County leaders approve appropriations

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Private info to be stripped from online documents


Managing Editor

TELL CITY – County-council members approved at a regular meeting Oct. 25 a $10,000 additional appropriation to redact Social Security numbers from online documents

County Recorder Jane James said she and her peers statewide were mandated in 2006 to have technology in place by Dec. 1, 2007 to perform the function. The numbers remain visible where they appear on original documents, she explained. A dedicated fund was established to cover expenses, she continued, and the current balance there was $25,260. A $2 charge per document generated revenue for the fund when the mandate was originally issued, but it was dropped to 50 cents in 2011.

James said the State Board of Accounts informed her the money could help fund computer upgrades planned for next year that will allow all documents in her office to be recorded electronically.

In addition to new records being created, existing documents are being added in a process she called back-indexing, “and they have a lot of Social Security numbers on there,” she said.

The state initially set the per-document fee higher so recorders’ offices could put the necessary equipment in place, James explained, “and now it’s just maintaining it and upgrading it, and that sort of thing; that’s why they cut it.”

Disabilities Act Compliance

In other business, Councilman Ron Crawford said he realized they had no choice but to approve an $11,600 additional appropriation to fund efforts to bring the county in line with the Americans with Disabilities Act, “but I’m a little bit disappointed.”

As the News reported March 19, county officials learned the Federal Highway Administration had decided to enforce, through threat of withholding funds, a requirement that was imposed by the act in the early 1990s but which went unfulfilled by much of the nation. Only the first of several steps had to be completed, but County Commissioner Tom Hauser reported at an Oct. 1 meeting an August letter from the Indiana Department of Transportation demanded compliance with three remaining milestones. 

“Why did we not know this up front (in March), that there was going to be steps 2, 3 and 4?” Crawford asked. “Nobody mentioned it; we said fine.”

The county commissioners and council convened a joint session March 7 to hear about the renewed mandate and each approved a motion to pay the Bernardin-Lochmueller engineering firm of Evansville $9,800 to develop a plan for the county. The development of a plan and a policy for receiving and handling complaints was described then as the only milestone required to have been completed by the end of this year.

The county was able to save $2,000 in that first step, Crawford noted, “and that’s a good thing … but why did not somebody tell us what this was going to cost totally?” Noting that failure to comply would make the county ineligible for certain grants, he also asked how many counties would pay the extra cost for the accelerated measures. “Are they going to finish it out, or are they just going to let it lay and see what happens? I wonder if we’re jumping the gun doing it.”

Hauser, who’d been named the county’s ADA coordinator, was in the audience.

“I don’t know what other counties are doing,” he said. “What I do know is we were getting mixed information at first … there were always four milestones, and we were led to believe by people from INDOT and the Federal Highway Administration that we only had to complete milestone 1.  There was no real (deadline for) when we had to complete the other milestones.”

Officials in another county that is using another engineering firm asked the Federal Highway Administration, “Do we have to do milestones 2, 3 and 4?” Hauser said. “It put the Federal Highway Administration in a corner, and they said ‘yes’ … that put all the counties in the same boat.”

What would happen if the county didn’t accelerate its compliance? Hauser asked.

“They keep saying we could be disqualified for any federal highway funds; that’s their answer if we don’t comply,” he said. “The other part is this has been mandated with no repercussions (for noncompliance) since 1991, by the U.S Justice Department” but not enforced. “With that said, honestly, this is the right thing to do. We need to comply … because it’s 19 years old, and we need to take care of our people with disabilities. That’s why this law was put into place.”

Discussions with Bern-ardin-Lochmueller and County Administrator Teresa Kanneberg resulted in the decision, “why not just go ahead and do it, put it to bed, and we know we’re in good shape,” Hauser continued. “We’ve got too much weighing on grant applications to take this kind of chance. And we’re going to have to do it eventually, anyway. It’s going to do nothing but get more expensive.”

Councilman Stan Goffin-et said he was reading from a Bernardin-Lochmueller memo in reporting “if we don’t have sidewalks, we don’t have to build them, but if we do have them, we have to keep them up.” He asked if a sidewalk is found not to comply with the disabilities act, would corrective meas- ures be required within the following year, and would the council have to budget for it?

“I’m just wondering, down the road, what it’s going to take,” he said.

Hauser said the main focus is development of a plan, and that an inventory had been conducted.

“The county doesn’t have sidewalks at intersections,” he said. “But we had to generate a map showing that.”

Information generated in the effort will be incorporated into an online system at http://perry.in.wthgis.com, Hauser said in response to a question from Goffinet. The act’s standards could also be incorporated into requirements for developers building subdivisions, he also said.

An update to the county’s comprehensive plan has been discussed, and the standards could be included there, as well, Goffinet said. 

The county’s efforts to build a new jail could be added into the ADA plan, the commissioner said. The courthouse doesn’t meet all of the act’s requirements and must be analyzed along with other county facilities, “then we’ll have to come up with a plan to correct it,” he explained, but “there’s no timeline on the corrections.”

“It appears to me Mr. Hauser has put a lot of time and effort into this; he knows what he’s talking about,” Councilman Chet Mathena said before offering a motion to approve the appropriation. “Why not get it done? If the money is available, let us do it and put it behind us.”

The council’s approval was unanimous.