Fire truck gets OK; EOC on hold

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Three proposals for the use of Hazardous Waste Funds received various responses from the Putnam County Council on Tuesday.

A fire truck received a tentative yes.

A new host fee to share tipping fees with Russell Township and the Town of Russellville will receive future study.

And an Emergency Operations Center for the county's 911 Dispatch Center received a lot of questions during the regular monthly session in the courthouse annex.

As for the fire truck, which had already received approval from the Putnam County Commissioners on Monday, council members approved a request for $100,000 from the Hazardous Waste Fund. Fire department officers David Nelson, Kevin Carrington, Dennis Fordice and Mark Rossok said the new truck will cost an estimated $155,000, but since they estimated the truck would be used only 65 percent of the time on hazardous materials runs, they only asked to fund 65 percent of the cost from the money collected through tipping fees from the Heritage Environmental Services facility in Russell Township.

Council members Mitch Proctor, Keith Berry, Darrel Thomas, Larry Parker, Jay Fogle, Richard Lyon and Don Walton agreed to the request pending advertisement as an additional appropriation for the May council meeting.

As for the host fee, county Emergency Management Agency director Kim Hyten presented a resolution he had shared with the commissioners on Monday.

Due to the Heritage landfill being located in Russell Township, Hyten said there has been discussion that a portion of the tipping fees collected should go to the township and the Town of Russellville for local improvements.

Currently, the state receives 75 percent of the tipping fees paid at the site while the county receives 25 percent. That amounted to about $900,000 for the county in 2005, and the funds accumulate in the Hazardous Waste Fund, which has strict guidelines for usage of the money. Hyten said it is unclear what the state does with its share of the tipping fee. Putnam County is now the only county in the state that has such a facility and collects funds.

Council president Proctor said he agrees with the proposal to allow the host township to have some use of funds to manage a landfill in its own backyard.

But he said it would take some research to see how the fund should be set up. He and Berry and Fogle volunteered to work with Hyten on a committee to oversee the change.

Council member Lyon said he agreed the town should benefit from hosting the site.

But he said he is hesitant to approach the state for a change in legislation on how the funds can be used. The account now has about $2.7 million in it.

"It's like waving a flag to the state to take away this funding," he said.

The county directed attorney Scott Hoff to contact the State Board of Accounts on the usage of the funds and establishing a host fee.

In an earlier discussion, the council balked at the use of Hazardous Waste Funds for construction of a new county Emergency Operations Center to host 911 Dispatch and a training facility.

With representatives from several county fire departments in the audience, 911 Director Dave Costin told the council the plans presented last month for the EOC are the result of many years of discussion and planning.

Hyten agreed that the boards involved in the planning -- emergency management, local emergency planning, and 911 -- are all in agreement on the concept of the center.

The center's cost is estimated at $1.9 million, and the request was for all of the funding to come from the Hazardous Waste Fund.

But Proctor questioned why the project should be paid for completely from that fund when not all of the emergency responses dispatched will be related to hazardous materials.

Costin agreed, but said that the entire facility will allow the county to better deal with a hazardous materials crisis.

Health Department representative Steve Walters added that the facility will allow all responders to better deal with a hazardous materials situation, not only police and fire departments but also health officials.

Council member Fogle asked about the cost of the center, noting that Vigo County now has a project that will only cost $400,000 for a new dispatch center.

But consultant Jason Starr from Ra-Comm in Terre Haute said the project is different in that the city and county dispatch centers are being combined into the basement of the sheriff's department building. No new facility is being constructed.

Starr said that Boone County recently constructed a new EOC at a cost of $5.2 million.

Project adviser Terry Burnsworth told the council the building is tornado-proof and has a cost of more than $200 per square foot.

That is an expensive building, he said, but it meets requirements to withstand an F5 tornado.

Comparatively, the courthouse is vulnerable to natural disasters, fire and terrorist attacks.

Costin said that if the courthouse is evacuated, it could take hours to get a back-up dispatch center in operation.

While most members of the council agreed that the EOC is a good project, how to pay for it was the main sticking point.

The council directed Hoff to check with the State Board of Accounts to see if the EOC would qualify as an accepted use for the Hazardous Waste Fund.

Proctor said he would not want the state to later come back on the county to repay funds if the state determines the fund was not spent appropriately.

The council agreed to wait for a response from the state to determine if the issue will be put on the May agenda.

In other business, the council:

-- Heard concerns from county treasurer Janet Deaton about collection of the dog tax, since state regulations have changed. Deaton said it would take additional software, tags, forms and more staff to handle the extra workload. The council agreed to have attorney Scott Hoff look into the issue and report back to the board.

Deaton also said she told the council her office needs one or two part-time assistants to get her office through the tax collection period so that funds can be processed over the next few weeks.

After some discussion about where extra funding could be found, council member Darrel Thomas made a motion to appropriate $2,000 from the Rainy Day Fund for use on part-time help to get through the tax collection season. The motion passed 5-2 with Parker opposed and Lyon abstaining.

The additional appropriation will have to be advertised for official approval at the next council meeting.

-- Approved an amended budget for the P.I.E. Coalition to cover changes in the office staff and the funding of the coordinator's position.

-- Approved an additional appropriation of $25,000 for the Public Defender's Office to meet contractual obligations for the year. The request was made by Superior Court Judge Robert Lowe, who said the funds will cover public defender cases assigned in his court.

-- Granted an additional appropriation of $213,889.44 for the aviation board to move grant money received into the appropriate accounts for expenditures.

-- Appointed Harry Moore to the Alcoholic Beverage Commission.

-- Appointed Dorothy Lukenbill to the Putnam County Library Board.

The county council regularly meets on the third Tuesday of each month at 6:30 p.m. in the courthouse annex. The meetings are open to the public.

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