Wayne County’s commissioners will decide if the county should accept millions of dollars designated toward improving the area’s poor public health ranking. A few local residents are asking them to say ‘no.’

Indiana’s legislature this year committed $225 million in additional health funding for 2024 and 2025. Counties must opt in by Sept. 1. Wayne County’s share would be between $773,678.63 and $1,031,571.50 in 2024 and between $1,547,357.25 and $2,063,143 in 2025. The final totals depend on how many of Indiana’s 92 counties decide to receive funding. As of Aug. 11, only 24 counties had yet to accept the funding, according to an Indiana Department of Health online map.

Commissioner Jeff Plasterer told five residents who attended the Aug. 9 meeting that commissioners are taking the health decision seriously. They are waiting for a plan and budget from the Wayne County Health Department before making their decision.

Rod Blanchford was one of those in attendance, and he urged commissioners not to accept the funds.

Addressing commissioners for a second time, Blanchford presented a petition with 26 signatures, reiterating his belief that accepting the money would chip away at local control. He said that counties accepting the money will be threatened with loss of funding if they oppose future state or federal health mandates, which might then force them to carry out policies he called “intrusive,” “aggressive” and “draconian,” referring to the vaccination and contact tracing programs as well as stay-at-home orders used during the pandemic.

Blanchford also submitted a letter to the Western Wayne News reiterating the same ideas. 

Chris Monaghan, a pastor at Gateway Church, said the money is a “bribe” for counties to relinquish local control to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the United Nations World Health Organization.

Beth Cox referred to past COVID-19 restrictions as a “tremendous intrusion” on residents and said it’s not the county’s jurisdiction to tell people how to live their lives, and the county should not intrude on citizens who don’t want its help.

Commissioner Mary Anne Butters said commissioners must balance those concerns against the fact that Wayne County ranks 90th among Indiana’s counties in life expectancy. Wayne County citizens are expected to live 72.9 years, more than 8.5 years less than Hamilton County citizens.

Security improvements

Commissioners unanimously approved moving forward with two security projects.

Recorder Debbie Tiemann had previously requested a security wall be constructed at the treasurer’s second-floor area in the Wayne County Administration building. She said the wall’s necessary to protect her staff and confidential records kept by the office.

Quotes are being received, but commissioners authorized construction of the wall. Tiemann will pay for the wall from her records perpetuation fund.

Additionally, commissioners approved paying Whisenhunt Construction $18,500 to secure the hallway leading from the Circuit Court office to the courtroom. The changes would control access to the hallway and the court office. Funds from the cumulative courthouse fund for courthouse improvements will pay for the project.

Circuit Court is the only court without a private entrance from the judge’s chambers to the courtroom.

Fairgrounds website

Haley Baker, the marketing coordinator for the Wayne County Fairgrounds, received commissioner feedback July 26 about the fairgrounds’ new website.

That website is now live at waynecountyfairgrounds.org, and Baker has begun using the fairgrounds social media channels to attract rentals.

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A version of this article appeared in the August 16 2023 print edition of the Western Wayne News.

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