Nanette Beres, the Franklin County Health Department's recently promoted supervising nurse, presented an update on her plans for the department at Franklin County Commissioners' July 26 meeting.

Franklin County's immunization program is lagging behind the state average, not only youth vaccinations, but also tetanus and flu vaccines for adults. In order to increase the community's vaccination rates, the health department is looking to add evening and weekend hours. Vaccinations will be available at the health department one evening per week and one weekend each month. 

“We've been behind a desk for quite a while and so the goal is to be able to offer ourselves more for the residents of Franklin County. Once we get our equipment that we need, … a portable vaccine refrigerator/freezer, we will be able to start doing local clinics. We will be able to go to the schools to be able to do vaccinations, be able to go out into the public and do vaccinations,” said Beres.

In order to facilitate the added hours, Beres suggested the need to hire a registered nurse, a public health coordinator and a health department liaison. Beres hopes to recruit someone from FC EMS or a local fire department to fill the liaison position. The expanded hours are still in the planning phase; Beres wants to open communication lines looking forward. 

The health department is in possession of an emergency response trailer that had been purchased by the county more than a decade ago. Beres explained it has sat in storage for a number of years, and even when it was in use, was difficult to use due to the configuration of the vehicle. As a converted recreational vehicle, ingress and egress can be difficult for the able-bodied, let alone those in need of medical attention. County health officer Dr. David Welsh and Beres are working to get the vehicle evaluated to determine a plan for it moving forward. 

The department's other vehicles are also in need of maintenance and repair. Commissioner Tom Linkel advised Beres to add vehicle maintenance costs into the 2023 budget ahead of Franklin County Council's budget workshop in August.

Beres presented contracts for the continuation of COVID-19 testing efforts by Franklin County EMS through the end of the year and for funding of the local public health coordinator through June of 2023; both contracts are reimbursed by the state. Commissioners voted to approve both contracts.

Also discussed:
-Commissioners held a finance meeting at the request of Franklin County treasurer Jolene Beneker to discuss investment opportunities. Beneker explained interest rates are on the rise and she hopes to put up to $5 million of the county's cash into certificates of deposit. Rates from Franklin County National Bank (estimated 2.24 percent) and Bath State Bank (estimated 2 percent) for a one-year term were offered.

Beneker also presented information on the state's TrustINdiana investment vehicles. While it currently offers the best monthly return, it has a variable rate based on market conditions. Linkel noted he would prefer to keep the county's money in the county.

Commissioner Tom Wilson suggested asking Bath to match FCN's rate and invest $2 million into each. Linkel replied he would prefer to take the best offer presented, but agreed to request a match. Wilson replied that if Bath does not match FCN's rate, to invest the full $4 million with FCN.

-Linkel brought news of a sponsor, Franklin County Farmers Mutual, for the new building planned for Franklin County 4-H. Franklin County legal counsel Grant Reeves explained he has been in contact with Brian Baxter of Franklin County 4-H, who reported the organization operates at the county park on a long-term lease, the details of which are unknown. Reeves suggested commissioners go ahead and update the lease with a new term with some revisions of the use, which would include permission of sponsorship signage. While the original lease paperwork has not been located, Wilson remembered renewing the lease for 99 years in the late 90s. Reeves agreed to continue working on a contract.

“Thank you to Franklin County Farmers Mutual, they're going to be a sponsor for the new building. It is very important to our community, 4-H is a great thing for our kids, not only for their physical health, but also their mental health,” Linkel expressed.

-Reeves gave an update on the discussion of tax revenue capture for the Franklin County Redevelopment Commission, requesting involvement of a commissioner in discussions between the school board and the redevelopment commission. Commissioner Gerald Wendel agreed to participate.

-Commissioners agreed to recommend a 10 percent raise for the county's employees as Franklin County Council's budget workshop approaches. Over the past 17 years, the county's employees have received nine raises: two percent in 2005 and 2006, zero in 2007 and 2008, four percent in 2009, zero in 2010, two percent in 2011, zero in 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, one percent in 2016, three percent in 2017, one percent in 2018, three percent in 2019, zero in 2020 and four percent in 2021.

“The difficulty I have with that minimum amount is getting qualified people to work for our government. We've got to stay up with… inflation is killing everybody,” said Linkel.

Franklin County Sheriff Peter Cates agreed, noting, “since we're competing with everybody else, we need to make sure we give our employees a good workable wage and show them our appreciation.”