Commissioners officially create new sewer district for Bennington and Moorefield

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The Switzerland County Commissioners officially created a new sewer district in the county during its meeting on Tuesday evening.

The new sewer district, which will benefit the communities of Bennington and Moorefield, has been going through governmental “hoops” for several months. At Tuesday’s meeting, attorney Ron Hocker presented the commissioners with the documents to officially form the district. Craig Bond moved to approve the formation of the district, with Brian Morton seconding and K.C. Banta also approving.

Ron Hocker explained that the county first had to give notice to state agencies that it was considering the formation of a new sewer district; and after those notifications were made, the county had to appoint a hearing officer, who would conduct the official public hearing.

The hearing officer then officially notified the commissioners that a public hearing had been held and that it was his recommendation that the district be established. The commissioners now have the report of the public meeting, which brought them to the action taken on Tuesday night.

The commissioners approved the legal act of forming the district, although the district is different than recent districts established in East Enterprise and Florence.

“This is a new animal,” Ron Hocker said. “In fact, it may be the first one ever in the state.”

Ron Hocker told the commissioners that this new district, by state law, will not be a separate unit of government, as the districts in East Enterprise and Florence are.

“This district will remain a part of county government, which is different,” Ron Hocker said. “It will have a board and its own bookkeeping structure, but when it comes time to establish rates or to raise rates, it will be the commissioners’ decision on what those rates are. The board will make a recommendation, but the commissioners will have the final say.”

County sanitarian Joe Spiller said that his office has been using 50 as the number of households that will be a part of the district for organizational purposes only, but said that he hopes that there will be 58-59 homes in the district by the time it is established.

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The matter of the future of the bridge at Markland was also discussed by the commissioners, who officially stand on their original contract with John McAlister to have the bridge removed. They said that the county has entered into a contract and the county will honor its portion of the contract, and that McAlisters are currently awaiting permits from the Army Corps of Engineers and the Indiana Department of Natural Resources so that it can legally enter the creek bed and begin dismantling the bridge.

“Our original motion stands,” Brian Morton said following the meeting.

The commissioners also had some advice for those interested in historic preservation in Switzerland County: don’t wait until the last minute.

“If the historical society has some ‘treasures’ sitting out there in the weeds that it wants to save, then we need to know that,” Commissioner K.C. Banta said. “I thought we were cleaning up an eyesore, and suddenly people want to save it.”

“We are cleaning up an eyesore,” Craig Bond said.

“People can’t wait until we’re about to drop the hammer on something before they rush in,” Brian Morton said. “If we left that bridge alone and someone fell off of it or was injured on it, then people would be wondering why the county never did anything about it. We can’t win.”

Brian Morton said that when he met with representatives of Historic Landmarks, Inc., about the Markland Bridge, he told those officials to “spread the word” that the county historical society needs to identify things in the county that it feels are historically significant and then begin to work to save them before the commissioners make a move to tear something down.

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In other business discussed by the Switzerland County Commissioners:

– The commissioners officially documented that they support the NIMS concept, a program that is being used nationwide. The “National Incident Management System” is a program through FEMA and the Department of Homeland Security.

– The county will keep its reimbursement for personal mileage of county employees in line with what state government pays.

– A discussion was held about what to do with old computers that are owned by the county. The commissioners discussed the idea of holding an auction for the items; or selling them as is.

County Nurse Practitioner Greg Fillenwarth said that state protocol is for the hard drives to be removed from surplus county computers so that county information cannot be accessed, and the commissioners agreed that the hard drives should be removed before any computer is sold.

Bruce Williams will look into the system for getting rid of old computers and equipment, and will report back at the next commissioners meeting.

– County Highway superintendent Edd Cook said that the summer mowing hours per each of the three county districts looked like this: District One, 654 hours; District Two, 632 hours; District Three, 458 hours. He noted that mowing hours in District Three were behind due to some breakdowns of equipment, but thought that the difference would be made up quickly.

The commissioners agreed to keep the mowing crews going through the depletion of the budgeted funds.

Edd Cook also discussed how the four day work week was going for county highway workers. The highway crews went to the four, 10-hour days in help save fuel; but Edd Cook said that he was concerned that the county was losing an hour a day because workers are coming in at 6 a.m., but it doesn’t get light until about 7 a.m.

The commissioners said that highway workers should be out of the garage at 6 a.m., and spend the “dark time” traveling to the work site, so that when there was enough light, crews could begin immediately.

– Edd Cook asked about the remaining balance of the county’s $1 million paving budget.

He said that currently the county has used $711,000 of the budget; but wanted to make sure before continuing that the remaining $289,000 was still available.

He was told that it was, and that the commissioners were planning on going to the September County Council meeting to discuss whether more paving money might be available.

“Regardless of where the money comes from, Bennington Pike needs to be a priority on getting paved,” K.C. Banta said.

– The commissioners discussed with Edd Cook the problem of keeping good records of where employees are working and what materials are being used at a site.

The commissioners noted that many times a bill comes into the highway clerk, but it may be taken from the wrong budget account because there is no back up documentation about who used the materials and in which district they were used.

“The whole problem is, when we’re getting these bills back in the office, nobody knows where they go,” Craig Bond told Edd Cook.

The commissioners said that the foreman in each district is supposed to keep daily log sheets about wheat their crews are doing each day; and those log sheets are to be kept on file in the highway department in case there are any questions.

“It’s not hard,” Brian Morton told Edd Cook. “You just need to see that they do it.”

“I think it’s going to help everybody,” Craig Bond said of the daily log sheets.

– The commissioners received a thank you from LifeTime Resources for the county’s recent donation of $10,000 for LifeTime services to county seniors.