Commissioners take first step in approving comprehensive planning document

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The County Commissioners took the first step toward developing Comprehensive Planning for Switzerland County when they unanimously approved a Comprehensive Planning document.

“You have to change a little if you don’t want to change,” said Bruce Frankel, PhD, AICP, Managing Principal Consultant of Indiana City Corporation, a planning and development firm. “It’s a way of preserving your hamlet way of life.”

Bruce Frankel, a professor of urban planning at Ball State University, was hired by the county over a year ago to develop the plan. “This doesn’t enforce anything. It’s to be used as a reference for other public policy,” he said. Actual ordinances and means of enforcement will be determined later in the process, he said.

“This is a blueprint for the county of what to do,” said John Kniola, a member of the Switzerland County Plan Commission.

The document, now approved by the Commissioners, also needs approval from the Vevay Town Council and the Patriot Town Council. John Kniola expected the Comprehensive Planning document to be considered by the Vevay Town Council at its Wednesday meeting this week and considered by the Patriot Town Council at its August meeting.

At Monday’s Commissioners meeting, Commissioner Brian Morton said there are already several land-use ordinances in Switzerland County, but there’s no enforcement. “The rulebook is deep but there’s no one to back it up. We don’t have someone in charge to enforce and see it through,” he said.

Bruce Frankel said “elimination of blight and enforcement of code” are two most vital parts of the document. But noted there is also consideration for poverty and those “who can’t fix up their property because they don’t have the money.” Still, there must a way to deal with abandoned property and maintaining the appearance of the county.

More importantly, he said it’s important to plan for future growth that could change the character of the county if allowed to grow unrestricted. “It would have only 11 percent of the county as residential. The rest would be farms, wildlife and habitat. It’s intended to maintain the existing character,” Dr. Frankel said. Right now, he said developers could come into Switzerland County and build subdivisions that would drastically change the county’s character.

“This is a way to control the things you want to keep,” he said.

Any changes in ordinances and regulations will not come right away, Bruce Frankel said. The County Commissioners and the town legislative bodies pass ordinances for any new laws or changes to be enacted. “It doesn’t go into effect unless you pass an ordinance,” he said, and there will be many opportunites for public discussion and consideration by elected officials.

In other Commissioner’ business:

Bennington-Moorefield Sewer Project: The County Commissioners are in the process of filing for a federal grant through the Southeastern Indiana Regional Planning Commission that will provide funding for developing a sewer system in Bennington and Moorefield. In order to apply for the matching grant, the county must confirm that it has $500,000 line of credit in the bank, and County Auditor Rachel Bladen said that letter is needed from the bank in order to proceed.

Bennington Pike: Parham Excavating has been hired to repair the section of Bennington Pike that was damaged by March storms. A large section of the eastbound lane on Bennington Pike near Mount Sterling slid away due to the heavy rains.

Medical Building: Construction of a new medical storage building for the Switzerland County Health Department is slated to begin in early August. The new building, which will be located behind the health department building, replaces the current one that doesn’t provide adequate space to store all of the medical supplies. Plus the new building will be temperature-controlled, providing more suitable conditions for storing the medical supplies.

Health Screenings: The County Commissioners plan to make future health screening mandatory for all county employees who receive health insurance benefits.

MedBen, the county’s insurance carrier, provides free health screenings for all insured county employees. Rachel Bladen said employees are tested for 30 different health conditions including cancer, health disease, diabetes and some liver ailments.

She said only 21 of the county’s 80 eligible employees were tested at the most recent health screening last week.

“Why can’t we make it mandatory?,” Brian Morton said. “This benefits the county,” he said.

Rachel Bladen said the lab technician will be returning soon to screen others who were missed the first time. “I will be sending out another letter telling them to please try to participate because next year it will be mandatory,” she said.

Lifetime Resources: The Commissioners gave approval of $15,000 for Lifetime Resources – $5,000 from the community general fund and $10,000 from riverboat revenue. The County Council must follow up with its own approval in order for the money to be appropriated.