The Washington Times-Herald

January 28, 2014

City Council votes not to support same-sex marriage ban

By Lindsay Owens
Times Herald

---- — The Washington City Council meeting mirrored much of the rest of the state on Monday night, as the ban on same-sex marriage, House Joint Resolution 3 (HJR3) made its into the meeting.

In what initially looked like it would be an uneventful meeting for Council members turned into an extended debate on HJR3 after Councilman Blake Chambers asked members of the council to consider supporting a resolution asking the General Assembly to not vote in favor of HJR3, the resolution that would place a ban on same-sex marriage and make it part of Indiana's Constitution.

Chambers said other cities such as Evansville, New Albany and Indianapolis, already have similar resolutions and Indiana law already states that same-sex marriage is illegal within the state.

"In football it would have been called piling on in the old days," said Chambers. "It's one thing to deny someone of their rights, but those rights were taken away in 1997. Why are we trying to take them away again?"

With the addition of I-69, Daviess County hopes to attract big business to its corridor that will be one of only a few sites in the United States that offers rail access, in addition to close proximity to an interstate. Chambers said he hopes that in the future, the county will be able to attract business and industry similar to those found in larger cities.

"Eli Lilly and Cummins asked that the General Assembly not pass this," said Chambers. "They thought it might hinder their ability to attract good employees. They want to recruit the best and brightest employees."

Councilman Joe Fleck seconded Chambers' motion and said that regardless of whether the General Assembly passes the proposed amendment, Indiana law will still state that gay marriage is illegal in the state.

"This is only going to hurt the taxpayers," said Fleck. "If they turn it down, it's already illegal."

Jerry Sidebottom echoed Fleck.

"I think it's a waste of money. It's just hammering them (same-sex couples) again," Sidebottom said.

Councilmen Eric Bassler and Jim Greene were opposed to the action. Bassler felt that HJR3 was beyond the purview of the city council.

"I prefer that the government remain within the area of our responsibility. Where do we draw the line?"

Greene said he was in favor of the proposed amendment.

All members of the council except Bassler and Greene voted in support of Chamber's resolution. Allen Brown was absent from the meeting.

Chambers said the new city resolution would be sent to the state in some form.

In other business, council members heard the 2013 annual reports from Building Commissioner Terry Wininger, Police Chief Mike Healy and Fire Chief Dave Rhoads.

Wininger said that new home construction was down in 2013 by two homes, but the estimated property values increased.

Rhoads reported that the fire department came in under budget for the eighth year in row and with the addition of Chad Batton, who was sworn in prior to the start of the council meeting, the department was running at full force. Batton, a native of Shelbyville, said firefighting is his first love. A graduate of Indiana University, Batton lives in Washington with his wife and family.

Healy reported that the police department had received 16,993 complaints in 2013, with more than 3,800 of those being 911 calls. The department completed more than 2,400 hours of training and participated in several safety and security programs around the city.

The city swore in two new officers last year and hired Brandon Garland, a Washington native this year. Garland was also sworn in Monday. He had served as a reserve officer since October and also lives in Washington with his wife and family.

Board of Public Works

The Board of Public Works and Safety met at the conclusion of the city council meeting. Anita Ash, manager of the utility department, discussed the utility write-offs from 2008 and 2009. Ash asked the board to write off $103,622.29 or less than .3 percent of the utility income for 2008 and 2009. Ash said in 2008, the department, which does not use a collection agency to collect the delinquent payments, was told the delinquent bills were not required to be written off for six years. She also said that the department will start writing these off one year at a time again.

"We try to work with people," said Mayor Joe Wellman. "Anita and her folks work really hard. This winter is just hard. This is a serious matter especially for people who are having trouble paying."

"We try to work with people who are having a hardship," said Ash.