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Hope for new county council

By TRAVIS WEIK - tweik@thecouriertimes.com

When the Henry County Council meets tonight, there will be four new faces looking out at the audience.

By the end of the special meeting, there will be new officers and appointments and the council will be ready to tackle 2019.

The newly-elected officials have received a lot of advice from their outgoing counterparts since the November election.

Richard Bouslog, who served on the Henry County Council for 40 years, isn’t sure which direction the new council will take Henry County, but he believes it will be positive.

“Change can be good,” Bouslog said. “Sometimes, it takes new ideas, fresh ideas, to make things happen.”

He noted that while the new group may have their individual visions of how government should function, a lot of things are out of local lawmakers’ control.

“It’s not like the business world. You can’t just raise prices if you need to raise revenue,” Bouslog said.

The Henry County Council changed a lot during Bouslog’s tenure. From his perspective, most of those councils were good stewards of tax dollars and took care of county employees.

Bouslog thinks this new council will listen to the people of Henry County and act accordingly.

“I think this group is going to be more aggressive seeking new revenue streams, like grants,” Bouslog said.

Former council president Nate LaMar met with new council members, answered questions over email and by phone and has offered to meet with the new council president after he or she is selected.

“I have stressed to each of them that regardless of a specific direction the new Council wants to take Henry Co., they will have no choice but to tackle not only the need for a new jail, but also to examine our criminal justice system from top to bottom,” LaMar said.

LaMar expects the Criminal Justice Coordinating Committee (CJCC) will become front and center in 2019.

One of the CJCC’s goals is to create the position of “Expeditor,” someone who will work with the Henry County Prosecutor and Sheriff to help reduce jail overcrowding.

LaMar said the Henry County County and the Job Classification & Salary Advisory Committee will be responsible for approving this “indispensable” position.

Before his final term ended, Bouslog was the county council’s CJCC representative. This week, he transitioned to being their official citizen appointee on that committee.

Bouslog said if Henry County is going to build a new detention center, the new Henry County Council will have to figure out how to fund it.

“That’s going to be a major, major, major issue,” he said.

Bouslog also said the new council will have to figure out how to continue paying for county employee’s health insurance.

“It will be an albatross around the county’s neck,” Bouslog said. “There is a solution, and I’m sure they’ll find it.”

LaMar said health insurance costs continue to escalate with no end in sight. He hopes the Henry County Council will continue to stress to new employees the importance of using local wellness programs to stay healthy.

Henry County can also continue to grow through increased regional economic development.

Although he is no longer a council member, LaMar will continue to represent Henry County on the Eastern Indiana Regional Planning Commission (EIRPC) and the East-Central Indiana Regional Partnership (ECIRP)

Both LaMar and Bouslog hope the new Henry County Council will take care of taxpayer dollars.

“I want this council to be efficacious – efficient with a goal in mind,” Bouslog said. 

Bouslog said he was always frustrated when revenue streams weren’t there to take care of county needs.

“Every year, we were asked to cut more,” he said.

The problem only got worse when Indiana voters put property tax caps in the state constitution in 2009.

“It’s created a whole new game,” Bouslog said.

LaMar said the tax caps really started hitting the Henry County Health Department and Memorial Park in 2011.

LaMar also hopes the new council will continue to publicly advertise all citizen appointments before making a decision.

“‘Objectivity over cronyism should be the hallmark of hiring, promotion, and stewardship, whether managing corporate employees and corporate budgets, or managing public employees and taxpayer dollars,” LaMar said. “I hope the new Council will continue to lead by example on transparency.”

The Henry County Council has a special public meeting at 6 p.m. today in the county courthouse, 101 S. Main St., New Castle. The next regular public meeting is at 6 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 24.