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

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

First County Council meeting of 2016

The County Council met for the first time in 2016 and began by re-electing the president and vice president of the Council, Rein Bontreger and Andy Andree, respectively.

After approving the minutes of the last meeting (the minutes of past meetings are now available here), the first items on the agenda were additional appropriations. The first was a request from Judge Ahler for additional funds for a trial that will require translators. This was the same request that had come before the Council in November (see here for details) but  had not been acted on then because the trial had been postponed at the request of the defense council. It the matter goes to trial, the trial is expect to last about three weeks. The Council approved the request.

There were three other additional appropriations approved, a $1000 for the Assessor's budget, $10,000 for the Treasurer's budget. and $155,000 for Technology Budget.  The Treasurer wanted a part-time position during tax season re-instated. Last year the office had three full-time and two part-time positions and this year the budget had only the three full-time positions. The Technology budget item was for the communication tower for the sheriff's department and that has been a topic in many county meetings. It was funded by the CEDIT fund. (The county income tax is divided into a number of pieces and I do not understand how it all works. The CEDIT is the County Economic Development Income Tax.)

Rensselaer Police Chief Jeffrey Phillips representing Drug Free Jasper County requested release of funds for Drug Free Jasper County. The money, $28,200 will be split between eduction, prevention, and enforcement and the budget had already been approved by the state.

The Council approved a request by the Sheriff for a $1000 reduction in his salary to bring it in line with the salaries of his staff but declined to make any decision on a request for changing the salary of the head of Animal Control.

The Council made some Board and Commissioner appointments, in all cases approving currently serving members. The Council does not make nearly as many appointments as the Commissioners make.

One of the councilmen congratulated Steve Jordan for being inducted into the Indiana Association of Fairs Hall of Fame. The Rensselaer Republican had the detail of that award in the January 11 or 12 issue. Gerrit DeVries read a statement urging the council to discuss taxation at upcoming meetings rather than wait until the end of the year for that discussion. He noted that farm land was taxed based on a state formula that the county could not change. It was noted by someone that any deduction for one set of taxpayers means higher taxes for another set.

In public comments Commissioner Kendall Culp noted that the county now has a Frost Law. It is in effect from mid January to mid April but will only be enforced when the weather conditions put roads at risk. There is or will be a telephone number to call to check on the current condition of the ordinance and this year the sheriff's county-wide calling will inform people when the law will be enforced. (If you have not followed this issue, when the ground thaws in the spring or winter, heavy loads on roads can result in serious damage to the roads. Frost Laws attempt to keep heavy loads off the roads during those days.)

In answering a question about staffing, Mr. Culp mentioned that state law does not allow the Commissioners to control hiring in the offices of elected officials if the Council has approved funding for the positions. It was noted that this makes it difficult to trim staff if it is not needed. When new hires require Commissioner approval, any time a person leaves a position, a case must be made as to why that position is needed. That will no longer be true in the offices of elected officials.

Overnight we got an inch or two of light, fluffy snow.

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