County Council OKs Grant Application Requests

Kosciusko County Council unanimously approves for Prosecutor Dan Hampton (L) to seek a $98,749.13 grant to start a Child Advocacy Center in the county. Photo by David Slone, Times-Union.

Prosecutors and sheriff’s deputies went before the Kosciusko County Council Thursday for permission to apply for grants.

Prosecuting Attorney Dan Hampton asked the council for permission to seek a grant of $98,749.13 for the possible start-up of a child advocacy center (CAC) in Kosciusko County. He told the council they might have already heard about it.

At the Oct. 29 county commissioners meeting, Hampton presented his request to apply for the grant. He told the commissioners he hoped the CAC might eventually turn into a nonprofit organization. The commissioners approved the grant application.

The federal grant is through the Bureau of Justice Assistance. It would cover costs for personnel, supplies, services and equipment. CACs have been around for several years but there’s not been one in Kosciusko County. The purpose of a CAC is to offer forensic interviews for children who are victims or have been significant witnesses for criminal cases or even for the Department of Child Services.

Councilwoman Joni Truex asked who would be in charge of the CAC and would there be staff for it. Hampton said the staff would just be a director and the grant would provide funding for that position.

Hampton said the director he had in mind was Kelly Bugg. She was with the Department of Child Services for 20-30 years as a forensic interviewer, he said. “So she’s already got that experience,” he said.

Kim Cates, councilwoman, asked if “that position would come on with the understanding that if we didn’t get the grant in additional years, that her position would not be supported?”

Hampton replied, “It’s totally grant driven.”

Council President Sue Ann Mitchell asked about space for the CAC.

“There will be other grants that I’ll also present to you in the coming months because this, as you can see, is just to pay for the director’s salary and some supplies and some equipment. The initial operational plan is to have it mobile, so we’ll use the police agencies’ interview rooms as they exist now. And if we’re able and fortunate to get additional grants, we’ll buy equipment, we’ll buy space, so we’re thinking that will come in the future,” Hampton said.

The council unanimously approved for Hampton to seek the grant for the CAC.

Chief Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Brad Voelz, Teen Court Director Betsey Vastbinder and Case Manager Lana Horoho presented an update on Teen Court and asked for permission to apply for an Indiana Criminal Justice Institute grant for 2020 to keep Teen Court going.

Voelz said, “We are pleased and proud with the success of Teen Court. It’s up and running at full speed” due to Vastbinder and Horoho’s efforts.

Vastbinder was brought on board for Teen Court in June. She was charged with launching the program again for the new school year. In July, she brought Horoho on board to serve alongside her. The two women run Teen Court together.

Vastbinder said they’ve been doing Teen Court hearings every other Monday since August. They currently have 45 open cases. This past week they closed their first three cases.

“We anticipate by the end of 2019 we’ll have anywhere from 12 to 17 additional closed cases on top of those we shared with you. So we’re thrilled with our teens’ progress,” Vastbinder said.

Mitchell asked, “So having 45 open cases with the two of you, is that a bit of a challenge?”

Vastbinder answered, “At this point, it can get tight some weeks, especially monitoring community service hours, since Lana and I are both 30 hours per week. That is one of the changes I would hope to make in the rewrite for the grant if you all give us permission to reapply. I think I would bump both of us up to full time so that we have more hours to get out in the community with our kids.”

Voelz said, “And also keep in mind that’s 45 cases off Judge (David) Cates’ docket.”

Teen Court exists entirely out of the grant. County Auditor Michelle Puckett said Vastbinder and Horoho are paid as independent contractors and are not actually county employees so they don’t get “insurance and things like that.”

Kosciusko County Sheriff’s Office deputy Rick Shepherd requested permission for the KCSO to apply for six grants from the Indiana Criminal Justice Institute. The grants total $36,200. The council approved the applications.

In other business, the council approved:

• Circuit Court Judge Mike Reed’s request to transfer money from his court’s part-time account to a secretary account.

Court Administrator Sheila Thompson has served mostly as Reed’s administrative assistant for the last five to six years. She’s retiring, with Jan. 2 her approximate last day. In order to get Thompson’s replacement hired and trained before Thompson leaves, Reed said the transfer was needed. Thompson’s replacement begins Dec. 2. Reed said the person replacing Thompson has already accepted the offer for the position.

• County Emergency Management Director Ed Rock’s additional appropriations of $47,000 for area monitoring equipment and $20,147 for radio equipment.

“What I have here are two reimbursable grants that I need the additional appropriations for. These are for those de-obligated 2016 funds that I was allowed to submit for,” Rock said. “We didn’t get the $300,000 that I wanted, but we did get the $67,000. So I need additional appropriations so I can get this money spent before the end of the month.”

The commissioners approved the expenditures at their meeting Tuesday.

• Approved the Kosciusko Coalition On Drug Education (KCODE) budget as presented by Hampton and Nicole Wallick, KCODE coordinator.

“We have agreed to allocate $76,000 for this next year, which is very similar to what it was last year. And it’s all based on receipts that the clerk has received for fines and costs from offenders,” Wallick said.

Hampton said KCODE exists through alcohol countermeasure fees and drug interdiction fees. The governor’s program for Indiana in each county is divided up a certain amount of money, he said.

“We are projecting that the money that we receive through that income revenue for this year will be about $76,000. So we projected that for next year, and these agencies applied and presented grant proposals to the KCODE board, and then we approved an amount.”

The board is only allowed to award a certain amount of money for each category, such as education.

• An interlocal agreement resolution with the Kosciusko County Solid Waste Management District for the county auditor to act as a comptroller for the district. The district pays the county $6,000 for the auditor’s services. Mitchell said the amount has been $6,000 since 2000 and next year there may need to be some discussion on raising that amount.

• For Kosciusko County Highway Superintendent Scott Tilden to encumber $24,807.68 in his bridge replacement fund.

• Heard from Mitchell that the county probably will not go to Voter Centers for the 2020 election because of the time frame.

“There’s not enough time to get it into place so it’s actually functional. The last thing we would ever want to do is to stymie people from being able to vote, so we would want to roll it out with care,” she said.