Vote center, ambulance decisions await approval

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

The Monday meeting of the Putnam County Commissioners was most notable perhaps for who wasn’t there and, therefore, what decisions will not be made until the next meeting.

Final votes on the approval of vote centers for Putnam County as well as vehicle funding for Operation Life will be back on the commissioners’ agenda for the 9 a.m. meeting on Monday, June 19.

Putnam County Clerk Heather Gilbert was back at the request of the commissioners after presenting a vote centers proposal in May.

Heather Gilbert

At that time, Gilbert shared the plan to place eight vote centers around the county beginning with the May 2018 primary election. The centers would replace the 29 polling locations across the county’s 31 precincts.

In a vote centers model, voters are eligible at any of the county’s locations regardless of their home precinct.

The idea is to better serve voters who may work in a different precinct or even county and therefore have trouble making it to a polling place on Election Day.

Additionally, the number of poll workers would be 56, as opposed to 145 in former elections, greatly reducing what the county spends for wages and meals.

The commissioners seemed generally agreeable to the proposal during the May 15 meeting, but asked Gilbert to return on June 5 so that the meeting could be advertised, giving the public a chance for input.

Gilbert reported input she and the Election Board had reviewed from both comments on and one phone call to the clerk’s office.

Notable among the concerns were voters from the Russellville, Barnard and Clinton Falls areas, all of whom worry about their relative distance from the nearest polling places in either Bainbridge or Heritage Lake.

Gilbert said she understands these concerns, but struggled to find suitable locations in northern areas of the county.

She has also reminded citizens absentee voting and mail-in voting are available for several weeks leading up to the election.

Another concern was voiced by Leslie Hanson of the League of Women Voters, who wondered if there might be a suitable location found on the Indianapolis Road corridor in the interest of convenience for workers at various industries on the East Side of Greencastle.

Gilbert said she is looking into this, with one possibility being the American Legion post on Indianapolis Road.

“We did agree with her (Hanson) to try and see if it would be a good idea to change one of the locations,” Gilbert said.

The three locations currently proposed in Greencastle Township are the Putnam County Courthouse, Putnam County Fairgrounds and Greencastle Armory.

Final determination of the locations is the duty of Gilbert and fellow Election Board members Stacia Hathaway, Bud Sharp and Jack Sutton, with the commissioners and council only required to approve the overall idea of vote centers.

However, with Commissioner Don Walton not in attendance on Monday, Commissioner David Berry requested tabling the decision until the June 19 meeting.

Commissioner Rick Woodall agreed, and Gilbert will return for the next meeting.

Likewise, no decision was made on the Operation Life request for $65,000 to fully replace an wrecked ambulance.

The question has been on and off of commissioners’ agendas since early April, when OL requested a total of $202,000 for staffing and vehicle concerns.

While the $137,000 question of staffing was addressed in May, the vehicle issue was not addressed at that time.

It was back on the agenda on Monday, but with no Operation Life representatives present, it will be on the docket again in two weeks.

Following a November wreck involving an OL ambulance hitting a police SUV, insurance paid $80,000 to replace the vehicle. The $65,000 is the remaining money needed to fully purchase and outfit an ambulance.

In other business:

• Putnam County 911 Director Dave Costin gave a demonstration on his department’s new backup 911 system.

The system, housed in a large, portable case, allows for phone and data dispatching outside of the normal stations used by dispatchers every day.

While the most obvious use is as a backup, should the normal system failed, Costin pointed out that the units could also be used in remote situations.

He pointed out that the system, which can be set up in about five minutes, could also prove useful at the site of active shooter or hostage situations, providing not only communication, but recording capabilities.

• The commissioners approved paying American Legal Publishing up to $2,500 from the EDIT War Chest to update the county’s codified ordinances.

The payment includes the annual hosting fee for maintenance of the county’s online ordinances, as well as updating ordinances that have been passed in the last three years.

• Highway Supervisor Mike Ricketts reported that Bridge 187 in Warren Township and Bridge 165 in Washington Township are both reopened.

The commissioners approved a change order on the Crowe’s Bridge project, paving the way for a $24,000 credit to the county.

Some questions remain regarding this project, however, following flooding earlier this spring. Ricketts has a meeting Thursday regarding damage to the area. The contractor is apparently disputing whose responsibility it is to make repairs.

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  • Please make voting accessible to all county residents.

    Do your homework on Operation Life, why can't they be self sustaining? Privatize it and get it out of the County's hands. There are other ambulance services that can take care of the county without the county having to fully support them!! Enough is enough!!

    -- Posted by Rainbow6 on Wed, Jun 7, 2017, at 8:25 AM
  • Seriously? Consideration is STILL being discussed to give Operation Life MORE money? Why haven't the MANY questions I have proposed in the past few months been discussed and asked to the residing director OR the COUNTY REPRESENTATIVE that sits on the Board of Directors? I am disgusted with our elected officials handing out 100's of thousands of dollars to attempt to keep a failing service alive (last article, PCOL hadn't been solvent since 2010). PCOL refusing to take hospital transfers and provide convolescent transports FORCED another ambulance service to come to our city and county, (thank you STAR Ambulance), STAR IS solvent, hasn't asked for any assistance and is doing the job PCOL REFUSES to do.

    Come on elected and appointed County Officials think of the money you're giving away as coming from your bank account, maybe you'll respond a little wiser and ask many more questions. If you don't I pray the residents of this County DON'T give you an opportunity to spend OUR money so freely following the next election. I know I won't.

    Come on County residents. Stop sitting back and ignoring these issues. Speak up and let your opinion be heard.

    Even exercising consideration to gift more money into a failing agency that employs one or two county residents is beyond comprehension. STOP the stupidity or keep the checkbook open and prepare to continue to bailout the failing service ALL THE TIME.

    My vote, let STAR ambulance take over. It will save all of us whom reside in Putnam County a great deal in the future.

    -- Posted by Everyone has a story on Wed, Jun 7, 2017, at 2:09 PM
  • Table it...table it....table it....table it....table you commissioners ever make a LEGAL decision. I sincerely hope that woodall refrains from making a decision as he sits on operation life board. He could open up the county for a lawsuit if he doesn't.

    -- Posted by canttakeitanymore on Thu, Jun 8, 2017, at 10:50 AM
  • Amen! The elected officials in this county are may I say "less than efficient." The commissioners give money away to the wrong places. They allow good decent hard working employees to be fired while on FMLA and allow elected officials within the courthouse to treat their employees any way they want. It's sickening. We need to come together as a county and vote them ALL out!!!!!!

    -- Posted by jdtroutt71 on Thu, Jun 8, 2017, at 11:18 AM
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