Commissioners Approve Personnel Policy, Honor State Rep. Wolkins

Kosciusko County Commissioners on Tuesday honored Indiana State Rep. Dave Wolkins for his 32 years of service down at the Statehouse. Wolkins is retiring this year. Pictured (L to R) are Commissioner Bob Conley, Wolkins and Commissioners Brad Jackson and Cary Groninger. Photo by David Slone, Times-Union.

Kosciusko County Commissioners on Tuesday approved a “Health Pandemic Emergency Closing” personnel policy and honored retiring Indiana State Rep. Dave Wolkins.

County attorney Chad Miner and County Administrator Marsha McSherry presented the policy.

McSherry said the county was encouraged – because of the “times we live in” – by the Indiana State Board of Accounts to adopt such a policy. She asked the commissioners to just adopt the policy and not enact it.

The policy states that when a health pandemic has been declared by the state of Indiana, county commissioners “may alter, modify and suspend necessary procedures as recommended by the County Health Department, the Indiana State Health Department and Center for Disease Control.”

When county facilities are officially closed by the county commissioners for health pandemic conditions, the time off from scheduled work will be paid to all employees affected by the facility closing. Temporary, seasonal and part-time employees will be paid for hours regularly scheduled to work, the policy states.

The policy also states the commissioners “will identify essential employees that will be required to work or telecommute during the health pandemic emergency closing. Essential employees will be determined based upon the circumstances of each health pandemic. Essential employees that are required to work will receive payment for hours actually worked at the rate of time and a half. Payment received for hours actually worked will be in lieu of and not in addition to any pay indicated.”

During any health pandemic emergency closure, the county commissioners will establish restricted travel policies, meeting protocols and health precautions for employees and facilities. The policy also states that “Accruals for benefit calculations, such as vacation, sick leave or holiday benefits, shall accrue during the health pandemic emergency closing.”

Commissioner Cary Groninger said on Monday there was a department head meeting to determine who needed to continue working if the county ever needed to close.

“We want to react out of facts, not just fear and emotion,” Commissioner Brad Jackson said.

After the policy was unanimously approved, Jackson said there was some discussion that an intermediate step would be to close county buildings to the public.

“The thing I encourage everybody to, in the future for the next however many years to come, is to do this basic stuff all the time and we wouldn’t have the flu like we do in the cold season. Hopefully, that’s one of the positives that come out of this,” Jackson said.

It was Jackson who then called Wolkins up to the front of the room to receive a plaque.

“I can say as a citizen and a commissioner both that when I need something, Dave is always accessible,” Jackson said. He said if an issue came up that Wolkins believed was more county related than state, Wolkins would pass that on to the county. “The years that we have served together, in a way, he’s just always been there and been very responsive. He definitely carries a really big stick down at the Statehouse, and when you need something done, Dave is the guy that can get it done.”

The plaque presented to Wolkins says, “In recognition of Dave Wolkins and his 32 years of service as state representative for District 18 and to Kosciusko County, presented by the Kosciusko County Board of Commissioners, March 2020.”

After a round of applause for him, Wolkins said, “I just want to say it’s been an amazing journey the last 32 years. I still can’t believe it’s that long. There’s still a lot of learning that goes on down there. But it’s really been a privilege to represent the people of Kosciusko County, and I have had a good relationship with county commissioners, county council, the city, city people here. Whenever I have a question I call them, whenever they have a question, they call me. It’s been a good time, I’ve enjoyed it. But it is time for somebody else to do it.”

In other business, the commissioners:

• Approved a letter supporting the radio communication tower project and stating that the commissioners are willing to commit the funds for it, which has a price tag of $3.7 million. Groninger said he presented the project to the county council Thursday night.

“Pretty much, the communication tower is for our public communication. It will allow us to have interoperability countywide for our emergency communications, as well as a significant amount of work in our 911 Center as well,” Groninger said.

The money will come from the county’s Economic Development Income Tax fund over the next several years.

• Approved Emergency Management Director Ed Rock’s request to submit a grant application to “harden facilities, in other words, make them a little more resistant to an attack, and it’s specifically our Justice Building.”

The grant is for up to $214,000, but Rock is applying for just $133,000.

Commissioner Bob Conley asked if that was for a cyber or physical attack. Rock said it was physical. The grant had to be tied to either cyber attacks or to physical attacks, and the county wasn’t in the position to do cyber attack prevention at this point with the time frame of the grant.

Conley asked how the Justice Building would be protected more physically from attacks. Rock answered, “What we are doing is reconfiguring court security, adding some equipment to that. Right now, the officers are exposed, both from the front and from the back. And our intent here is to put some barriers there so they’re not exposed the way they currently are. By adding that equipment, we can detect the material or any unwanted material prior to it actually entering our court system, the clerk’s office, etc.”

• Approved County Prosecutor Dan Hampton’s request to apply for a $20,000 Senior Hub grant. This is the fourth year the county has had it, he said, and it’s offered through the Indiana Prosecuting Attorney’s Council. The grant money assists the senior prosecutors that enter their appearance for the state of Indiana where the prosecutors have conflicts in child support cases, he said. The county council approved it Thursday.

• Approved the Area Plan Commission’s recommendation to approve John Ward’s request to rezone property on the east side of Ind. 15, and just to the north of the railroad in Van Buren Township, north of the town of Milford, just south of the county line with Elkhart County to the north, from Industrial 2 to Industrial 3. Steve Snyder, his attorney, noted Ward voluntarily put a condition on the rezoning that if the concrete mixing plant does not start production in two years, or stops operations, the rezoning will return to an I-2. Snyder also said the plan is to go before the county Board of Zoning Appeals next month to ask for a variance for the buffer zone on the side of the railroad.

• Approved the APC’s recommendation to approve Scott Anderson’s request to rezone almost 5 acres on the south side of CR 700N, 1,375 feet west of CR 300E in Plain Township from Agricultural to Agricultural 2.