Transitions were top of mind June 12 when Wayne County’s commissioners conducted 2025 budget discussions.

Commissioners heard from department heads about what they would request in the budgets. The requests were due to the auditor’s office June 14. From there, Wayne County Council will consider the requests when formulating the county’s 2025 budget.

In three instances, discussions involved preparing for future retirements.

Mike Sharp, the county’s highway department supervisor, requested an additional mechanic’s position for 2025. He expects retirements within the next five years from his current staff of a garage foreman and two mechanics.

Sharp said it will be important to bring a mechanic into the garage to learn the work before those retirements.

Similarly, Steve Higinbotham, the county’s director of facilities and development, suggested two positions to the department head level and recommended switching his position to the commissioners budget section. Higinbotham oversees several departments ranging from building and grounds, building commission, planning, and the fairgrounds, and he takes the lead in county building and policy projects.

The concept would be to switch some of Higinbotham’s daily administrative tasks to newly named department heads. That would ease a transition when Higinbotham decides to retire, and it would enable him to concentrate more on development projects.

“I’ve always felt that county government could and should be far more aggressive in grasping the future for addressing our long-term problems and really not just farming them out to others but really addressing them from the interior,” Commissioner Mary Anne Butters said.

Ron Cross, the county’s attorney since 2001, also is introducing attorneys from his firm, Boston Bever Forrest Cross & Sickmann, to the role.

As such, the 2025 legal contract suggests increasing to $90,000 for the county and $30,000 for the health department, plus $10,000 for other legal expenditures. The county has paid $78,900 since 2005, and the health department has paid $20,000 since Cross began serving it in 2020.

Commissioners also heard requests for nonprofit funding. Judy Porter, the regional director, asked that the county contribute $15,000 to the East Central Indiana Small Business Development Center.

The county has been annually donating that amount. Wayne County is among 11 counties served by the region’s SBDC, and Porter said the group this year helped six new businesses start in Wayne County.

Eric Marsh also requested the regular $25,000 county contribution for Whitewater Community Television. Marsh said the decrease in cable customers has reduced the franchise fees WCTV receives from the city of Richmond.

Commissioners later also discussed helping WCTV with $35,000 to purchase studio video production equipment Marsh said the station needs.

Those requests also will be part of commissioners’ budget discussions with council.

Courthouse complex

Kevin McCurdy of LWC Inc. presented commissioners preliminary information about renovations to the courthouse entry.

The sloped, brick area outside the courthouse would be converted to concrete with two sets of stairs leading to the courthouse’s east door. A sloped walkway would approach from the north, making the entry Americans With Disabilities Act compliant.

The project, which has a $500,000 budget, will also include removing the brickwork on the east side of Fourth Street and the angled path near the Wayne County Administration. Commissioners discussed not replacing the path and covering the area with grass.

McCurdy also presented an option for the First Bank Kuhlman Center roof at the Wayne County Fairgrounds. Instead of replacing the roof, four layers of coating could be applied to seal the roof. McCurdy said the process has a 20-year warranty.

Planned interior updates include the ceiling and lighting.

Commissioners will further discuss the courthouse and Kuhlman projects.

Drainage board

During the monthly drainage board meeting, commissioners endorsed the surveyor’s office performing field work on the A.F. Scott Ditch for a study on drainage issues in the area of Backmeyer Road.

Lochmueller Group of Indianapolis is conducting the overall study for the Richmond Sanitary District. The surveyor’s office measuring the horizontal and vertical sizes of culverts and pipes and the topographical measurements of bank heights will save the sanitary district $38,400.

Surveyor Gordon Moore said the study’s information will help the city, sanitary district and county with future development and ditch projects.

Other business

  • Commissioners approved a $215,000 grant from the Consolidated Economic Development Income Tax fund for Richmond Beverage Solutions, which is investing nearly $45 million in an expansion project expected to add at least 65 jobs. The Economic Development Corporation of Wayne County’s board had previously approved the EDIT grant.
  • Commissioners are moving forward with the process of making Clyde Moberly Road a county road. The county has maintained the road, but it still officially is a private lane. Commissioners approved advertising a July 17 public hearing. Residents along the road previously visited commissioners and asked them to make Clyde Moberly a county road.
  • The county will provide the enforcement mechanism for Economy’s unsafe building process so the town may participate in the Hoosier Enduring Legacy Program’s blight program. Commissioners approved an interlocal agreement with the town.
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A version of this article appeared in the June 19 2024 print edition of the Western Wayne News.

Mike Emery is a reporter and layout editor for the Western Wayne News.