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Under an ordinance tentatively approved Monday, the definition of “family” in Bartholomew County’s fair housing ordinance will match changes adopted July 1 by the federal government.
The modification, which may be up for a final vote as early as next week, was given unanimous, first-reading approval by the Bartholomew County Commissioners without revision.
Besides age, religion and race, the revised ordinance also forbids discrimination against “families regardless of the actual or perceived sexual orientation, gender identity or marital status of its members.”
Familial status is defined as “one or more individuals who have not attained the age of 18 years being domiciled with a parent or another person having legal custody of such individual or the written permission of such parent or other person.”
The change in the fair housing ordinance was requested by Kenna Consulting and Management of Indianapolis, which assisted Driftwood Utilities Inc. in applying for a $500,000 Community Focus Fund grant.
The state-administered grant, which utilizes federal funds, was awarded in late August.
Kenna Executive Director Kent Anderson told the commissioners that the federal government made recent language changes to include nontraditional marriages.
While Commissioners President Larry Kleinhenz said Anderson’s request initially raised some red flags, he concluded the new definition will not have any bearing on the county’s current practices.
“The (new language) clearly points out that the definition of a family is any adult who has at least one dependent under the age of 18,” Kleinhenz said. “It’s consistent with what we, and most of the people in this community, consider a family.”
Kleinhenz added none of the three commissioners wants to discriminate against any individual concerning rights and privileges guaranteed by state and federal constitutions.
County attorney Grant Tucker said that while the new language does expand the definition of family, he described the wording as vague.
“It’s a housing ordinance to prevent discrimination on a number of levels,” Tucker said. “(Nontraditional families) is just one of them.”
Anderson expressed concern the grant might be at risk without the language change.
However, the county is not the designated grant recipient. The $500,000 actually will go to Driftwood Utilities Inc., a not-for-profit company specializing in sewage disposal systems.
The grant will assist the company in making water filtration improvements intended to reduce monthly sewage fees paid to the city of Columbus, according to Kleinhenz.
He added Bartholomew County government is simply serving as a sub-recipient, which a city or county entity is required to do in order for a nonprofit to receive state or federal grants.
In exchange for the grant, Driftwood Utilities must provide $60,000 in matching funds for the project, according to Anderson.
Most of the improvements will be made to water and sewer lines in German Township, as well as parts of both Flatrock and Columbus townships.
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