A Switzerland County resident came to the December 13th meeting of the Switzerland County Council with concerns about the Patriot Volunteer Fire Department.
Resident Greg Kammer came to the council regarding the fire department; with his issue bring that the department is not functional. He said that the firefighters have not had training in several years and there is no routine testing of the equipment. He said this is not only a safety issue but also effects their ISO rating – which can cause property insurance costs in the area to rise.
He has been to the Patriot Town Board for help in finding out how this situation can be resolved, but nothing is happening. He said that the fire chief for the Patriot Fire Department is also a Patriot Town Board member.
Kammer requested help from the council, since it supports the fire departments through the Fire Chief’s Association with casino revenue. He would like to see an audit of the Patriot Fire Department’s books to find out what happens to the money it is receiving.
Larry Monjar, who is a member of the Posey Township Volunteer Fire Department, agreed with Kammer that the Patriot Station is non-functioning. Monjar said his department has been responding to calls in Patriot.
County Council Vice President Elizabeth Jones, who was presiding over the meeting in the absence of Council President Glenn Scott, said that what Kammer was talking about were serious allegations; however, the council has no authority over any of the fire departments. Fire Departments answer to the towns or township trustees only. In the case of the Fire Chiefs’ Association, the council gives it a portion of the riverboat revenue, but it does not answer to the council on how it disburses those funds.
It was suggested that Kammer return to the Town of Patriot Board and seek the advice of its attorney, Jud McMillan.
Tom Moore, with the Switzerland County Emergency Management Agency, was present at the meeting, and said he has also been looking into the situation, as he would like to use the fire department building for emergency preparedness.
In other business discussed by the Switzerland County Council:
– Sarah Headen, who is on the advisory board at the Switzerland County Nurse Managed Clinic, came to the meeting let the Council know that she was the person who had the letters sent to the council regarding pay increases for the clinic staff.
She felt the letters may have been taken as a directive rather than a request, and that was not the intent. There had also been a miscommunication when she asked the letter be mailed certified. Her intent was to mail a single letter and not one to each of the council members. She said the board had approved raises but had not seen the letter until after the fact. She did not want to jeopardize the relationship between the county and the clinic and its board.
The council thanked Sarah for coming and explaining the situation.
– Katie Collier attended the meeting to say that she and her husband Lance, will be representing Switzerland County at the Child Advocacy Center’s annual Mardi Gras Ball in February. This is the center’s big fundraiser each year. Each couple is responsible for raising money for the center and the couple who raises the most money is announced as king and queen at the event. Cindy Wagner, a Switzerland County resident, is in charge of the 2018 event. To date Katie and Lance have raised $12,000. She has a donation of $1,000.00 and was asking the council to match it.
Collier informed the council that the center has helped 400 children from Switzerland County since it opened. It does forensic interviews with children and records them so that the child is not required to appear in court. This is the same organization that Sara Brichto represented when she came to council requesting financial support. In past years the council has given the CAC $10,000.
There was a discussion on the counties Katie and Lance will be competing against. Last year Jefferson County won. They raised $21,000. County Auditor Gayle Rayles suggested that council consider giving the Colliers all or part of the annual support they give the center ($10,000) as a donation toward their fund raising efforts since the money all goes to the center. Several councilpersons said they were thinking of something similar. Collier is going to check with Wagner on this suggestion.
– Martha Bladen of the Switzerland County Historical Society attended the meeting to thank the council in person for its support. She updated the council members on projects and uses of the facilities. The Historical Society recently had four fourth grade classes at the Farmstead for an outing, had its annual County Christmas and had demonstrations at the hay press barn twice.
She said they had been awarded an Indiana Historical Society Preservation Grant of $50,000. There was a 15-percent match required, and they received it from the Community Foundation. The money is to be used for construction and equipment costs on a project at the River History Museum and the garage on that property. A building addition of 12′ by 16′ is planned and the society is making changes to a specific area to make it fire-proof to protect irreplaceable documents.
– Rayles presented the revised ordinance that was requested at the last council meeting. The purpose was to remove the pay raises from the Judge’s court order from the original ordinance so that it would not appear that the council gave the raises. Then a revised ordinance would be done to give the raises per the judge’s order.
She explained that after the last meeting, when the council had agreed to cover the cost of the insurance premium increase, the judge had rescinded the order. The prosecutor has also rescinded her request to give additional money to her three employee from one of her special funds. Council signed the revised ordinance.
– Commissioner Josh South was at the meeting, and said that there are still some questions on how the county is covering the health insurance cost increase in 2018; since the way this is proposed be handled is an exception to the percentages the county normally requires the employees to pay.
Attorney Wil Goering has been out of town due to a family emergency and he has not been available to discuss the matter. Rayles said that the bookkeeping side would not be an issue.