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People change places on economic development boards

By John Estridge, Editor

People moved around between the two county economic development boards during the Franklin County Commissioners meeting Tuesday, Jan. 29.

Bill Schirmer, Franklin County Economic Development Commission (EDC) member and a member of the Franklin County Redevelopment Commission (FCRC), resigned from his position on the EDC. He was replaced by Franklin County Commissioner President Tom Wilson, who had been a member of the FCRC. Wilson resigned from the FCRC.

John Palmer, who is currently the EDC president, took Wilson's spot on the FCRC.

FCRC oversees the county's Tax Increment Finance District (TIF).

This all came about because the EDC is a three-member board. Thus, if two members show up at something at the same time, it becomes a public meeting. If they don't announce that meeting 48 hours in advance, then it is an illegal meeting, according to Indiana Open Door Law.

With economic issues, the EDC does not want to have public meetings when meeting with prospective clients who might want to open a business or finance some type of economic improvement in the county.

Schirmer said he and Palmer would like to meet with prospective clients together. Also, they enjoy going to educational meetings regarding economic development. However, with both of them on the EDC, they are unable to go to the same educational opportunities at the same time.

Palmer said there are several very serious economic-development-related issues before

the county at this moment. He talked about the move to expand the county's TIF District, and acting on the hotel study, which recommended a hotel or motel chain build within the Brookville area.

“Reorganization will help us move forward,” Palmer said.

Palmer said there is a need to expand broadband in the county. He was asked about the company putting in something between Brookville and Metamora on U.S. 52 and also on Indiana 121 toward Laurel. He said it is his understanding that fiber optics is supposed to hook up the county's schools with high-speed internet. Palmer said it is being funded through a federal grant. Unfortunately, residents along the way cannot hook onto the fiber optics.

Wilson said for quality of life and economic development, high-speed internet is as important to life in the 21st Century as utilities. Palmer agreed and said the push is to now get the federal government to understand how important high-speed internet is to everyone's life in the 21st Century.

However, Palmer said the cost for installing fiber optics is about $25,000 per mile.

Schirmer said the Mark Brackney property on Southgate Hill along Ind. 1 will have high speed internet.

In other business:

*Heard from Franklin County Sheriff Peter Cates. He talked about the need to change the work hours in the County Handbook as it relates to the deputies, jail staff and dispatchers.

Cates said the jail staff works 40 hours per week using 12-hour shifts. Dispatchers work 40 hours per week with two 12-hour shifts and two eight-hour shifts with rotating days off. Deputies work four-week schedules of five days on and three days off and three-week schedules of four days on and four days off. Other specialized officers such as the school resource officer work 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. five days a week. Clerical workers work 9.5 hours on Monday and three nine-hour days as assigned. The matron works 40 hours with four days of 10 hours per day.

Also, the work week was changed to Sunday through Saturday, at Cates' request.

*Residents Betty Estridge and Heather George asked commissioners to make a private drive called Jones Road into a county road.

The road in question is off Saltwell Road in Fairfield Township. According to the women, there are seven homes on the road. This is in District 2, which is commission vice president Tom Linkel's district. Linkel said he wanted to look at the road before he made a decision.

*Heard from county highway department engineer Joe Copeland. He said the county's ADA plan needs to be finished. A letter to INDOT was sent Feb. 4.

He sent out quotes for a semi-tractor for the county highway. Copeland said $60,000 was put into the budget for a second semi-tractor but it should not cost that much money.

Copeland also wanted to get quotes from tree trimmers regarding needs that go beyond the highway department's capabilities. He said the deadline for the quotes will be Tuesday, Feb. 12.

*Commissioners accepted a quote from Shirks International from Greensburg for a tandem axle truck for the highway department. The quote is for $157,000 including engine, frame and salt box. By doing it this way, it makes Shirks responsible for the warranty. In the past, the county accepted quotes from the body company and from the engine company. This led to the companies blaming each other for warranty issues.

*Commissioners signed an ETC Fiber Service Agreement for the highway department.

*Signed a ETC cell phone agreement for the sheriff's department and a contract for the motor replacement for the locks in the Franklin County Security Center.

*Approved a bond for the auditor.

*Approved conflict of interest disclosures.

*Signed ordinances concerning changes to the employees handbook including sick leave accumulation and the work week.

*Approved Main Street Brookville using the courthouse lawn for Taste of Brookville on Thursday, May 16.