County extends disaster declaration

By CANDY NEAL
cneal@dcherald.com

On Monday, the Dubois County Commissioners extended the local disaster emergency declaration to May 5.

They also encouraged the public to continue following the practices that have been recommended by local health officials.

“Everyone can do better. I know I can do better,” Commissioners President Chad Blessinger said.

They encouraged the public to continue following the guidelines from local health officials, the state board of health and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The declaration gives county officials the authority to take emergency measures to prevent the spread of COVID-19. It also puts the county in place for receiving state and federal assistance if that is needed and becomes available.

The public has done well in adjusting to the county buildings being closed. “We don’t have too many visitors,” County Clerk Amy Kippenbrock said. “There are still people who do come up to take care of some business.”

With the property tax statements, County Auditor Sandy Morton thinks there will be more people attempting to come into the building in the next week. “Hopefully, people will not, and just call,” she said. “And I hope that they understand that they may not get a response right away. It may be a day.”

The buildings are closed to the public, and the staff working inside are only the ones who must be there. Other staff are working from home, checking their emails and voicemails.

Kippenbrock told the commissioners that not as many people come up to pay their child support payments; they could be paying them through the state, she said.

“I think there were some non-custodial parents who were unaware that they could still make payments,” she said. “So I think we’ve conquered those immediate concerns.”

As far as elections, Kippenbrock said that the clerk’s office is making adjustments to be ready for the June 5 Primary Election and early voting.

“Our requests for mail-in ballots have already increased,” she said. “We welcome that.”

People can now submit a mail-in ballot, but still must fill out the application to request one. A change made by the state is that people do not have to give a reason why they want to vote this way.

Kippenbrock is concerned about having enough poll workers, but that is handled by the local political parties. “All of our polling locations have said that we can still use their locations,” she said.

The commissioners looked at an ordinance another county adopted that lists restrictive measures for stores. Those include not allowing more than 10% of a store building’s capacity in a store at a time, having staff count the number of customers entering and exiting the store, having spacing lines on the store’s floor, having employees who are monitoring social distancing, setting special hours for the more susceptible populations like seniors, offering pick-up service, and putting up more signage.

Blessinger asked Dubois County Health Officer Dr. Ted Waflart if the commissioners should consider a similar ordinance. Waflart confirmed for Blessinger that local stores have enacted those measures already, so no ordinance is needed at this time.

“I think they’re doing a good job at all the stores I’ve been at,” Commissioner Nick Hostetter said.

Commissioner Elmer Brames, who attended the meeting via phone, agreed. “They are trying to follow the [Centers for Disease Control and Prevention] guidelines as well as the Indiana State Board of Health and our local health department,” he said. “If our health department is concerned and needs our help to address this, they would put together something that they would like us to take action on.”

As more information is learned, the public should adhere to the additional suggestions that come out, such as not taking your whole family to the grocery store and practicing self distancing, Blessinger said.

“Let’s be part of the solution,” he said, “not part of the problem.”

People who have business to take care of in a county office must call first. The numbers for the different offices are located on the county’s website, www.duboiscountyin.org.

The commissioners also:

• Discussed the progress of plans for the future jail and community corrections expansions and the justice center and agreed to continue with design work. The Dubois County Council paused on setting aside $4 million in future income tax revenue for the project because of the current health crisis.

• Hired Arianna Qualters as a 911 dispatcher. Qualters has three years of experience as a Crawford County 911 dispatcher.

• Told County Engineer Brent Wendholt to move forward with making repairs on Veterans Memorial Bridge. He told the commissioners previously that the bridge is not unsafe, but there is a crack that needs to be fixed before it gets worse and becomes unsafe. The county council appropriated $120,000 for the repairs last month.

• Approved the Court-Appointed Special Advocates’ lease agreement with the City of Jasper for CASA’s office on Sixth Street.

• Gave County Treasurer Kitty Merkley permission to change the wording on the county’s drop box, located on the side of the courthouse annex. Merkley said the current wording that says “night deposit” makes people think they can’t drop off other payments, like tax payments.




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