Phony pot prohibited

KNOX — “Mr. Smiley” can’t be sold in Starke County anymore.
Starke County Commissioners Monday unanimously voted to adopt an ordinance banning the sale of the synthetic marijuana product, also known as Spice and K2, and technically called Cannabinoids.
The synthetic drug produces highs similar to those yielded by marijuana and can have hallucinagenic effects. Many communities around the country have already passed, or are considering, similar legislation.
Knox is in the process of adopting a similar ordinance.
Commissioners are also working tirelessly at cutting costs in the county. One area commissioners looked at to trim some fat was the county insurance provider, voting to change the carrier for the upcoming year from Teacher’s Credit Union to First Source Insurance. Two years ago, the benefit packet was about $1.6 million in cost to the county, and the commissioners have been trying to reduce this figure as much as possible. The first year, the commissioners were able to cut it down by $400,000.
“A $400,000 cut, to me, in a $1.6 million bill is such a huge cut that it really brought our attention to this as something more that we really need to work on harder here,” said Commissioner Dan Bridegroom.
For next year, First Source Insurance has offered to cut costs by as much as 13 percent. This program includes a spousal carve-out, which means that the employee’s spouse who has access to coverage through their employer must take that coverage.
“If we’re going to get a handle on our healthcare expenses going forward, we must develop a long-range plan that includes a focus on improving the overall health and productivity of our employees,” said Commissioner Kathy Norem.
A bid for the new surveillance system in the Starke County Jail has been accepted, with a total price tag of $77,001 after the addition of some necessary equipment that was overlooked. Vermillion Systems, the company that will be installing the system, estimates that installation should begin in roughly three weeks. The system should be installed within five to 10 working days, with a shipping time of around two weeks on some parts. The new camera system, in addition to basic video recording, features audio recording in the cell block along with night vision capabilities.
The transfer of $10,000 from the Cumulative Capital account to the clerk’s office to allow for the purchase of a digital imaging system and scanners was approved. This amount will cover the equipment, installation, and training on use of the software. With this new equipment, the clerk’s office will be scanning documents into digital form, drastically cutting down on paperwork in the clerk’s office.
“We’ve all been over there looking at her office, there’s paper all over the ceilings, paper everywhere over there,” said Bridegroom.
Starke County’s systems technician Bob Smith said the new system will also make information retrieval a more efficient process.
“Not to mention, down the road, when you need to find something it’s a few mouse clicks and typing something in as opposed to sending someone to spend X amount of time digging through filing cabinets,” said Bob Smith.
The Federal Highway Department has introduced new requirements for road signs that require them to be more easily visible at night. All signs that do not meet the new signs must be replaced by 2015. Guide signs, such as road signs, have to be replaced by 2018. Because of the large number of signs that need to be improved, the project will more than likely have to be put to a bid from contractors.
The Commissioners also discussed the proposed burn ordinance. Bridegroom stressed the fact that the burn ordinance is not a full-out ban on burning. The ordinance is going to adopt the current state law, which is already being enforced.
“I think the biggest misconception right away was the word ‘ban’ was in there on everything they read. As soon as I would explain to the people that called me, talked to me, and stopped me that it’s not a ban, then they were okay. They were okay almost immediately with it that they can still burn their fencerows, burn their leaves, burn their brush that falls down,” said Bridegroom.
“We get elected to represent the interests of the people. So apparently we’re going to set this for a public hearing, and I want it perfectly clear that if the majority of the people at that public hearing do not want this proposed ordinance, then I will not vote for it,” said Norem.
A public hearing for the ban has been set for Jan. 18.
The Health Officer Dr. Fritz has elected to retire, and is to be replaced by Dr. Theresa Alexander. This transition will take place Jan. 1.
“Between now and then, I’ll find some time and probably spend a day over learning the ropes and how things are being done now, and how we can streamline things and make things more open, more transparent, and easier for both the health board and the commissioners, and everyone, to access in a timely way so we can move ahead,” said Dr. Alexander.