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Polling places will remain in current locations


March 09, 2016
The Crawford County Board of Commissioners have said it would leave three polling precincts that the county's election board requested be moved to Leavenworth Elementary School in their current locations.

The commissioners made the decision at their Feb. 25 meeting at the judicial complex in English, after hearing from Gary Wiseman, who said he was present to speak in regard to Ohio 1.

At the January commissioners' meeting, Chase Smith, the Republican appointee and chair of the election board, said the three-member board earlier had unanimously voted to recommend the precinct, which votes at the Coonhunters Club, along with Ohio 2, whose voters cast ballots at the Harry O. Cummings Community Center at Fredonia, and Boone, which votes at the Alton Town Hall, be relocated.

Part of the board's reasoning, he explained, was that Ohio 1 and Ohio 2 have independent boards and are the only two precincts within the same township that don't vote in the same location. He said it is a challenge to find poll workers, with the election board sometimes scrambling the morning of the election to man the polls, and, by combining the precincts into the same location, the number of workers needed would be reduced by five.

Regarding Boone, Smith pointed to poor cell phone reception requiring the poll inspector to leave the building to make and answer election-related calls, as well as the facility not having handicapped parking lines and, thus, not being in compliance with the American Disabilities Act.

Wiseman, who said, if needed, he could get petition signatures against the moves, said relocating the voting sites for the precincts to Leavenworth Elementary, where Johnson 1 and 2 votes, would cause more hardship than benefit, as voters, including many who are elderly, would have to drive farther to cast their ballots.

He added that, having been involved in elections in the past, he knows that it is difficult to get poll workers throughout the county, not just there.

"Basically, if it ain't broke, don't fix it," Wiseman said.

All three commissioners echoed that sentiment.

"I think everybody here is in agreement that we probably need to leave them alone for now," Jim Schultz, president of the board of commissioners, said.

In another matter, David Jones, of Marengo and a former member of the Crawford County Council, urged the commissioners to fill the vacant economic development director's position as soon as possible.

The position has been vacant since the council, with several members frustrated by what they say is an unsatisfactory job by long-time director Don DuBois, didn't fund the economic development contract for 2016. The council, however, in February voted to provide partial funding for three months so that DuBois could be brought back in order to train a new director before retiring.

Jones said three months isn't long enough for a new director to learn the position, pointing to the various projects in the county outside of directly trying to attract business leads that DuBois has been involved in through the years. These, he said, include helping to secure water line and hydrant grants.

Schultz agreed, saying, "You've pretty much expended your three months by the time you've gone through (the hiring) process."

However, District 1 Commissioner Daniel Crecelius previously said he believed the council just wants to see the process in finding a replacement director started and would be willing to extend funding for another three months, if needed.

Jones said that, by not having an economic director since the end of 2015, the county is paying a high price.

"I don't think people are aware of the hole that's causing and what that's going to cost Crawford County," he said.

Jones said it doesn't make sense to fight over a $50,000 job (although the 2015 contract was for more than $89,000, that includes office and other non-salary expenses) when the position has helped bring millions of dollars of grants to the county.

He added that, for economic development efforts to be successful, all county officials must be on the same page.

"One person can really kill a project basically, when it comes down to it," Jones said.

The commissioners also heard a presentation from Tanya Hall about services available to the county through the Purdue University Extension Service Community Development program.

Hall, who is the regional Community Development education, said the program has five areas of focus: Leadership and Civic Engagement, Community and Organizational Planning, Business and Economic Development, Local Government Education, and Quality Places.

Within these, Purdue helps communities with developing leadership, learning how to write grants, and understanding how to attract and retain and expand businesses, among others.

Asked by Schultz about the cost of the programs, Hall answered that it varies, but most are relatively inexpensive.

She added that, while she is the regional educator, county officials would still go through their county Extension director, Gail Peitzmeier, who was present, first.

"How involved are you with economic development?" Crecelius asked.

Hall said that Purdue does not have contact with perspective businesses, but, instead, works with local officials to train them and to provide expertise on how the process works.

"We stay out of the day-to-day economic development activities in the counties. We just provide support and expertise," she said.

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