The Republic Masthead

Bartholomew County Republican primary

County Commissioner District 1

 

Tim Dillingham

Party: Republican

Campaign experience: First time running for office.

Job: Supervisor at Ditch Inc. in Edinburgh.

Family: Wife Kim, two grown daughters, two grandchildren

 

Larry Kleinhenz

Party: Republican

Campaign experience: Five terms as county commissioner, currently serves as chairman of the commissioners.

Job: Businessman, real estate developer, restauranteur and works in home construction.

Family: Wife Annette; 11 children; three grandchildren.

 

1. The county has two facilities -- the county garage and annex -- that soon will need replacement or relocation, what are your thoughts on what should be done?

1. I think this is one of the areas where I can bring something to the party. I do not know of any strategic plan, I do not know of any master plan that's formally executed and so what I would propose if elected commissioner is to immediately begin working on a strategic plan, on a master plan.

I think there's been people, and I've talked to several, that this idea of 'hey, we need a strategic plan for our county' because of some things like the two that you've mentioned and that's not happened. I think that we've have an opportunity over the last 20 years to do that and nothing's been done.

So, one of the very first things I would do is bring my leadership abilities to making that strategic plan happen and involving the community as much as possible, bringing all parties in and and getting a good solid mission and vision and plan for, not just facilities, but for the county in general.

1. I think 15 years ago, I recognized that our county annex building was a very difficult building to have for a county public facility, it is ... there are a lot of deficiencies centered around American with Disabilities Act, it would take a lot of funding to get that building up to where we need it to be. so in the last several years, 12 to 15 years, we have chosen to not put a lot of money into that building, knowing that at some point we were going to replace it.

Three years ago, we started a fund at the county level with cooperation from the council trying to set some monies aside so that over a course of five or six years we would be able to save up maybe half the money required to replace that building. We're still working on that. The council had to use some of that money for other budget requirements, but we're working toward that and at some point that building will need to be replaced.

The highway department building will be the same, in the same category, it is old, built in 1950 or 52, and it's just falling apart, roof's leaking. At some point the county's going to have to build a new facility there, but it would be a small office, mechanics type of facility.

2. In this economic downturn, the county is constantly looking for ways to become more efficient, if elected what could you do as commissioner to improve the efficiency of county government?

2. This is one of the things I think is a great asset of mine. In 2008, I watched economy turn down and I helped lead, along with a team, us and small business through some tough economic times. I think government must begin to look for ways to continually improve.

I think there needs to be a new perspective, I think there needs to be new leadership in this area. I think the old adage of 'well, we've always done it this way' or 'we've tried it and it didn't work' is not acceptable. I believe that what we need to do is, there some thinking out in industry that can be brought into government.

There's governments all across the county that are doing it, both cities, Fort Wayne is one in Indiana. Lean thinking is something that's in an industry or Six Sigma. Right here in our own backyard we have some great leadership. So, what we need to do is find ways to make our government better, simpler, maintain the services if not improve the services and I don't think you have to spend additional monies to do that. I think that is a ton of ways for continuous improvement.

What we need is leadership and bringing all of county government together and saying 'this is what we're going to tackle and we are going to continually improve and get better. I think that's something that's desperately needed because I don't think economic times are, we're just not going to have great expansion and have our pockets full of money to spend. So, we have to get better.

2. Keep in mind, to correctly answer that question, you need to understand what responsibilities lie under the commissioners' umbrella. Most of or the biggest portion of the county tax dollars, first of all, most of the county tax dollars to the school corporation, but that portion which is the county's is for public safety, the sheriff's department and the courts, the penal system of county government. Our responsibility, being the highway, animal control, code enforcement, we are very efficient in the execution of our responsibilities now.

An example, in 1993, when I first became a commissioner, we had 22 county employees at the highway department. We added a mechanic to take care of all of our vehicles in-house, but today we have 22 employees, because we eliminated a position. Comparatively, many of the adjacent counties to us have two and three times as many highway employees as we have. So, so much of their budget is being consumed by personnel and other expenses that they have very little to maintain their road system and bridge systems. And that's why our county roads in Bartholomew County are far and above most of our adjoining counties.

But we need to continue that and we do it by having good employees, and we have really good employees at our highway, and by properly directing and making requirements and demands of those individuals and we do that on an annual basis. We're always looking for additional work we can do in-house. And our other departments are pretty much the same, we have seen zero growth and that's how we've got to continue, we must have zero growth and we've got to get more done with less.

3. What are your thoughts on economic development tools like tax abatements and CEDIT funds and should the county in essence make out-and-out loans to entice new businesses?

3. Here's how I would answer that question. First, we have to make Bartholomew County the best county around for businesses to stay and retain jobs and we have to create an environment that not only retains jobs, but we have to create an environment that attracts people to invest here.

I think that whatever we can do to create that environment that says Bartholomew County, Columbus, Indiana, is a great place for us to locate our business, a great place to keep our business, is what we should do. In terms of tax abatements, I think that needs to be looked at on a case-by-case basis.

So it's a win-win for both the investor and the community. I believe that, you know, we do a good job here, I think there's people in county government that do a good job, but what we need to make sure that we're doing is creating the best environment.

There's some leadership that needs to happen, I think. I go back to when Mayor Stewart and the economic board, Brooke Tuttle, those kind of folks were aggressively bringing in new jobs. That just helps even local employers that are here. It doesn't have to be just advanced manufacturing, there could be life sciences, agribusinesses, there's a whole think there's a whole host of things that I think county government can do to assist what is already happening, but we have to be proactive. We just can't sit around and wait for it to happen.

3. Well, and that is an interesting area because that's a field where the county's going to have to become more and more of a player. Of course the County Council is responsible for issuing the tax abatements. In the last 15 years, they've issued very few mainly because most of the commercial growth is within the city corporate limits. I think last year we may have had one or two, possibly two abatement requests and they were small and the County Council, I think, issued those. I just don't know to what level.

But as far as economic development attraction, we are very involved currently with our local economic development board. And we are going to have to creatively become more of a partner if we're going to continue to attract quality employers to our county.

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