Council hesitant about holding money for memorial

Rendering provided






The group spearheading plans to create a memorial recognizing the COVID-19 pandemic is asking the county if it would be willing to hold donations for the project and pay the bills for the memorial’s construction with the donations.

Dubois County Council members are hesitant about doing that.

Members of the COVID memorial group talked to the county council earlier this week about the idea. They expect that contributions will come mostly from organizations and businesses, explained group member Beth Waltz. Individuals will also be asked when needed.

She said those entities need an avenue to make those payments: either a nonprofit organization or a government entity.

“This is a one-time thing. It should be done within a year,” Waltz said. “We’re not trying to create a 501(c)(3) or go through the process of that.” A 501(c)(3) is a nonprofit organization that has been recognized by the Internal Revenue Service as being tax-exempt by virtue of its charitable programs.

The group of volunteers came together for the specific purpose of creating the memorial. The Dubois County Commissioners have agreed to place the memorial on the Dubois County Courthouse’s southeast lawn. The memorial will be about 5 feet tall at its highest point and have a diameter of about 10 feet. Its design will be circular and will include a black granite column with gray granite circular benches around it, sitting on a stamped concrete circular pad. There will be inscriptions on the memorial, but no names will be on it, project manager Chris Waltz assured the council.

Beth Waltz explained that the memorial will recognize an event that has happened, one that has affected every person in the country. “It is different from anything we’ve ever had. Everyone has been impacted,” she said. “And it’s not over yet.’

The estimated cost for the proposed design, which includes the stone, lettering and installation is about $11,300. Once the memorial is complete, it will be turned over to the county and the county will take care of its maintenance.

Council President Mike Kluesner told the council that when the commissioners approved the memorial’s placement, it was stated that no tax dollars will be used for the memorial’s construction.

Kluesner was the first to express his hesitancy on being the place where people would submit donations for the memorial. He said the county attorney would have to draft the resolution to create the fund for the donations. More than that, he explained, the county auditor’s office would have to collect and keep track of the donations, pay the construction bills from the fund and then handle the state audit of the fund, which is mandatory.

“I just don’t feel that we should get involved in the fundraising, holding and payment of any kind of construction,” he said.

Kluesner suggested setting up a fund at a financial institution, and people could deposit the donations into the fund. Chris Waltz said that having the fund with the county would give it more legitimacy because the checks would be written to the county, not to an individual.

“We’re trying to have it being a little more formalized,” Beth Waltz said. “It legitimizes the project. We’re seeking that legitimization and support.” She added that the number of transactions to and from the fund would be very few.

County Councilwoman Charmian Klem said she did not want the auditor’s office to have to do that extra work in keeping track of the fund. She said that when the word gets out that donations are being accepted, people will chip in big and small amounts.

“We would be asking our employees to spend whatever time it’s going to take to receive it, keep track of it, audit it,” she said.

Klem also said she’s heard concerns, people stating that county money should not be used for the memorial’s construction. “Collecting this by the auditor could be appearance of public money,” she said.

Kluesner said the council will think about the request for the next month. The matter will be discussed at the council’s Sept. 27 meeting. In the meantime, he asked the group to look into other avenues for the fund. Councilwoman Becky Beckman suggested that the group talk to the Memorial Hospital Foundation.

The council also:

• Gave emergency approval for the Dubois County Health Department to use the $308,704 the state is providing for the local COVID testing site, which has reopened.

• Discussed Hoosier Enduring Legacy Program, or HELP. Council members did not feel they had enough information to decide if they should create a new community coordinator position or contribute money to the position. The commissioners are trying to determine if the county should apply for the program, in which the coordinator would specifically help figure out how the county should use its federal American Rescue Plan Act funding. If selected, the county would add at least $20,000 and the Office of Community and Rural Affairs would contribute to fund the coordinator position in the first year; the following years, the county would fund the entire salary. The commissioners are checking to see if other municipalities are interested in submitting an application together and talking to Indiana 15 Regional Planning Commission about the program.

• Made financial provisions to keep COVID clerk staff at the county health department next year by adding $139,531 to the department’s 2022 budget; the money will come from the rainy day fund.

• Created a courthouse fountain maintenance fund to accept money that comes from a Dubois County Community Foundation endowment for the fountain.

• Agreed to support the Patoka Lake Watershed Committee in its pursuit of a grant to obtain a watershed coordinator.

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