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Corrections officers ask county for additional personnel

They point to safety concerns

November 05, 2008
Several Crawford County corrections officers Thursday evening approached the County Commissioners about the lack of staff in the county's jail and the safety issues it presents.

Jon Combs said there needs to be enough corrections officers per shift so that when moving offenders, there can be one officer in front and one in back. He added that two also are needed when performing watch tours of the cells blocks and administering medication.

Jail commander Neil Richards echoed Combs' safety concerns and pointed out others.

"We don't want the county to have a liability," he said.

"I don't think it's anybody's intent to diminish the safety of our jailers," Board of Commissioners President Larry Bye said, referring to the board's earlier decision to require county departments to make budget cuts because of the county's ailing financial situation.

"We want you to be adequately staffed," Bye said.

The commissioners also voted 3-0 to pay county employees, with the exception of on-call Emergency Medical Technicians with the county's ambulance service, time-and-a-half pay on top of the eight hours of holiday pay they are eligible for, if they work a holiday. The commissioners later voted 3-0 to pay EMTs who are on on-call regular holiday pay and an additional four hours of straight-time pay if called in to work.

In a separate item, the commissioners voted 3-0 to allow County Attorney John E. Colin to work on revising an agreement proposed by Verizon, which wants to lease space for its cellular phone equipment on the county's tower at Marengo, that, Colin warned, could leave the county at a financial risk.

The proposed lease agreement calls for the county to provide Verizon liability and environmental indemnification if the company is sued. Colin said that is a problem because it would make the tort limit the county has meaningless, putting the county at serious financial risk. He explained the liability indemnification is especially troublesome because it is more likely that a liability suit would be filed than an environmental one (i.e. equipment isn't installed properly and falls on someone), and the only way Verizon could be sued for an environmental issue is if, for example, its equipment was leaking.

Colin said Verizon's attorney appears willing to address the liability indemnification, but a Verizon site selection person has told Crawford County Economic Development Director Don DuBois that she can't wait for the issue to be resolved and if the agreement isn't signed soon, Verizon will pass on putting its equipment on the tower and look elsewhere, costing the county substantial revenue.

The county, which has entered a 25-year agreement with the owners of the Marengo Warehouse and Distribution Center to lease the land where the tower was erected, would receive $13,200 from Verizon for the first five years, $15,180 for the second five years, $17,457 for the third five years, $20,075 for the fourth five years, and $23,086 for the fifth five years. The county's land lease calls for half of that to be paid to the Marengo Warehouse and Distribution Center owners.

Since two years of the 25-year land lease have already expired, the commissioners also voted 3-0 to approve a new 25-1/2-year agreement.

In other business, the commissioners:

•Were asked by Diann Parr of Cape Sandy, whose teenage daughter was injured in a single-vehicle accident along Alton-Fredonia Road while driving to school earlier this fall, to put up guardrails in a couple of spots overlooking the Ohio River on the road where the bluff has collapsed and is without trees.

"My worst nightmare came true this year on Sept. 30," Parr said, noting she had become increasingly fearful of an accident along the road during her 24 years of driving it.

She explained that her daughter dropped a tire, overcorrected and went off the road, over the bluff. Fortunately, she said, a tree kept the car from going further down the bluff. The accident happened just about 100 feet away from one of the spots without trees, she said.

Parr also noted that the road is difficult to see when there is fog at night and asked that the road be striped or reflective tape be put down.

The county this summer moved about 300 feet of roadway as much as 4-1/2 feet away from the bluff, after being donated some land.

The commissioners said they would look into the situation to see what else can be done.

•Voted 3-0 to give county employees the option of participating in the United Way of Crawford County's payroll deduction program.

Rebecca Fenn, executive director of the United Way of Perry County, of which the UWCC is affiliated, said the organization, despite being new, has already helped Crawford Countians in several ways, including food drives, a food distribution to families not on food stamps, offering a prescription drug discount card program, and collecting school supplies for students.

The employee payroll deduction program is "an easy way for folks to give to the United Way," she said.

Fenn added that the fundraising drive is especially important since UWCC, being a new organization, is eligible for a $10,000 matching grant from the Indiana Association of United Ways.

The UWCC, which is asking several businesses in the county to allow their employees to participate in the payroll deduction program, will provide funding to several agencies and groups within the county from the donations it receives, she said.

•Following a presentation by Roland Lemus, regional director of Blue River Services' Southern Indiana Transportation System, showing that several Crawford Countians use the low-cost transportation program, voted 3-0 to allow SITS to request $5,000 from the county council it needs to receive government funding.

•Received an update from Jim Bye, one of the county's representatives on the Region 10 Workforce Development Board, on the services offered to residents at the county WorkOne office at English.

•Were told by Brent Roberts of Butler Fuerman and Seufert Civil Engineers that BFS has been in contact with the state regarding rehabilitating or replacing the "curved bridge" northwest of Milltown that was closed earlier this year for repairs. He said it may be less expensive to replace the bridge, but the structure may have historical significance, making repairing it the only option.

•Voted 3-0 to acquire the services of an engineer to design two buildings for storing stone.

•Approved, 3-0, a subgrant agreement with the Indiana Department of Homeland Security for $85,733 for 800 megahertz mobile radios. The county does not have to provide a financial match.

•Voted 3-0 to hire Richard Sharpe as an hourly contracted employee to do platting, which is required by the state. The hiring is contingent upon the county council providing the funds.

•Reappointed, via a 3-0 vote, Mary Lee Stutzman and Angela Crecelius to the Hoosier Uplands Board.

•Opened and took under advisement requests for proposal for construction engineering services for County Bridge No. 45.

•Voted 3-0 to allow Harris to upgrade the judicial complex computer server at a cost of $1,050.

•Set their next two regular meetings for Nov. 25 and Dec. 30 at the Crawford County Judicial Complex at English. The November meeting will begin at 6:30 p.m., while the December meeting will start at 9 a.m.

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