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Fighting fire before third period

Tuesday, October 7, 2003

(Photo)
Assistant Fire Chief Ernie Paar lets Caleb Freeman see how it feels behind the wheel of a Brazil Fire Department truck while Chief Joe Bennett and Freeman's classmates look on Monday afternoon at the LEAAP Center, 501 E. Jackson St. Each of the pre-kindergarten students were given the chance to sit in the driver's seat and learn about being a fireman as part of Fire Prevention Week. Bennett says that kids will be coming to the fire station and firemen will be visiting the local elementary schools all week. He estimates that they will speak to between 500 and 1,000 students this week alone. He added that the Fire Department also does demonstrations for clubs and "anybody who wants to learn" as an "in-service" to the public.

The Clay County Commissioners held a six-hour meeting yesterday, touching a variety of subjects. Many of these items were expanded upon from their previous meeting last month, answering questions and creating many more.

Without a doubt the most important item on the commissioners' bill was Air Evac, an air-support ambulance company based in Missouri. Mention of the group's interest in franchising in Clay County was brought up at last month's meeting, and representatives from the company made it to Brazil this month to flesh things out a bit.

Rich Johansen, administrator of St. Vincent Clay Hospital, accompanied Seth Myers, Vice President of Operations for the company, and Gary Evans, a regional paramedic manager and Greencastle resident, to the meeting. Their 30-minute presentation outlined the company's objectives and gave facts and figures from their research.

"Death rates from a life threatening, traumatic injury are three times more in rural areas," Myers said, "and we don't believe this is right. Metropolitan areas have a relatively quick response time for disasters like this, where persons in rural areas can wait a long time for help to arrive."

The company charges $50 for a yearly household membership and $40 dollars for an individual membership. Members are not expected to pay anything past their insurance coverage if they must use the service, while non-members utilizing Air Evac can pay upwards of $2,500 after service.

If Air Evac chooses to come to Clay County, they can be set up in 30 to 90 days. Though another center is relatively close (Washington, Ind.), Myers said that Brazil is "geographically interesting" and he could see how an agreement with the county could work out.

Several other counties are courting Air Evac at the time, however, and the company's future in Clay County is uncertain. The Commissioners seemed very interested in pursuing talks with the company, though Myers said that "the ball is in my court" and that "he would contact Clay County."

The County Commissioners, namely Daryl Andrews, are apparently interested in pursuing these talks.

"If you have interest in Clay County," he said, "we definitely have interest in you."

Though the Air Evac meeting was the focal point of the meeting, several other items passed through the desks of the commissioners. Among these were:

- Discussion on renovations of the Probation Office. These talks were limited, as the commissioners were waiting on a bid from a construction company to get the ball rolling.

- Trash disposal at the county courthouse and police station. The county is not currently under contract with their current provider, Jamax. A bid from Wallace Bros. was nearly identical to prices charged by Jamax, leading the commissioners to split the work up for the companies. Upon approval by Sheriff Rob Carter, the County Commissioners recommended that one company remove trash for the Courthouse, while the other dispose for the police station.

- Changing the path of a fiber optic cable between the Courthouse and the police station. The cable must be moved to facilitate construction of the new jail. The commissioners moved to wait to make a decision, pending on a bid that was unavailable at the time of the meeting.

- A brief discussion of a lot in Carbon. The lot, which was cleaned with Carbon's money, will be sold by the town. $4,000 will go back to Carbon to reimburse them for their cleanup efforts, with the rest of the proceeds going to the county.

- The signing of a contract with Maximus. The commissioners signed a three-year contract with the group, which "goes and looks for federal money the town may have missed," according to Commissioner David Parr.

- Installation of new locks at the County Courthouse. Brian Vanderburg of Wabash Valley Locksmith outlined several possible lock mechanisms, including a specially-made, top of the line key-entry system. The commissioners asked Vanderburg to compile information on card-entry systems, saying they would contact him in the next few weeks.

Other items included the revamping of Courthouse elevators and fire alarm inspections. The next County Commissioners meeting will be held at 9 p.m. on Monday, Nov. 3. The general public is invited.

By EVAN WADE

evnwade@yahoo.com

Though it started out slowly, last night's County Council meeting ended rather controversially after a delay on the repeal of Indiana's Inventory Tax.

The state has given permission to all Indiana counties to remove the tax, which is set to be repealed statewide in 2006.

Around 20 spectators showed up to the 7 p.m. meeting, most in support of eliminating the tax. A similar number of people showed up at last month's discussion of the repeal, though many of the faces at this month's meeting were new.

The meeting started out quietly enough, with several council members and spectators voicing their opinions on the matter. It was obvious from the beginning that the majority of attendees were there in support of the tax's removal, though some did come to speak a different opinion.

"I'm not against the tax being done away with, but I am against the effects it will have on people's Property Tax," Robert Hostelter of Lynn's Pharmacy said. "We can't tell what the impact is going to be yet."

Hostetler then produced a list from Purdue University, covering the pros and cons of repealing the tax.

"I'm not going to argue that the Inventory Tax isn't unfair," Hostetler said. "But it's not reducing the inventory tax, really. It's shifting it onto the other taxpayers."

State Rep. Brooks LaPlante took the floor, introducing Stan Pinegar. Pinegar works for the Indiana Chamber of Commerce and came to explain the positive ramifications of a repeal.

"Right now, Indiana is one of four states with this tax," he said. "This is not good.

"Repealing the tax does create shifts, no questions about it. It's shifted to all property taxpayers."

Pinegar went on to explain that the tax will be repealed in 2006, regardless of the actions of the council members.

"If you wait until next year, you lose a year of benefit," Pinegar said, referring to the "shift-free" years Clay County would have if the tax were repealed early. "By the end of this year many more counties will have done this."

As of now, 16 Indiana counties have removed the tax.

Bill Schad, Superintendent of the Clay Community School Corporation, also came to clarify a few things.

"It's a misconception that this will have an effect on the Clay County school system. This will have almost no effect on the school budget -- the impact is almost negligible."

LaPlante then took the floor with some comments of his own.

"We should be the warehouse center of America. This tax is why we're not," he said. "By removing the tax, you become the first county in West Central Indiana to say: 'Hey, we're progressive.'"

Many members of the council explained that they would like some time to process the information handed out by Pinegar and Hostetler, a move that obviously upset Councilman Larry Moss.

"We have 12 townships in this county," he said. "It's sad to say that we can't grow because we're not economically progressive.

"People are going elsewhere after graduating high school and college because the jobs just aren't here."

Hostetler replied that "there are a lot of things" Clay County can do on the homefront to assist local business.

Charles Hear, local attorney, also had quite a bit to say about the repeal:

"You're all leaders," he said, referring to the council members. "Now is the time to lead, not to follow."

"We have the chance tonight to step two years ahead of several other Indiana counties," Moss said. "Are we so non-agressive that we are going to delay the inevitable?"

Les Harding and several other council members then repeated their decision to not act on the repeal Monday; that they would like more time to mull over the facts.

"I'm encouraging people to call the council members and tell them what they think," Harding said. "We have until Dec. 31 to decide what we're going to do. We're not going to lose anything by not voting on it tonight."

Council member Rita Rothrock said much the same thing:

"I have no doubt that this tax is unfair," she said. "I just want more time to digest this information, because I represent a lot of people."

Moss, obviously agitated by the turn of events, responded that it was "absurd that we all say it's unfair, but we still all sit on it."

McCullough agreed with Rothrock, wanting more time to look at the facts.

"I'm all for getting rid of the tax," he said, "but I want to have a good reason as to why when people ask me why I did it. I just want to study what I got (Pinnegar's information) tonight. If I'm in college and I have to take a test, do I want to take it on something I just started to look at 10 minutes before?"

David Parr, a county commissioner, then took the floor.

"You can't see the effects on a whole. No two people in here are going to be affected equal. We have to look at it as what the constituents want."

LaPlante added that "there will be a whole spectrum of results" should the tax be repealed.

"People are asking why we procrastinate," Harding said. "But it will have no impact on your business between now and Dec. 31."

The council members then voted on the tax, agreeing five to seven to table the item until next month's meeting. Moss voted "no," while Tony Dalton abstained from voting.

When asked if he was disappointed about the evening's outcome, Daryl Andrews, a county commissioner, said that he would be "more disappointed if it didn't pass next month."

"I'm sure they'll make the right decision," he said. "We can be leaders in economic development, and in the end lower everyone's property tax."

The County Council also passed an ordinance allowing a salary for a new IT person at the courthouse Monday night. Additionally, they signed a contract involving a refund of potentially over $100,000 on new voting machines.

The council's next meeting will be held Monday, Nov. 3 at 6 p.m. A special meeting on the Inventory Tax will be held at 7 p.m. the same evening. The general public is invited.

By LINDA MESSMER

lindamessmer@yahoo.com

It's time to get your flu vaccine again. While Jack Frost may squelch the threat of one health threat, the West Nile carrying mosquito, he opens the door for another to enter. So now we must prepare for an invasion of the scourge of the microbe world, influenza.

The best time to get a flu shot is in October or November. The flu season usually peaks in January and March, however, so getting the shot in December, or even later, can be beneficial in most years.

Influenza is a respiratory illness caused by a virus that spreads from infected persons to the nose or throat of others. Common symptoms are fever, cough, sore throat, headache, chills and muscle aches.

It may be difficult to distinguish the flu from a cold. But the flu can cause more serious illness than a common cold. Each year about 114,000 people in the U.S. are hospitalized and an average of 36,000 die because of the flu.

Influenza viruses change often so the vaccine is updated every year. Protection develops about two weeks after getting the shot and may last up to 12 months.

Flu shots are encouraged for most people 6 months of age and older. They are recommended for those 50-years-old or more, residents of long-term facilities, people with long-term health problems or with a weakened immune system, people six months to 18 on long-term aspirin treatment, pregnant women past the 3rd month of pregnancy and health care providers or anyone else coming in close contact with people at risk of serious influenza.

A flu shot is not for everybody, however. You may not be a candidate if you are allergic to eggs, are currently sick with a fever, have had a severe reaction to the flu vaccine in the past or have a history of Guillain-Barre Syndrome

For people who might benefit from the vaccine but don't get one because they are afraid of shots, a nasal-spray flu vaccine (FluMist) is now available. Its been approved for healthy people aged five to 49 years.

This vaccine may cause nasal congestion, runny nose, sore throat, and cough. The nasal-spray is considerable more expensive than an injectable dose.

Flu shots are usually available at most doctors' offices. The vaccines may be obtained at various clinics throughout the community.

This year the Clay County Health Department will not be offering the vaccine. Poor utilization of the service by the public has caused the department to loose money the past few years. The department thought, that with so many other sources available for flu shots, their money could be better used to serve Clay County residents.

A phone survey of local physicians was done to determine what offices had the flu vaccine available in Clay County.

Contacted were:

-Brazil Family Medicine, Doctors Harvey, Breitweiser and Johnson. Vaccinations now available for their patients only. Special clinic for high-risk patients on Oct. 22, and for non-high-risk patients on Nov. 5. Limited supply of nasal spray (FluMist) for qualifying patients.

-Clay City Center for Family Medicine, Dr. Daluga. Will offer shots in mid October. No nasal spray.

-Heart Center of Brazil, Dr. Oehler. Shots now available. No nasal spray.

-Community Medical Clinic, Dr. French. Shots available on specified days: Wednesdays 7:30-8:30 a.m. Thursdays 7:30-9 a.m. and 3:30-4:30 p.m. Call the day before. No nasal spray.

-Dr. Farid. Available as soon as vaccine arrives. For his patients only. No nasal spray.

-Indiana Medical Specialists, Doctors Mendoza and Paje. Will start after Oct. 13. No nasal spray.

-Medfirst Clinic, Dr. Konijeti. Shots now available. No nasal spray.

Cost for the shots ranged from $17-$27. Nasal spray is higher. Most offices accept Medicare coverage. Some insurance policies cover flu vaccines.

Anyone with questions about the flu vaccine and taking the shot should consult their physician.



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