A burned house and a Garden City mobile home were deemed unsafe by unanimous votes during the June 28 meeting of Wayne County’s commissioners.

The next steps, however, varied.

Owners of 2927 Westview Drive were given 90 days to return with a plan for the demolition or repair of the house that burned during February 2022. Kendra Baldwin, who was inside the house when it caught fire, told commissioners that she and her mother, Cynthia Baldwin, remove debris as time and money permit.

Cynthia Baldwin was one of three siblings who owned the property; however, a brother responsible for insurance had not paid for a policy, leaving it uninsured when the fire occurred.

The Baldwins said they are trying to receive estimates for demolition and replacement with a modular home or repair so they can decide how to proceed and receive a bank loan. They are due to return before commissioners Sept. 27.

Commissioners implemented a $500 fine and will pursue court action to force removal of the mobile home at 207 Oak St. Terrell Osborn bought the property in 2021 from David Hale, who had received a Board of Zoning Appeals exception.

That exception was repealed and Osborn was ordered to remove his trailer, which is not anchored properly, when he did not have necessary inspections completed. Neighbors have complained constantly about the property’s condition and Osborn’s selling tires from the property, according to Steve Sorah, who heads the county’s building commission.

“He just completely ignores everything the BZA does and my office,” Sorah said.

Emergency communications

Commissioners approved a contract with Ritter Strategic Services for $81,800. 

RSS, which is owned by Wayne County Council member Barry Ritter, will conduct an emergency radio infrastructure study to identify next steps for better radio coverage. There are currently dead areas where emergency radios do not work, plus other aging infrastructure.

The emergency communications infrastructure has been identified as a priority through the Hoosier Enduring Legacy Program process to receive American Rescue Plan Act dollars. The survey will identify next steps, such as additional radio towers, that might be necessary. 

“We have a lot more questions today than answers,” Ritter said. “This project will fill in those blanks.”

The survey funding will come from the county’s Economic Development Income Tax (EDIT) fund contribution to HELP.

Commissioners see emergency communication improvements as an overall county issue, rather than requiring individual towns or townships to fund infrastructure projects.

New position

A commissioners concern has been shifting some workload from Steve Higinbotham, the county’s director of facilities and development who oversees a variety of departments.

Originally, commissioners planned to seek $20,000 in the 2024 budget to have other employees absorb some administrative tasks, such as payroll. Commissioner Jeff Plasterer, however, proposed to instead include a funding request in the 2024 budget for an additional position.

His idea was a department head position that would oversee the county’s building commission and planning and zoning department. Commissioners decided, though, to request a deputy director of facilities and development. That person would then learn Higinbotham’s role, creating a succession plan for Higinbotham’s eventual retirement.

Other business

Commissioners finalized renewal of the county’s insurance coverage beginning July 1 with Liberty Mutual through agent Lyons Insurance.

Commissioners provided permission for the health department to purchase a Ford Escape that’s on the Wetzel lot. The purchase was budgeted for 2024, but will move ahead of a Dodge truck the department has ordered that has not yet been built.

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A version of this article appeared in the July 5 2023 print edition of the Western Wayne News.

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