Wayne County will move forward with the second phase of its project to improve emergency communications within the county.

The county’s commissioners voted 3-0 to accept a $246,000 contract with Ritter Strategic Services for that second phase, which provides for planning of the eventual work to address coverage issues. Wayne County Council member Barry Ritter owns RSS, which is a public safety consultancy.

RSS already facilitated an assessment of the county’s emergency communications, confirming long-known deficiencies in radio coverage in the county’s northeastern and southwestern portions and forwarding options to rectify the issue. Ritter told council and commissioners during the assessment presentation that the first phase would likely cost less than the $81,800 budgeted in the Hoosier Enduring Legacy Program strategic investment plan.

Ron Cross, the county attorney, told commissioners that because RSS is providing a service, the county did not need to receive bids on the contract.

The next phase will involve RSS “hiring experts in the field of emergency communications who will be doing technical reviews, writing specs and working with the bidders/vendors to make sure what they’re proposing will actually do what we want it to do,” Commissioner Jeff Plasterer said, “and I’m not sure what that is, so that’s why we need experts in these fields.”

The cost is driven by the number of hours experts will work at the pay rate experts demand, Plasterer said. The Western Wayne News requested a copy of the scope of work, but it will not be made public until after Wayne County Council takes action on it.

After the initial 16-part process, an optional 17th step for $15,000 would independently verify the system’s final installation.

Plasterer said the county is lucky to have a local consultant to coordinate the process. He said RSS did a “great job” in the first phase.

Before the commissioners voted, Commissioner Brad Dwenger said the second phase was expected and is necessary.

The HELP plan includes $1.5 million for this phase and implementation of a solution.

Blight program

Commissioners received an update on the county blight elimination program that’s part of the Hoosier Enduring Legacy Program. Participating communities have identified properties they hope will be part of the program.

The HELP strategic investment plan allocates $780,000 for the blight program. Of that, the county is providing $390,000 from the $500,000 of Economic Development Income Tax money it committed to the program. The other $390,000 comes from the $500,000 commitment from the Economic Development Corporation of Wayne County from its consolidated EDIT money.

Cambridge City, Dublin, East Germantown, Economy, Milton and Spring Grove are eligible for the program through their HELP participation. Additionally, Centerville, Hagerstown and Mount Auburn are eligible because they voluntarily contribute to the consolidated EDIT fund.

Plasterer said estimates are that demolitions would average about $15,000 each.

Commissioner Mary Anne Butters objected to excluding any towns from the program, saying it should encompass the entire county. She voted no when commissioners voted 2-1 to advance the program. Plasterer said towns must conduct unsafe building procedures before demolitions may occur.

As had been previously discussed, Plasterer reiterated that he supports using additional uncommitted American Rescue Plan Act dollars to expand the blight program to towns not eligible through HELP or consolidated EDIT.

Butters preferred using county EDIT dollars for that purpose rather than ARPA; however, she joined the 3-0 vote to recommend Feb. 7 to Wayne County Council that up to $150,000 in ARPA money fund blight removal in the additional towns. 

New vehicle

The Wayne County Health Department received unanimous commissioner permission to purchase a 2023 Ford Escape from Larkin Greenwood Ford in Connersville.

Mike Sharp, the county’s highway superintendent, presented the request for the county’s fleet management committee. He said the Escape is on the lot at a cost of $31,889.67. The health department has $37,000 budgeted for the vehicle.

Sharp also told commissioners the county’s 2024 fuel contract with Co-Alliance for 60,000 gallons of unleaded at the pump is $2.98 per gallon ($178,800) and for 30,000 gallons of diesel delivered to the highway department is $3.28 per gallon ($98,400). The county fixes the prices for the entire year.

Park support

Commissioners unanimously approved submitting a letter to the Indiana Destination Development Corp. supporting a Richmond Parks and Recreation Department grant application.

The parks department is applying for $250,000 that would be used toward its Whitewater Gorge Park project in the Hoosier Enduring Legacy Program. Money committed to HELP would be used for the grant’s $250,000 match.

An ordinance permitting the grant application was on the agenda for Richmond Common Council’s Feb. 5 meeting.

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A version of this article appeared in the February 7 2024 print edition of the Western Wayne News.

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