County commissioner Tom Linkel presented quotes to repair the beleaguered cupola topping the bell tower on the Franklin County Courthouse at the commissioners' Oct. 6 meeting.

A quote of $26,939 was presented by Advanced Wildlife Management of Hamilton, Ohio and $63,455 by Terminix to evict the bats living in the tower. Commissioner Tom Wilson inquired about the qualifications for Advanced Wildlife, due to the significant discrepancy in price. County engineer Larry Smith attested to their legitimacy.

Campbellsville Industries of Campbellsville, Ky. presented a quote of $64,878 to build and install a replacement cupola with an aluminum skin over a steel frame. Smith noted the all-metal construction would need to be tied into the existing lightning ground for the building, nor does the quote include a crane or traffic control. Linkel advised the crane would need to be operated from the Main Street side of the building due to utility lines on the Court Street Side.

Lykins Contracting of Sunman offered a quote of $126,300 to demolish the existing cupola and repair the roof. The contractor will supply the three cranes required to complete the work but will not provide traffic control. Wilson suggested county crews could be used for traffic control, Linkel agreed.

Commissioners voted to approve the two construction quotes and the Advanced Wildlife quote pending approval from Franklin County Council. Lykins will remove the cupola as soon as the bats are removed, the new cupola will take 14 to 16 weeks to build. Linkel warned the courthouse could be without a cupola for two to three months before the project can be completed, but wants to get the process started as soon as possible, citing concerns the structure may be moving.

Also discussed:

-Local resident Sam Samford presented a P.O.W. – M.I.A. flag to commissioners to fly at the courthouse after they agreed to display the flag at their Sept. 7 meeting. Linkel informed Samford the construction of the flagpole on the courthouse lawn does not permit the addition of another flag, but they will fly P.O.W. flag at the government center.

-Commissioners reviewed the burn ban and voted to renew the ban for an additional week, citing sustained dry conditions in the county. Wilson noted Sheriff Peter Cates had concerns over enforcement of the burn ban. The current ordinance does not include any sort of penalty to method of enforcement. Fire departments have put out fires, only to have the offenders restart the fire once crews leave the scene. Commissioners agreed to request county attorney Grant Reeves to revise the ordinance.

-Charles Malinowski of Malinowski Consulting presented an opportunity for the county to recoup some of its fuel costs through a tax refund program through the Indiana Department of Revenue. Excise tax paid on fuel can be recovered in some situations, and because the county highway department currently tracks all fuel usage, the information required to participate in the program is already being gathered. Malinowski's fee is 50 percent of the refund amount with a cap of $500 per month. Commissioners voted to sign the proposed agreement.

-Commissioners reviewed a resolution to amend the county's payroll policy to require all employees to file for direct deposit. If the government center were to be shut down again and auditor Karla Bauman is unable to access her office, she will be unable to produce physical paychecks. Most employees are already paid through direct deposit, but a handful still prefer to receive paper checks. Bauman noted once the remaining employees are set up for direct deposit, they can opt to continue receiving paper checks; however, if the government center closes again, those will default to direct deposit. Commissioners voted to amend the payroll policy.

-Commissioners discussed a Frontier Communications utility permit to bury fiber optic lines along Bath and Huntersville roads. Mark Gibson of Yates Engineering, contractor for Frontier, answered commissioners' concerns. Linkel informed Gibson the county has had a lot of issues with utility lines being buried at an insufficient depth and have been severed by county crews performing routine road maintenance. While Gibson admitted the projects will not have full time inspectors onsite, the fiber optic lines, which are significantly more costly to repair than copper lines, should be going at a full 48 inches of depth. Commissioners voted to approve the Frontier fiber optic permit.

-Commissioners voted to approve a new policy for volunteers working with small animal control and are expecting an updated policy on vicious animals from Reeves at the end of the month.

-Local resident Sara Duffy presented information to commissioners concerning the improvements planned to County Line Road on the north side of St. Leon. A section in the Franklin County Zoning Code requires that “each lot must have undeniable and irrevocable access to a public road” (80.09.01.D); however, it specifies “public way may be used only if it is the sole access to a parcel created, and recorded prior to the adoption of the 1965 Zoning code.”

Wilson noted that if the county land locks a parcel, state law would supersede a local ordinance. Local resident, and relative to a neighboring property owner, Gloria Hoog reported to commissioners the land locked parcel in question was created from the owner's brother, who owns more than 2,000 feet of road frontage on S.R. 1 and suggested an easement be given from that frontage. Duffy noted the parcel in question was created in the 1980s. 

Linkel made a motion to hold off an any work to County Line Road until Reeves could review the relevant zoning code and possibly seek input from the Area Plan Commission; Wilson and Gerald Wendel agreed.