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County projects prompt debate

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A former Bartholomew County commissioner is seeking a spot on the County Council to push forward plans to replace the county’s annex and highway garage.

Paul Franke retired as a commissioner after 2012. But the annex and garage issues have drawn him back for another chance at serving the county.

He’s vying for the District 4 seat held by Republican incumbent Jorge Morales. They are joined in the GOP primary by Paul Nolting. Democrat Doug Memering is unopposed in the May 6 primary.

“Those two issues need to be pushed along and I think changes on the council need to be made,” Franke said.

The County Commissioners have been pushing to replace the 85-year-old annex, at 1971 State St., which houses the Purdue Extension office and the county health department’s nursing program. It has housed the Women, Infants and Children program, but the state health department is cutting its ties with the county over concerns about the physical environment in which clients are served.

The annex does not meet the Americans with Disabilities Act requirements and suffers from structural problems.

A study of the annex estimated the cost to replace it with a structure that meets all needs will be about $6.7 million. The study said repairing the existing building, which wouldn’t provide enough space for future needs, would cost as much as $4.3 million.

County Council members have not been as quick to support a new annex, cutting about $490,000 from the commissioner-controlled budgets for the project. Council members have asked to first know what it would cost to make the annex usable and compliant, and to examine which agencies should be in the building.

The highway garage, built in 1952, is a collection of six buildings at 2452 State St. Commissioners say it’s too cramped for modern equipment and trucks, ill-equipped for all its needs and doesn’t meet some Indiana Department of Environmental Management standards.

“The present council is starting its fourth year of work on both projects and I haven’t seen things go anywhere,” Franke said.

Morales said he doesn’t have anything against either project, but he wants to examine ways to pay for them without increasing taxes for residents.

Nolting said he supports a new annex, but he’d like it to house three agencies that would help similar populations: the county health department’s nursing program, Volunteers in Medicine and the Women, Infants and Children program.

Trustee face-off

The Columbus Township Trustee’s Office has three Republicans among its four candidates: Incumbent Ben Jackson, former airport director Rod Blasdel and Bob Freeman, a former candidate for the office. Democrat Chris Rutan is unopposed.

Freeman, who lost as a Democrat in the 2010 general election for trustee of Columbus Township, said he’s running for the office again because changes need to be made. He said staff members belittle residents who seek assistance, and too much money is being invested in the township’s fire department.

Jackson, who took over last year, said he’s never seen his staff treat anyone rudely. He said the office is firm in its requirements for people seeking help, reflecting some changes made at the beginning of the year. Freeman’s issues with the fire department are longstanding, Jackson said.

Enjoyment of his job and a chance to continue changes that he’s been making since taking office July 1 are among reasons why Jackson filed as a candidate, he said.

Blasdel, the Columbus Municipal Airport director from November 2000 through the end of 2012, said he thinks his skills and experience working with budgets and boards would be of use as trustee of Columbus Township. Currently he is the manager of the Cordry-Sweetwater Conservancy in Nineveh, responsible for roads, utilities, marinas and lakes.

Other primary races

The sheriff’s race has four Republicans: Columbus Police Department Lt. Matt Myers and sheriff’s deputies Maj. Todd Noblitt, Sgt. Dean Johnson and Sgt. T.A. Smith.

County Council District 1 offers another GOP showdown, between Marcus Speer and incumbent Chris Ogle. Democrat Jean Marr Wilkins is unopposed.

Kathleen Tighe Coriden, Jeff Logston and Greg Long are running on the Republican ticket for Superior Court 2 judge.

Republicans Mark Schneider, Chip Perfect and Bill McDonald are candidates for state Senate District 43. Schneider is a teacher in the Bartholomew Consolidated School Corp.

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