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D-Home renovation costs projected to quadruple

Grant County officials are seeking to gather a more holistic, long-term view of county buildings’ infrastructure needs as several major projects are under way or upcoming.

Commissioner Mark Bardsley told Grant County Council at its regular meeting Wednesday that the proposed renovations to the Juvenile Detention Center (D-Home) to house adult female inmates and 14 juvenile beds is now projected to cost nearly four times more than initially expected.

“We have a boiler system that is about to totally break down and there are other electrical issues that need to be brought up to code to house the women,” Bardsley said. “So instead of a $200,000 to $250,000 price tag, we’re looking at somewhere between $800,000 and $1 million, though we don’t have those final numbers yet.”

Between the D-Home renovations, finishing the central dispatch project, including potentially adding towers to the southern part of the county for better radio coverage, and other county building infrastructure needs, Bardsley said he wanted to begin a discussion with council about the possibility of looking at financing these projects through bond issues.

Auditor Jim McWhirt advised council it would be prudent to take a look at all of the current pressing needs and consider a combined bond issue to fund multiple projects rather than going through the issuance process one at a time for each project. He said the county could potentially plan to pay for the bond through a combination of general fund, 911 fund and debt service fund dollars rather than putting all of the burden on one fund or another.

“Nobody wants to issue another debt,” McWhirt said. “I don’t say I love it, but if you’re going to do those things, you need money. And doing it in one instrument instead of three or four might make sense.”

Councilman Mike Roorbach said before looking at a potential bond, council needs to agree on which projects are priorities.

“You’d like to do it all, but you have to choose first, second, third, and central dispatch in my mind, we’re committed to that,” he said. “Some of the others are a dream or a hope, but there’s other options there. There’s no other option for the central dispatch.”

McWhirt and Bardsley said council also has to keep in mind that even if the D-Home isn’t converted to hold female inmates, there are still juveniles currently being held there and the backbone infrastructure issues will need to be addressed.

Council President Shane Middlesworth proposed forming an informal committee to look into the county’s building infrastructure needs both now and long term.

“I don’t want to have a big debt and then five years from now something else comes up and we need more money,” Middlesworth said. “I want to know, let’s look at the whole scope of every building that we have in our arsenal and get a game plan on how we want to address the need.”

Bardsley said the county has typically gone with patches or immediate solutions rather than long term fixes to infrastructure issues, and he would like to see the county develop at least a 20-year plan that includes the fact that even new repairs made today will not last forever.

“We need to understand the things we’re improving are going to have a shelf life. They’re only going to last us so long,” Bardsley said. “So, we need to build that into our long term plan that in 10 years this is going to go or the time that we need to replace it again. We just need to be knowledgeable of those issues.”

In other business, council approved a joint resolution that was passed by commissioners Monday outlining the county’s new hiring policy after removing its hiring freeze last month.

Elected officials and department heads are now free to fill positions without council’s pre-approval if the hire is budget neutral or positive and they notify the Human Resource Department and Payroll Department in the Auditor’s office at least two weeks before filling a vacancy.

They will be required to give such notice by submitting a form to both offices, and County Administrator/HR Coordinator Justin Saathoff will provide a written report of all vacancies that have been filled to the county council each month.

Poling seeks council at-large seat

Businessman Chuck Poling is one of five Republicans seeking election to the three Grant County Council at-large seats in the June 2 primary election.

Poling, of Marion, is the owner of Chuck’s Sewer and Plumbing. He is an Army veteran and a Grant County Health Board member. He has also served as an Indiana state delegate. He volunteers at the Boys and Girls Club of Grant County, the Center Township Fire Department and with other local nonprofits, according to his campaign Facebook page.

Poling said he is running for county council to bring his business acumen to county operations.

“I’ve been in business for 34 years,” he said. “The reason I’m going to run is hopefully I can show them how to save money because every business knows you’ve got to spend it to make it, but how you save it is really how you make money. So I’m kind of hoping I can go in there and show them how to save on different things they buy and save money, which saves us taxpayers.”

Poling said he would have to go through the county’s financials to get a better sense of where savings can be found, but he believes he can bring a fresh perspective and find areas the county can improve.

“I’ve helped a lot of people get elected in different positions, but I just feel like we need a businessman up there to kind of get a business perspective on it,” he said. “I’m an Indiana delegate, so I’ve been involved in politics a long time. So I kind of know how that side works, but I think my asset is me being a business owner to, you know, give that business perspective.”

Other candidates seeking the at-large council seats include Chris Tarlton and incumbents Shane Middlesworth, Jonathan Perez and Mike Roorbach. No Democrats filed for the primary, according to the Grant County Election Office.

ISDH: 1,764 Hoosier deaths, 29,936 cases

State begins Stage 3 of reopening today

INDIANAPOLIS — Gov. Eric J. Holcomb announced Thursday that because health indicators remain positive, most of the state will advance to stage 3 of the Back On Track Indiana plan today, May 22.

The state will move to reopen while continuing to monitor and respond to these goals and principles:

The number of hospitalized COVID-19 patients statewide has decreased for 14 days

The state retains its surge capacity for critical care beds and ventilators

The state retains its ability to test all Hoosiers who are COVID-19 symptomatic as well as health care workers, first responders and frontline employees

Health officials have systems in place to contact all individuals who test positive for COVID-19 and expand contact tracing

If these principles cannot be met, all or portions of the state may need to pause on moving forward or may need to return to an earlier phase of the governor’s stay-at-home order.

In Stage 3, Hoosiers 65 and over and those with high-risk health conditions – who are the most vulnerable to the coronavirus – should remain at home as much as possible. Face coverings in public places are recommended. Hoosiers who can work from home are encouraged to continue to do so.

Social gatherings of up to 100 people will be permitted following the CDC’s social distancing guidelines.

Retail and commercial businesses may open at 75 percent capacity. Shopping malls can open at 75 percent capacity with indoor common areas restricted to 50 percent capacity.

Gyms, fitness centers, yoga studios, martial arts studios and similar facilities may open with restrictions. Class sizes should be limited. Equipment must be spaced to accommodate social distancing and cleaned after each use. No contact activities are permitted.

Community pools may open according to CDC guidance. Community tennis and basketball courts, soccer and baseball fields, YMCA programs and similar facilities may open with social gathering and social distancing guidelines in place.

Community recreational youth and adult sports leagues may resume practices and conditioning while adhering to social gathering and social distancing guidelines. Contact sports, such as lacrosse and football, are prohibited, but conditioning and non-contact drills may take place.

Youth summer day camps may open on June 1.

Raceways may open with restrictions and no spectators.

Campgrounds may open with restrictions, including social distancing and sanitation precautions. State park inns will reopen.

Restaurants and bars with restaurant services may continue to operate at 50 percent capacity, but bar seating must remain closed. Personal services such as hair salons, barber shops, nail salons, spas and tattoo parlors may continue to be open by appointment only and must follow social distancing guidelines.

Movie theaters and playgrounds will remain closed. Movie theaters are now projected to open along with other entertainment facilities and venues during stage 4. Playgrounds are to be determined.

If health indicators remain positive, the state will move to stage 4 in mid-June. For more information, visit BackOnTrack.in.gov.

ISDH: 1,764 Hoosier deaths, 29,936 cases

The Indiana State Department of Health (ISDH) Thursday announced 676 new COVID-19 cases, bringing the total number of cases statewide to 29,936. A total of 1,764 Hoosiers have died of COVID-19, with another 149 probable deaths reported.

More than 39 percent of ICU beds and nearly 81 percent of ventilators were available as of Thursday. To date, 202,995 tests have been reported to ISDH, up from 195,738 on Wednesday.

A complete list of cases by county is posted at www.coronavirus.in.gov, which is updated daily at noon. Cases are listed by county of residence.

Solms seeks title of Grant County Recorder

Both candidates battling for the title of Grant County Recorder have never campaigned for the position before this year, but candidate Roberta “Bobbie” Solms says her job as a title searcher gives her the experience needed to move the department into the future.

Recorder Kathy Foy, who is the only other Republican Party candidate, was appointed to the position after Grant County Clerk of the Circuit Court Pam Harris left her position mid-term. Foy started her career in county government as an election deputy in 2017, formerly working as a grocery store manager.

Solms has done much of her work in nine surrounding counties’ recorders’ offices as an independent title searcher for the past 33 years, and she said the time spent in other counties, including Grant, has shown her that there is room for improvement locally.

“Of those nine counties, Grant County is probably at the bottom... technology wise, and so I think we need to move forward,” Solms said.

She said she’s been working with the system Grant County recently implemented for the past five to six years while doing work in other counties, and she said she knows how to improve the local operations to better serve taxpayers.

“This Fiddler system, it is a great system,” she said. “I don’t think Grant County is utilizing it as well as we should. I do believe my experience would help us get more potential out of it.”

Indexing and accuracy are areas where Solms would like to see improvement.

“When the new system went in – when they started indexing – they started using commas. Never before had we had commas after a name. I would like to go in and make everything uniform... The system is just not uniform for indexing.”

She said there have been times where the Grant County Recorder’s Office has given members of the public her contact information when the county can’t find a certain document.

“I don’t think we should be telling the public that they need to contact a title company when they are just looking for one particular document,” she added. “I do believe that as the Recorder’s Office, they should be able to help them with that.”

Solms said she would also like to see associated documents added to areas where they are missing, and she’d like to start digitizing the microfilm before it deteriorates.

“Through COVID-19, had we started (digitizing) several years ago, there could still be loans going through, mortgages for commercial properties. I’ve had, I think, seven commercial jobs given to me that I’ve had to turn back in because we are not far enough back with the computer system to be able to finish those where I could complete those at home, online,” she said. “My goal is to get us back to 1950 at least, with documents – not just indexing but with the actual copy and picture of the document.”

She said the accuracy of records is vital to a county and its development.

Solms became interested in the position after she worked as her mother-in-law’s campaign manager in 1995. Her mother-in-law was elected to two terms, spanning from 1996-2004. She said she learned a lot about the position at that time, and she’s loved her title searching career ever since.

Solms grew up in Fairmount and has remained in Grant County throughout her life.

She graduated from Madison-Grant High School in 1980. Although she didn’t go to college, Solms said she’s completed multiple classes with national title associations and taken a few other classes to stay up with current laws and regulations that the state requires for things being recorded.

She’s been married for nearly 40 years and has two sons and five grandchildren.

Her husband has been a member of the Madison-Grant United School Corporation Board of Trustees and she remains active in the community.

“I believe that we are all supposed to serve wherever we can,” she said. “I do enjoy helping others, being a part of the community.”

She attended Westview Wesleyan Church for 37 years where she volunteered with community initiatives and was a regular volunteer for the church’s children’s ministry. She traveled to the Gulf in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina to deliver supplies and has been on mission trips with her church. She currently attends Fairmount Friends for church.