Moving the county forward in spite of being forced to grapple with financial challenges is the shared focus of two recently appointed county officials, who introduced themselves to members of the Clay County Council Monday evening.
Council members welcomed Clay County Sheriff Mike Heaton and Assessor Aron Royer with a round of applause before hearing the progress of the two men in the two weeks since they've taken on their duties in the county.
The vehicles used at the Sheriff's Department are beginning to show their age, and while research has been conducted for the purchase of a new vehicle, nothing has been ordered, Heaton reported. Expenses like replacing windshield wi-pers at $50 will be reduced by personally handling them. Automobiles have developed problems after about three years, and two 1998 models have new engines.
"We do have some cars that are beginning to nickel and dime us pretty good," he said.
Heaton said he has also investigated labor rates in the county, as well as maintenance practices like oil changes. Discussion at the meeting of the County Commissioners also covered issues with gasoline, which officers are paying regular price for after the previous method of using cards was eliminated when local gas stations changed ownership. During the Commissioners meeting, Commissioner Daryl Andrews encouraged him to investigate tax reimbursement for fuel. Heaton said using a secured tank at the County Highway Department would be ideal. In the meantime, the Sheriff has instructed officers who use their cars while off duty they must pay for their own fuel.
Several officers have been assisting in drug-related incidents with the Indiana State Police, and the pursuit of civil actions will hopefully result in reimbursement of overtime costs.
The Sheriff requested an old ambulance at the County Highway Garage be converted to a vehicle to transport prisoners, and he previously told the Commissioners he would like to avoid having work crews travel in a pickup truck.
"Asking for more money - that's the last thing I want to do," said the Sheriff, who explained he budgets in his personal life and intends to do the same in his professional role. He also said that was one of the reasons he chose Doug Barr as his Chief Deputy. His business and financial skills will be useful in streamlining the costs of the department's endeavors.
In the jail, lights and television are now turned off at night, and prisoners have to be in their bunks, although they can read if they wish.
Meanwhile, Aron Royer told the Council that while he was primarily at the meeting to observe, he wants to keep members informed of his plans and activities. He said he has "no interest in running down the former regime," but conceded there will be some serious decisions to consider down the line.
"We're making progress," he said. "I've gone home happy every night."
Royer said he's enjoyed going to work every day, and in spite of the considerable challenges ahead of him, he looks forward to tackling the problems he will encounter. Deadlines have been missed, and a woman from Monroe County will be assisting Royer in making a smooth transition.
"We've just got to handle it as it comes along," he said. "I want to keep you people involved."
The Clay County Council meets at 6 p.m. the first Monday of each month at the courthouse. Meetings are conducted in the Commissioners Court and are open to the public.