County commissioner district 1 GOP primary preview election grid

Candidate Q&A and bios attached for grid.

Grid - Susan Thayer-Fye

Monies originally targeted for road improvement were diverted to cover other needs during the budget session last year. What is your long-term plan to address highway funding? Does it include support for a wheel tax?

County government first needs to maximize efficiencies with current local funding. Any tax increases/new tax streams (wheel tax) would be a last resort. I applaud the discussion at the state level regard the release of state reserve funds (my preference) or other state funding to address crumbling roads.

Heroin abuse is on the rise in Bartholomew County, although the number of methamphetamine cases is higher. Besides creating the Bartholomew County Joint Narcotics Enforcement Task Force a year ago (sheriff’s department, city police and prosecutor’s office working together), what others steps ought to be taken in Bartholomew County to stem the tide of drug use and treat people for their addictions?

Obvious results from the joint narcotics task force are a great first step toward addressing drug use and need to be continued. The same joint approach from all providers/funders operating in Bartholomew County will be necessary to address the treatment of addictions. I support those discussions already in process.

What are the pros and cons in resurrecting the effort to create a new Bartholomew County Annex building?

A new county annex building could potentially encourage other development in the area and would provide new square footage. However, I have not seen evidence that the county can afford to build. I feel that the county has other priority issues important to county taxpayers and county employees.

When is it best for commissioners to hire a professional consultant, and when is it best to utilize current staff and volunteers?

Professional consultants should be used after all in-house and volunteer expertise and knowledge has been utilized. Successful community people tend to be willing to help when asked, want to see everyone succeed and are not territorial. I am fortunate to know a lot of them.

In what ways could more cooperation be utilized between the Bartholomew County and Columbus city governments to benefit taxpayers?

Information shared in both directions could avoid duplicating efforts and repeating mistakes. Expensive, in-house personnel with expert skills and costly, infrequently used equipment could be shared. Collaboration between the county and city which infringes upon the individual cultures of each should be avoided because those cultures are priceless.

Grid - Larry Kleinhenz

Monies originally targeted for road improvement were diverted to cover other needs during the budget session last year. What is your long-term plan to address highway funding? Does it include support for a wheel tax?

We agreed to this during the budget crisis. The council has power to create a wheel tax. We can always use more dollars for roads, but have always survived by making wise maintenance choices and by having a lean, productive highway department. I will not support new property taxes.

Heroin abuse is on the rise in Bartholomew County, although the number of methamphetamine cases is higher. Besides creating the Bartholomew County Joint Narcotics Enforcement Task Force a year ago (sheriff’s department, city police and prosecutor’s office working together), what others steps ought to be taken in Bartholomew County to stem the tide of drug use and treat people for their addictions?

Heroin’s addictive nature is a real threat to all — not just the young, not just the criminal. Working with Sheriff Matt Myers and Mayor Jim Lienhoop, our best approach may be to create a rehabilitation program and continue educational efforts. We may have facility space for the right collaborative program.

What are the pros and cons in resurrecting the effort to create a new Bartholomew County Annex building?

The annex project would have given our employees and clients a healthy, safe and efficient facility while eliminating the inefficiencies of campus sprawl. It was to be a positive catalyst for other development on State Street, but was permanently abandoned due to finances. We were able find safe working environments.

When is it best for commissioners to hire a professional consultant, and when is it best to utilize current staff and volunteers?

We hire consultants only when we do not have needed expertise in house. Public safety, bridge replacement, personnel policies and legal counsel are types of professional services occasionally needed. Current commissioners’ tenure and experience eliminates many potential contracts and allow us to instead invest those dollars into public safety.

In what ways could more cooperation be utilized between the Bartholomew County and Columbus city governments to benefit taxpayers?

Emergency Operations Center, recycling center, landfill, emergency response and the new joint drug task force are areas we have partnered with the city. City residents are also county taxpayers. I am welcome new cooperative efforts that make sense. At the top of a list should be an area plan commission.

Grid - Jorge Morales

Monies originally targeted for road improvement were diverted to cover other needs during the budget session last year. What is your long-term plan to address highway funding? Does it include support for a wheel tax?

The whole budget process needs to be reviewed. The EDIT plan belongs to the commissioners and it’s based on payroll tax to address highway needs. I don’t believe that the wheel tax is necessary at this time and can have an unfavorable impact on low- or fixed-income taxpayers. 

Heroin abuse is on the rise in Bartholomew County, although the number of methamphetamine cases is higher. Besides creating the Bartholomew County Joint Narcotics Enforcement Task Force a year ago (sheriff’s department, city police and prosecutor’s office working together), what others steps ought to be taken in Bartholomew County to stem the tide of drug use and treat people for their addictions?

We need to address treatment and transition. We need more involvement from the medical profession, religious organizations and people familiar with these addictions such as Alcoholic Anonymous and Drug Anonymous as well as law enforcement. This is an illness. Putting people in prison is not the answer.

What are the pros and cons in resurrecting the effort to create a new Bartholomew County Annex building?

This is a non-issue at this time. We need long-term financial and capital plans which will dictate how to proceed in the future. Currently the commissioners have asked Columbus Regional Hospital about purchasing the building where the health department is located.

When is it best for commissioners to hire a professional consultant, and when is it best to utilize current staff and volunteers?

What type of consultants and for what subject? In Bartholomew County we are blessed having several companies that have a variety of talents which could be tapped. I would favor asking them first for assistance before spending money on a consultant.

In what ways could more cooperation be utilized between the Bartholomew County and Columbus city governments to benefit taxpayers?

We currently have agreements for 911 dispatch services, plan commission and code enforcement. Do we need to three garages? Could we consolidate IT departments? Should we look at having common purchasing, insurance and personnel department?  I am not talking about unigov, but we need to eliminate waste and duplication wherever possible.

Susan Thayer Fye

Party: Republican

Age: 62

Employment: Self-employed property owner and manager

Current offices held: Member of the Bartholomew County Sheriff’s Merit Board and board of directors of Human Services, Inc.

Family: Sons, Edward, 31; Tony, 29; J.J., 27; and Rick, 26.

Larry Kleinhenz

Party: Republican

Age: 57

Employment: Self-employed businessman

Current offices held: Bartholomew County Commissioner District 1, first elected in 1992.

Family: Wife, Annette, 11 children

Jorge Morales

Party: Republican

Age: 70

Employment: Retired from Cummins in 2000 after 30 years.

Current offices held: Bartholomew County Council, since 2011.

Family: Wife, Melinda

Author photo
Mark Webber is a reporter for The Republic. He can be reached at mwebber@therepublic.com or 812-379-5636.