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County approves projects

 

Lots of projects were presented for approval at a joint meeting of the LaGrange County Council and commissioners Monday morning. Most all were approved when Chairman George Bachman asked, “Is there any objection to moving ahead with this?”

    Many of the projects were approved with details and funding to be worked out at a later date. Proposals to upgrade the 911 Communication Center ($72,000), install a county-owned fiber optic network to connect all county owned buildings ($100,000), upgrade computers and servers in the county office building, sheriff’s office and courthouse ($375,000), purchase a repeater station for dispatch ($40,000), and computer equipment and software for the highway department ($10,000) was bundled together with some other information technology related items.

    A request by Rita Lehner concerning software updates for the GIS system ($145,000) will also be included in this package along with equipment to start a long-term scanning program for county records. This will likely be funded with a general obligation technology bond issue.

    “With the age of our computers and equipment, the possibility of an equipment failure that causes long-term down time increases daily,” said IT Director Bob Murphy.

    County Highway Superintendent Jeff Brill asked for money to buy two truck chassis at $317,000 and money for chip and seal of 40 miles of roads at $250,000. Both requests were approved.

    Brill also received permission to move ahead with the improvement of CR 200N from about CR 450W to CR 675W. Preliminary estimates are up to $2.9 million. Agreement was reached on the project as a whole and County Auditor Kay Myers was asked to advertise for an additional appropriation from the Major Moves Capital fund of $250,000 to cover initial engineering costs, including design and survey work and right-of-way purchases.

    “This is a needed project. I have worked some fatal and nasty accidents on this stretch of road over the years,” stated Sheriff Terry Martin.

    A potential additional appropriation of $3.27 million for the Michiana Event Center (MEC) was approved. Council remarks included, “This is a no-brainer” and “We need to fine tune whether we are going to grant or loan this money.”

  Leon Yoder presented the proposal for the MEC and said that a study performed by Certec, Inc., a firm specializing in projecting economic impact for various entities, projects that the MEC will have an $11 million impact on the local economy in 2012. This will generate $512,000 in local taxes, $2.2 million in local wages (150 jobs), and $900,000 in local building projects. It will also have a huge impact on local industries.

    The joint meeting also approved funding an additional $15,000 for a parks department grant to update a five-year master plan. This plan needs to be upgraded before the end of the year to receive an additional $400,000 DNR grant that the parks and recreation department previously qualified to receive.

    This action clears the way for Region III-A to continue working on a competitive grant application being pursued by the LaGrange Communities Youth Center (LCYC). This $400,000 OCRA grant application is due June 8 and the winners will be notified Aug. 31. LCYC Board member Phil Malone said that the project is being modified to include the Council on Aging (COA) and will benefit everyone in LaGrange County.

    County Surveyor Rex Pranger asked for consideration to establish a revolving fund ($10,000 to $20,000) to be administered by either the highway department or drainage board that would take care of emergency situations dealing with water along county roads. These situations develop when water is high and there are blockages in tile lines that are not covered by a ditch under assessment.

    The group agreed this should be considered at budget time this year.

    Pranger also asked for money to buy land along SR 5 to relocate a county ditch. When the ditch is re-located, the state will be able to build a section of road to include a buggy lane along SR 5 north of CR 400S. This will be advertised to come from Major Moves.

    Sheriff Terry Martin was given permission to purchase an additional vehicle this year. The county purchased three vehicles the first of the year and will now purchase an additional car. Money will come from cumulative capital fund.

    It was noted that Circuit Court Judge J. Scott VanDerbeck has voiced some concern about courthouse security. He is expected to make a presentation at the May 7 commissioners meeting requesting a lockdown of the courthouse with only one entrance and exit that will be manned by county deputies and metal detectors.

    The county council and commissioners have scheduled another joint meeting for May 14 following the regular county council meeting. This meeting will be for the purpose of officially voting on the Major Moves principal expenditures agreed to at the April 23 meeting.