By Anna Skinner
On May 12, the last legislative breakfast for the spring season was held at Conner Prairie in Fishers. The program was different than previous breakfasts, as it focused on county government and attendees heard from county commissioners and county council on how government works as well as upcoming projects.
Former Indiana Attorney General Steve Carter introduced the three commissioners and three present county council members for the program.
Commissioners’ roles include dealing with property of the county. They deal with construction and maintenance of roads, economic development programs and identifying benefit policies and leave for county employees and more. County council is the fiscal body and deals with fiscal matters, approving annual operating budgets for all county government offices, establishing county officials’ salaries, fixing tax rates and more.
Commissioners Mark Heirbrandt, Steve Dillinger and Christine Altman presented first. The commissioners brought up current Ind. 37 construction as the first issue to be discussed.
“We are not sure which intersection will be done first, but we will continue to work with the state and other cities to continue this effort and take this up to (Ind.) 32 and finish this corridor,” Heirbrandt said. “It will look similar to what you have on Keystone.”
Another project the commissioners spoke on was the jail expansion and the current over-capacity of the jail.
“We are expanding the judicial center because of change in demographics and an expected change in population,” Altman said. “It is projected that Hamilton County will double its population by 2050, and we have to plan for that and have infrastructure in place. Unfortunately, as cities and towns age and populations change, we forecast our criminal population will probably increase exponentially. Right now, we have the county jail and a correctional campus, and we have hired experts to review the footprint of that. We are going to try to maximize the extent of that footprint.”
Other projects discussed were improving Pleasant Street in Noblesville, the Riverwalk project in Noblesville, Riverview Health’s expansion to its Westfield campus and creating a thoroughfare from Interstate 65 to Interstate 69 via 146th Street.
After the commissioners presented, present council members Fred Glynn, Brad Beaver and Rick Ayers presented on their duties and which projects they agreed on with the commissioners.
“We have to take a look at this stuff from a financial prospective,” Fred Glynn said. “We don’t legislate at all, duties to do that are exclusive to them but ours are also exclusive to us. We know what we have in the bank will not last forever. We have to make decisions that are prudent for the long-term fiscal health of the county government. One thing we agree on is jail expansion. There is some disagreement there with how far we go with it. There is a strong consensus between council and commissioners that project needs to be done. The projects you see, the commissioners propose them all and the ones we approve we feel are in the best interest of the county.”
The council and commissioners encouraged the public to become involved in local government.
“We don’t have many people engaged in local government,” Glynn said. “We could have a major project and I’ll get two emails on it. Send us an email.”