Members of the Daviess County Council heard several positives during the Wednesday morning meeting at the courthouse.
The first bit of good news came from Daviess Community Hospital Chief Operating Officer Keith Miller.
Miller provided council members with an update on the ambulance service the hospital launched in July to serve county residents.
“In the last months of the year, we completed 2,000 ambulance runs,” said Miller. “Not having a lot of historical data to look at, we were surprised by the numbers.”
Those numbers, Miller said, have the DCH emergency services staff anticipating between 4,000 and 4,500 runs annually.
“Interestingly, Cannelburg is a new base location,” said Miller, adding the ambulance service is housed with the volunteer fire department there. “And while 1,400 runs came out of Washington, 300 came from Cannelburg.”
Miller said construction is wrapping up in Odon on the ambulance service’s new home, located on the same grounds as the DCH clinic there.
“Move in will be this week and we will be fully in that station next week,” said Miller, who said while construction was taking place, the ambulances were using Parkview Village as home base.
Even with all the start up expenses, including the purchase of the ambulances, Miller said the hospital did see a net income.
“We are very optimistic about what 2020 will look like,” said Miller.
Daviess County Economic Development Corporation Executive Director Bryant Niehoff also spoke briefly on behalf of the Graber Post Buildings and Berry Global before turning the floor over to representatives from each of the companies.
Both companies are currently expanding facilities and were asking for tax abatements for those projects.
Chad Wilson with Graber Post said not only has the company added over 130,000 square feet in production space, they are also adding employees.
“We’ve hired seven more full-time employees now,” said Wilson, who said in the end, the expansion will add at least 15 additional jobs. “We were at 220 employees and now have 227 and there are 164 families that are supported through our sub crews and most of those work solely for Graber Post.”
Wilson said Graber Post had over $150 million in gross sales last year and have invested $3.7 million in updates and equipment to its Daviess County facility as well as its facility in Versailles, Missouri.
The council voted in favor of a resolution making the Graber Post area an economic revitalization area. At the council’s next meeting, they will vote on a confirmatory resolution before finally approving the abatement.
“Berry is also doing a project up in the northern part of the county,” said Niehoff. “It’s a great project and one that was competitive.”
Berry Global’s Zach Hocutt said the Odon-based films producer is currently doubling the size of its facility.
“We’re going from 40,000 square feet to adding on an additional 40,000 square feet,” said Hocutt, who said Monroe County was also being considered for the expansion. “Right now we are looking at a $13.2 million investment and I expect that to go up.”
Hocutt said Berry Global hopes to be producing compostable, reusable or recyclable packaging for many products by 2025. Right now, only about 20% of the packaging Berry produces meets those standards. The company expects to be under roof at the expanded facility by May and have equipment ready by August. Around a dozen extra employees will be needed to run the additional lines.
“We can add up to four more production lines the way we have it built,” Hocutt said.
The council also agreed to move forward with the abatement process for Berry Global.
Daviess County Sheriff Gary Allison also presented his annual jail report during the meeting. The 1,190 bookings Allison said were down a little from 2018.
The number of transports and the number of miles driven on those transports caught the attention of councilman Mike Sprinkle who asked if there was a way to reduce those numbers.
“It just seems to me in this day and age, this isn’t something we should be doing,” said Sprinkle.
In 2019, 714 transports resulted in 50,427 miles driven by members of the sheriff’s department. The majority of the miles, 44,822, were logged picking up prisoners.
Sprinkle asked if video conferences were an option for inmates. At this time, Allison said only initial hearings could be done via video and he would let the council know if there was anything that could be done to change the way transports are handled.
Daviess County Public Health Nurse Kathy Sullender told council members the county health board reviewed several proposals for projects this year. In the end, the board decided to provide an exam table, generator and lap chair for the Pregnancy Care Center.
“The Pregnancy Care Center is really growing and they provide a lot of services to our community,” said Sullender, who said the items would be for the new Pregnancy Care Center that will be located on West Walnut Street.
The second project would be for sporting equipment for the PowerHouse.
Sullender said new automated external defibrillators will also be purchased this year.
“Ten years ago, we purchased AEDs for the schools, Camp Illiana and some other places in the county through a grant,” said Sullendar. “That grant is no longer available and those AEDs are no longer under warranty.”
Sullender said the company she will purchase the new AEDs from will give them $400 trade-in value on each of the devices, many which she said, have never been used. The AEDS typically cost around $1,700 each.
The county’s immunization program also continues to grow and Sullender said once the health department is moved into the County Government Center, they should be able to service even more people.
“We are growing and seeing things change,” said Sullender, who said the health department offers vaccines and often at rates that are less than clinics and the emergency room.
The council also approved a transfer of funds to pay for the benefits of the county’s full-time health liaison.
Daviess County Highway Superintendent Phil Cornelius asked for additional appropriations to start purchasing the right-of-way for utility relocation along CR 900 E. The county will be reimbursed 80% of the cost.
Sprinkle also told the council that the report on the Bennington Levee was finally complete. The report was the same as last year so the county will remain eligible for federal assistance should a problem arise.