Socially distanced


County Council members sit socially distanced with masks as they conduct county business at the county-owned building on Sparling Ave. in Rensselaer. Next month the room will be outfitted with monitors, cameras, speakers and microphones for better communication with those online and in person.

RENSSELAER — Following a joint meeting of the county council and commissioners, the council began it’s monthly meeting with additional money requests from the Jasper County Clerk Kara Fishburn, and requests to transfer money from other departments as they find themselves short on funding while awaiting reimbursement from the State for CARES Act money.

Fishburn had requested an additional $3,000 for the general election in anticipation of going over budget; however, she said they did not and she canceled the request. All of the councilmen were happy to approve a zero dollar request.

She did however ask for $5,345 to replace the 17-year old microfilm scanner/printer. She said REMC has suggested her office apply for grant money to fund the replacement equipment, but was not awarded a grant. The office can no longer purchase ink cartridges as the machine is obsolete, but Fishburn said the current cartridge should last a couple more months.

Fishburn reported the county had a record number of voters turn out for this election. They were able to begin counting absentee votes on election day starting at 6 a.m. She said her office survived the election because of the “wonderful” support from county officials. She said a lot of “great people helped her through it” and she had a great team. She said one hears horror stories of other counties where officials don’t get along, and she appreciates Jasper County that much more.

She said there were only a few instances where a voter refused to turn shirts with campaign support inside out or masks supporting a certain candidate. Campaign items are not allowed inside or within a certain distance outside voting areas in Indiana.

Fishburn thanked councilmen Gerrit DeVries and Andy Andree for their time on the board as both will be leaving their seats at the end of the year. Council President Rein Bontreger announced they would have a send-off for the two councilmen at the December meeting. In January, new board members will be Brian Moore and Jeff DeYoung.

Extra patrols

Sheriff Pat Williamson asked the council to consider allowing the two SRO (safety resource officers) working for KV schools to patrol certain areas where they have received numerous complaints of speeding both before and after school. If allowed, the two officers would receive overtime pay, adding an hour to their workday, which Williamson said would cost an additional $13,000 per year. IF they worked only three hours overtime each week, it would be $8,000 additional.

He said the regular deputies are busy and can’t always patrol the streets at the north end of the county where the complaints are from. He said they have found speeders in excess of 80 mph on County Road 700 W, and residents on 1000 N and 1100 N complain about speeding.

The commissioners recently reduced the speed on 1100 N to 35 mph between SR 10 and CR 600 W, but it will take time for drivers to realize the speed limit has been reduced. He said they receive calls for drag racing along that stretch of road before and after school.

Williamson said if approved, the patrols would be added to the job description for the SROs, and it might make the job more appealing to deputies.

He said staffing at the jail and in dispatch has become an issue due to the pandemic with 28 staff members who have had to quarantine due to exposure or who tested positive. The tests are taking up to five days to return and employees cannot return to work until they receive a negative result. There have been no inmates with COVID so far, but he said it would spread quickly if it happens.

They are currently cross training correctional officers to fill in for dispatch if they fall short. “We still have to answer the phone,” he said. “We can’t just shut down.”

They have set up a separate area where one person, quarantined for exposure, could still work without exposing anyone in the building. “We can’t lose people,” he said.

As the board adjourned, Bontreger said, “Have a great Thanksgiving, however you celebrate.”

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