Commissioners talk shop with legislators
Newly elected state representative Scott Hill and representative Stephen Owens had a lively discussion with commissioners during Tuesday’s meeting.
The pair were put on the agenda shortly before the meeting. Sheriff Jeff Soyez was notified so he could speak to the representatives as well.
“It is a real honor to represent the county,” Hill said. “My purpose for being here is to find out what you have to say.”
Hill said he’d be working primarily with K-12 education in preparing for the legislative session.
Owens will be entering his fifth session and third term in the legislature.
He is on appropriations, judiciary, and corrections committees.
“I look forward to hearing what’s on your minds, and what’s on the sheriff’s mind,” Owens said.
Soyez asked whether the legislators could help get resource officers in every school.
“Why aren’t we trying to find some funding to put an officer in the schools?” Soyez asked.
Owens said that in the last few years an “anti-law enforcement” view had developed, but he thought school resource officers were needed.
Soyez said he wanted mental health services to be more available and accessible.
Owens said the state allocated money a few weeks ago for expansion of mental health services.
People need to “think outside the proverbial box” to make services more readily available to those who need them, he said.
Owens said he wanted county officials to make him aware of things they were concerned about.
“Sometimes the issues that are important to you guys are one of the millions of issues that we’re working on,” he said.
Commissioner Kent Becker was quick to ask that legislators “stop sending counties unfunded mandates.”
“Unfunded mandates cause us a lot of grief,” Becker said.
Commissioner Jonah Gehring asked about making technical education more readily available.
Owens, whose son is attending a technical school, asked where county students went for technical education.
Butler Community College offers classes in Marion, and Hutchinson Community College has outreach classes at Hillsboro.
Owens said the county had some options, but not a lot of them.
He said technical education offered an opportunity to come out of school and have immediate opportunity for work.
Many people get college degrees, can’t find jobs that pay enough to repay student loans, and enroll in master’s programs in the hope of earning enough, he said.
“We really need kids with technical skills,” he said.
Technical education offers another bonus, Owens said.
“Kids are more likely to stay local when they go to a technical school,” he said.
Owens, who often comes to the county lake, had another question for commissioners.
“While I’m here, could I get some kind of waiver on the 5 mph limit at Marion County Lake? I’ve asked about this before,” he said.
The posted speed limit on Lakeshore Dr. in front of the lake hall and office is 5 mph.
In other business, commissioners:
- Passed a resolution renewing the county as a rural opportunity zone for a student loan repayment program.
- Decided to review county spending policies and amend the amount a department head can spend without being required to get bids.