Kosciusko County establishing Strategic Planning Committee

A strategic planning committee is being assembled by Kosciusko County leaders and one of the first topics it may look at is the creation of an additional court.

The idea of forming a committee began to take root during county council’s budget talks months ago when discussion of a new court and near-capacity conditions at the jail surfaced.

The planning committee would have a much broader scope, but plans for an additional court might be one of the first items the panel would look into as the proposal gains traction in Indianapolis.

An effort this year to gain approval from the state for a fifth court stalled in the Indiana General Assembly because the county did not provide adequate information. But area officials participated in a legislative hearing this summer that looked at the demand for an additional court.

County Council member Kimberly Cates said she believes the push for a new court has gained momentum and that having a committee look at coordination of local plans could be an early priority of the planning committee.

Officials believe state lawmakers will look at the issue when they convene in January.

Cates suggested the creation of a panel this summer and offered more ideas on the matter Thursday after Council President Jon Garber introduced the subject at a meeting earlier this month.

Some council members said during budget hearings earlier this year that they wanted to coordinate arrival of the new court with other issues.

Earlier this year, Council rejected a request by the prosecutor to add another deputy prosecutor, saying they prefered to consider that once they know a new court would be created.

Cates said concerns about the increase in the number of inmates in the jail is another issue the committee might look at eventually.

Overall, Cates said establishment of the committee is an attempt to keep on top of future issues.

Cates said she noticed during discussion with department heads this summer that they often had interesting insights about changing state laws and other issues that county leaders need to be abreast of for effective planning.

“There’s a lot of different things in each department – kind of inner-workings that each department head knows about – that is not necessarily shared,” Cates said.

“If we can talk together and communicate together, then at least we know we’re making the best use of space and taxpayer money,” she said.

Tentatively, the committee will likely include two members of the council, one of the three commissioners, the county administrator and the auditor, but the exact make-up of the panel has not been finalized.

No appointments to the committee have been announced.

County Council approved a motion earlier this month supporting establishment of the committee.

The commissioners met Tuesday, but no action was taken on the matter.

Commissioner Brad Jackson said he doesn’t think the commissioners need to sign off on the idea and that the plan will move forward.

Jackson envisions the committee as having an advisory role that involves more fact finding and lacks any real authority.

The use of a committee can help determine priorities and help determine a timeline for future action, he said.

The county has used various planning committees in the past, but the last one was in 2010, according to County Council member Sue Ann Mitchell.