Chief Deputy Dave Turner represented the Jennings County Sheriff’s Office (JCSO) to discuss the first item on the agenda at last Tuesday’s Jennings County Council meeting.

Turner addressed the Council for the second time regarding the vacation time buyout for JCSO that he and Nicci Lucas of Human Resources had initially brought to the Jennings County Commissioners at that board’s September 23 meeting.

At that meeting, Lucas said there is approximately 500 hours of vacation time for the sheriff’s office and they are unwilling to rollover the time like they did in 2020 because of COVID. The buyout, at that time, was estimated to cost $11,500.

Turner stressed that they’re hoping to get that price down, as they’d rather let their staff use their time off, but, as Lucas put it, they are trying to be proactive in case there is no other option.

The Commissioners motioned to allow Turner to approach the Council to approve the buyout.

Turner did so at the Council’s October 5 meeting. Members asked questions about vacation time accruals and what the county handbook states, as they are under the impression that employees either use their vacation time or they lose it. However, Turner reiterated that because of staff shortages, they are having to deny time off. He added that this issue is only affecting the deputies, approximately 18 or 19 employees.

There were concerns about the annual budget being thrown off due to the buyout and no decision was made at the October meeting in order to look further into the policy.

At the Council’s meeting last Tuesday, Turner provided a new buyout price of $10,764 instead of the estimated $11,500.

The Council was still hesitant to grant the buyout, fearing that other departments will start to ask for similar requests.

Turner pointed out that their department is a little different than other county offices, as their employees have to be available 24-7, which makes it difficult to take time off, especially when understaffed.

County Attorney Alex Zimmerman was asked what is dictated in the employee handbook, to which Zimmerman replied that they are remodeling and trying to simplify the handbook so that the policies cover all departments fairly yet consider the minor discrepancies between each department, such as differences in hours.

No motion was made and the board will visit this topic again in January, after JCSO has had a chance to lower the amount of vacation time that needs to be bought out.

Clerk’s Office

County Clerk Amy Thompson brought to the Council’s attention a gift from the Indiana Secretary of State of 40 e-signature pads for voters to use when going to the polls. Thompson said Jennings is one of the few counties left in the state that have opted out of using these devices due to the intermittent internet access in some of the local precincts.

The Council is being asked by the state to budget maintenance of these devices come 2023. The cost will be approximately $12,900 and will include hotspots for precincts that have unreliable internet.

The board agreed to support the budgeting of the e-signature devices.

Rescue Equipment

Don Biehle from the Campbell Township Volunteer Fire Department (CTVFD) presented the need for rescue equipment for his department, particularly extrication tools such as the Jaws of Life, which is used to extract victims from vehicles.

Biehle said that CTVFD is the only fire department on the east side of the county. He made the point that, should an emergency take place in their district, such as in the Zenas area, and extrication equipment was needed, it could take several, precious minutes for another department with the necessary equipment to arrive on the scene.

Funding for the equipment Biehle is requesting will cost between $50,000-$75,000.

The decision was tabled to allow the Council to look into their options of funding Biehle’s request.