By IVY HERRON
Whenever you mix people and good food, conversation is soon to follow. That's the goal of the Indiana Farm Bureau's Annual Luncheon for Clay County Officials, and Wednesday was no exception.
More than 24 representatives from county government and several Farm Bureau members came together to enjoy lunch at the First Christian Church and discuss issues facing Indiana.
Marvin Schopmeyer moderated the lively discussion on:
- A matter of time
When the Indiana General Assembly decided earlier this year to adopt Daylight Savings Time beginning April 2, 2006, the federal government allowed individual county governments input into the decision between Eastern or Central Standard Time.
"We have to do what is the best to help our businesses succeed," Clay County Commissioner Charlie Brown said.
- Smoking ban
With research making the case against second-hand smoke, many officials believe that something should be done, but not at the expense of a person's personal liberties.
"If smoking is so bad, than outlaw it," County Councilman Larry Moss said. "Niether I nor my family smoke, but I'm not a big fan of a smoking ordinance."
He feels, like many of those in attendance at the luncheon, that as long as smoking is a legal activity it's not the place of county officials to dictate limitations on business owners or individuals, but the responsibility of the consumer to make wise choices.
"If you don't want to eat at a restaurant that allows smoking, and it is smoke-filled, then don't go there," he said.
- Jail project
County officials take pride in the way the project looks and are quick to respond to critisicim.
"It may look like the Taj Mahal, but it was economically designed for efficiency and functionality. You tear off the nice precast facade out front and you'll see it's a very plain structure inside," County Councilman Mike McCullough said. "We're finally up to date with this jail."
County Auditor Joe Dierdorf told the group that the operational costs for the new jail will be higher than the present facility, but expenses should not require a new tax upon residents of the county. Housing federal and DOC prisoners was factored into the design plans, which should cover additional expenses and allow the facility to break even.
- Budget concerns
"Clay County is very secure financially," Clay County Councilwoman Rita Rothrock said.
Conservative spending habits has given Clay County a triple A credit rating but budgeting is always a concern for officials who are now in the midst of budget hearings for the 2006 budget.
Each year at this time the division of the total property tax revenue for next year's budget becomes a concern for county officials. The school corporation receives 79 percent for the operational budget plus state funding, while the county receives the remaining 21 percent for their operational budget and nothing more according to information at the Treasurer's Office. This division is well above the 70/30 split throughout the rest of the state.
Councilman Warren Stevenson said officials are not tyring to make the school board look bad, but even a 5 percent adjustment in the county budget's favor would make a huge difference.
The entire group seemed to agree: People should be more involved with their local government through attendance to county and school board meetings.
"People in our community should respect and realize the importance of the job our local politicians perform daily," Schopmeyer said after the luncheon. "They really should be more involved."