By Alex Haglund
A feasibility study looking into raising fees and bringing in more revenue to the county was approved by the Washington County board at their first monthly meeting for 2016, held on the evening of Tuesday, January 12 at the Nashville Community Center.
The study has been contracted out to Bellwether, LLC, out of Bloomington, at a cost to the county of $12,000. Bruce Delashmit, who runs Bellwether, told board members that if they couldn’t get back five times that cost on the return, “I’ll do it for free.”
Delashmit said that the study would be focusing on three different departments, the county clerk, the circuit clerk, and the sheriff’s department. The study is necessary, Delashmit said, not only to decide where and by how much fees can be raised, but because in many cases, a study is required, by statute, before any changes at all can be made to fine and fee structure.
“The process for the fee review is very straight forward,” Delashmit said. “we have a lot of information that we collect virtually from between the different county departments.”
Delashmit told the board that he would be returning to Washington County near the end of January to collect data, and then would turn his findings over to the county board after the information had been turned over to his team of analysts and recompiled.
“We will give you the actual costs, a not-to-exceed number that we will work with department heads to come up,” Delashmit stated. “After that, we will present you with a draft resolution for your approval.”
“A county with an effective program can usually collect around 85-percent of their fines and fees,” Delashmit told the board.
Delashmit said that the fees and fines in question could be raised with a focus on passing the county’s costs on to the beneficiary of a given service, not all of the tax payers. For certain departments, particularly county clerks and land recorders, their entire departments can sometimes be funded by the fees collected.
The board voted to approve the feasibility study, but they were not unanimously in favor of it. Board member Paul Todd in particular voiced his disapproval of the idea.
“Fees, fines, call it what you want, it’s a tax,” Todd said. “We already nickel and dime our county residents to death and we’re going to do it again.”
At the end of the meeting, Board Chair David Meyer asked Building Committee Chair Gary Suedmeyer about the progress of the renovation that has been going on for about a year at the old county courthouse.
“We should be ready to move in by the end of March,” Suedmeyer said.
Meyer also stated that he wished to make it clear to county residents that even though the lights have been seen turned on at the courthouse, the building is still in the possession of the contractor, who is paying for electricity and other costs incurred before the county takes possession of the building.
Highway Department head Mitch Burdick spoke to the board regarding the rains in December.
“We weathered the rainstorms pretty well,” Burdick said, “We did not have any significant damage.”
Burdick said that there are several openings for bids from his department coming up in the next few months.
• On January 26, aggregate bids for the county will open.
• Bids will be sought for the Peach Tree bridge project on March 2.
• Oil bids for the county will open the week of March 28.
• County Highway 21 resurfacing bids will open on April 22.
The county board heard annual reports from Washington County Clerk Nancy Heseman, from Washington County Coroner Mark Styninger, and from Washington County Health Department Administrator Sharon Frederking. For details on these reports, please see the January 27 edition of The Nashville News.