Union County Commissioners met for a full agenda to discuss options to move forward with Dunlapsville Road causeway bridge, among other topics.

Union County Highway Department head Jeff Bowers brought in Derek Towle, business development representative with USI Consultants. Towle suggested commissioners contract USI to perform an engineering study on the beleaguered bridge. The bridge is known to be in need of repair, but the extent of the repairs required must first be determined.

The bridge is one of only three pin and hanger bridges left in the state. Pin and hanger bridges have been phasing out around the country following the 1983 Mianus River Bridge collapse that  killed three motorists in Connecticut. The weakness of the design is that failure of a single pin can critically damage the entire span.

Preliminary reports suggest the need to replace the superstructure of the Dunlapsville Road bridge. Minimally, the pins and hangers must be refurbished and a redundant catch added to provide safety in case of a pin failure.

Funding for the bridge project will need to be secured from the state. But until the engineering study is complete, no one will know how much money is needed. The engineering study will cost up to $5,000.

Replacement of the bridge would be a five or six-year project. Commissioner Tim Williams asked if environmental safety rollbacks under the Trump administration will help to lower the timeline. Towle said the looser regulations will likely not affect the time of the bridge project.

Williams made a motion to move forward with the engineering study. Commissioner Howard Curry seconded the motion and commission president Paul Wiwi voted in favor.

Also discussed:

Phil Jordan spoke with commissioners about his farm operation that straddles the line between Union and Wayne counties. He plans to build a medium sized concentrated animal feeding operation within the 60 acres of farmland located in Union County. 

Jordan has two sons who plan to continue the operations of his farm. They will help to manage the planned facility, which will house 2,400 head of swine. Union County does not specifically regulate CAFOs of that size, but it must be approved by the Indiana Department of Environmental Management. 

Spirit Medical Transport presented a report of their services provided to the county during January. They responded to a total of 67 dispatches for the month and worked with 61 patients. Medical crews transported 45 patients, 21 went to McCullough-Hyde and 25 went to Reid Health facilities.

EMT class is being offered soon and Spirit is taking scholarship applications. They have job openings for one paramedic and two EMTs. Information on the class and job openings can be found at spiritmedicaltransport.com.

Kris Lacey presented an update to the commissioners from the Union County Redevelopment Commission. He provided information on the lease of their 39 acres of farmland and plans for expansion at the Indiana Eastern Railroad facility. Stateline Industries of College Corner, Ohio has inquired with the RDC about purchasing some land in Union County to expand their operations producing custom cast zinc game pieces and are interested in a site at the Whitewater Industrial Park.

Union County Public Health Nurse and Administrator Kimberly Klein gave commissioners an update from the health department. Klein requested the appointment of Lacrisha Whitley to the Board of Health, which the commissioners voted to approve.

Commissioners asked about the status of the office space for rent out of the health department building. Klein replied she had not received any inquiries. If the space is rented out, the incoming funds will go into County General. Union County Coroner Julie Laird has voiced interest in the space, but commissioners would prefer to be able to bring some revenue into the county.

Wiwi asked Klein about the Health Department taking care of drug screens for county employees. If possible, it would provide the county with up to a 90 percent savings over outsourcing the service. They may not be able to test CDL drivers at the highway department, but they will likely be able to test courthouse employees; Klein will investigate the regulations.

Klein is planning to start a program to allow diabetic residents to properly dispose of their needles at the health department. The program will cost the county an additional $11 per month on top of the existing $29 they currently pay for sharps disposal.

Commissioners discussed updates about the county's Public Safety Answering Point. The county was offered $97,706 to settle the insurance claim following the lightning strike that damaged radio equipment last year. The county is in a tight spot with the need to replace old and damaged equipment, but also the need to move the equipment in the future. Any new equipment purchased can be moved, but it will need to be properly installed and grounded at either location.

Union County 911 Director Jenny Brown informed commissioners one new dispatcher has left, and a second has turned in a resignation notice. The county will be left with three full-time dispatchers. Low pay, on-the-job stress and work schedule were cited as the reasons they left.

Union County Council is expected to discuss appropriating funding for a sixth dispatcher at its Feb. 20 meeting, but the county will now need to hire and train two employees to replace the two that left.  Training new dispatchers costs the county a lot of money, which is exacerbated by the high turnover rate. Commissioners suggested writing a contract that requires county employees to remain in their jobs for a certain period of time after receiving training.