Oct. 8—GOSHEN — The Elkhart County Health Department's request at the Elkhart County Council meeting was met with some backlash as they requested $28,500 for ballistic glass installation for their front desk area at the Lincoln Center.
Health Administrator Melanie Sizemore explained that following an active shooter training program, the coordinator pointed out to the department that while other parts of the building are relatively protected, the front desk was the largest vulnerability point.
Originally, a motion had been set for approval quickly by David Hess and seconded by Darryl Riegsecker, but they forgot the public comment portion of the approval, and Goshen resident Glenn Null wanted to speak on the issue directly.
"This will be the tip of the iceberg," he said. "Every department will be saying, 'We need to have ballistic.'"
Councilman Thomas Stump told his quorum that the comment brought up the important question as to why it was necessary. Sizemore admitted that the training had been done half a dozen years ago. The department has made minor corrections recommended by the coordinator already at minimal cost, but had hopes to create protection for the reception space following recent protests and other security issues.
"We don't have all our offices protected like this," Stump said. "We don't have all our offices protective like this. Is this a problem? Are we going to have more requests down the line? Are they actually needed?"
Former sheriff and current county commissioner Brad Rogers spoke to the council to provide insight, adding that the issue was not discussed by or with commissioners prior to the meeting.
"I can't really say what our recommendation would be," he admitted. "Specifically, I don't know that we need this through all the buildings but that's something that we probably need to discuss by policy."
Councilman Adam Bujalski told his fellow councilmen that everywhere he's worked, ballistic glass has been recommended through trainers but offices rarely implement it.
Hess, who had originally motioned for a vote to approve the appropriation, agreed that a standardized policy should be implemented and he and Riegsecker both withdrew their motions to vote and instead tabled it with the expectation that commissioners further discuss.
Other items to come before the board include:
—C.R. 40 between Ind. 19 and C.R. 7 may be getting a bike and buggy lane following a fatal accident in 2021. The model will follow the one put in place along C.R. 16 in Middlebury, which was being installed at the time of the Wakarusa crash. Construction is estimated at $2.3 million, with $600,000 coming from local funds and $1.7 million funded federally. In addition, construction inspection services are estimated at $300,000, 80% of which will be reimbursed federally.
—The Elkhart County Sheriff's Department is exchanging two corrections office positions for three booking specialist positions. The hope, according to Sheriff Jeff Siegel is that the change will help to make it easier to retain employees that may not be able to meet physical requirements or go through defense tactics training. It would also increase the department's budget by about $23,800. The council approved the request at a 5-1 vote with councilman David Hess voting against it.
—The Elkhart County Planning and Development Commission requested an additional appropriation which included $40,000 to solicit a contractor to assist the department in creating a unified development ordinance that would essentially combine the zoning ordinance and subdivision ordinance. Director of Planning and Development Chris Godlewski told the council that about a third of the communities in the state have a combined ordinance for efficiency. In addition to the $40,000, the department also requested $2,000 from five area TIFs — the Northwest Gateway TIF, Middlebury SE TIF, Middlebury East TIF, C.R.s 6 and 17 TIF, and the State Road 13 TIF — for a total of $50,000 for the project. The council approved the request.
—In an effort to prepare the Goshen-based courthouse for future use after the courts' system is moved to its new location, 1905 Reliance Road, County Administrator Jeff Taylor has been working with the commissioners to find items that need to be addressed or repaired including the steps, roof and windows. Roof repairs have been delayed due to a lack of available contractors and bids. During Saturday's council meeting, he requested the council appropriate $213,550 to hire DLZ Engineering of South Bend for engineering and architectural labor needed on the windows. Councilman Douglas Graham asked why they couldn't simply put out a bid on window replacement. Taylor explained that no one knows the type, size or design of the windows, which are in the building, which is on the National Register of Historic Places — adding that they have no engineer on staff to do the job. Councilman Randall Yohn explained that there are many factors to consider and rules that must be followed due to the building's listing as a historic building. The council approved the request, although Graham objected.
—The council also approved appropriations which will afford the commissioners $160,000 from cumulative capital funds to repair steps at the courthouse. The total contract for the job is $345,000. The rest was approved from the cumulative building fund during the August council meeting. The project is specifically aimed at two steps at the courthouse whose structural stable have been worn down due to the old tunnel historically used to transport prisons from the old jail to the courthouse.
—The Elkhart County Jail will be receiving a new water softener to the tune of $100,000. Taylor urged the council to begin putting together a plan to address up-and-coming building maintenance with the county's many properties, adding the softener is the first of many "big ticket items coming up." Taylor's team is still working on developing a comprehensive list of buildings owned and the maintenance needed or expected to be needed so the council can create the plan or sell unused properties.
—The Johnson Street Bridge joints and bridge deck northbound will be repaired this fall at a cost of $700,000. Bujalski requested that something go up on the county's website explaining it, because he's getting calls from people concerned that the bridge is dropping to two lanes like Jackson Street was.
Dani Messick is the education and entertainment reporter for The Goshen News. She can be reached at email@example.com or at 574-538-2065.