $1200 to collect a $150 building fee. However, the county can establish a body that will sit below the state court system, and if it finds a violation, the case is handed as a ticket violation, and it moves easily and cheaply into the state court system. Two members of the audience were in strong support of this idea because they have been personally affected by people ignoring regulations without any consequences. However, the council president was hesitant, in part because this is a matter that must be passed by the commissioners, not the council and in part because he was not sure that the problem was big enough to worry about. The matter will come up again, probably in the October meeting, which will be held on October 28 rather than October 14 as scheduled.

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