County might see more cuts: Officials to address 2017 budget tonight

More spending cuts may be necessary before tonight’s final adoption of Bartholomew County’s 2017 budget.

That’s because a state grant to help pay for 800 megahertz radios used by emergency-response groups has not materialized.

Shannan Hinton, Bartholomew County emergency preparedness director, had requested $316,044 as part of a four-year, $3.2 million plan to replace all of the county’s radios.

However, council members made it clear at the time that they had simply set aside those expenditures while awaiting word on whether the county would receive a grant.

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But the recent decision regarding the Emergency Management Performance Grant was not what Hinton or Sheriff Matt Myers wanted to hear.

“We didn’t get it, because the state made the decision after proposals were due to not fund radios,” Hinton told the Bartholomew County commissioners Monday.

Sheriff Matt Myers had requested $555,020 to purchase 110 new radios and body-worn cameras for deputies, which were in the $20.75 million budget that got preliminary approval Sept. 13 from the Bartholomew County Council.

But since repair parts for all current radios, all more than 10 years old, will become unavailable over the next two years, the sheriff expects the council may see their replacement as the highest priority.

“They may have to make additional cuts,” Myers said after the commissioners’ meeting.

“Whatever they decide is what we’ll have to live with.”

Myers had already seen some of his funding requests reduced during the late-summer budget hearings, including:

Lowering the number of new cars from Myers’ original request of 13 to nine vehicles.

Only one new deputy of three new requested had been approved, as well as two part-time civilian employees to perform civil process work.

In late May, the sheriff indicated he was planning to ask the three county commissioners to use what was then a $1.04 million Telecommunications Fund to purchase radios and cameras.

That fund was tapped two months later for the $700,000 purchase of the two Premier Ag Co-Op buildings at 785 S. Marr Road. The location will serve as a new home for the county Purdue Extension office, as well as other departments still to be determined.

In August, county commissioners told the council they were willing to provide $200,000 in income tax funds, as well as a one-time payment of $111,000 from their telecommunications fund toward the purchase of new radios and body cameras.

However, funding is also needed for upgrades at the county highway garage and the County Courthouse, the commissioners said.

Bartholomew County didn’t come away from this year’s Emergency Management Performance Grant process totally empty-handed, however. The county received $14,000 that Hinton said will go toward replacing a 1999 Ford Explorer used by her department.

Other grants are still being sought that would enable rural fire departments to purchase new radios, she said.

If you go

The Bartholomew County Council is scheduled to vote on the final adoption of the 2017 general fund budget at 6 p.m. today in the fourth floor council chambers at the county governmental office building near Third and Franklin streets.

With little discussion and a 6-1 vote, the council on Sept. 13 gave its preliminary first-reading approval of a $20.75 million spending plan, up from the $17.19 general fund budget approved a year ago during a fiscal crisis.

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