The Daviess County Commissioners are issuing a letter of support for the Daviess County Health Department in its fight against the COVID-19 pandemic. The commissioners agreed to issue the letter following a discussion during its meeting. The letter comes on the heels of a report by the Indiana State Department of Health that Daviess County appears to have the fifth highest spread of the virus in the state.

The county commissioners wore masks through much of the meeting.

“The positivity rates are rising,” said Commissioners’ President Nathan Gabhart. “We want people to wear a mask in the courthouse and the new Government Center. That includes all visitors and those people who work in the courthouse that are unable to social distance during their job.”

The health department issued new COVID numbers Monday showing 30 new cases, raising the total number of cases in the county to 923. The number of deaths stands at 34. According to the state’s color rating scale that includes the number of cases, the number of positive cases recorded per test and the trend of those test results, Daviess County is in the high “orange” range. The county is close to being in the “red” category that would open the way for the ISDH to come in and potentially make decisions on closing schools or businesses.

“We want to stay out of the red,” said Gabhart. “We want to keep our schools open. We want people to be safe and we are asking them to wear a mask when they go out and practice social distancing.”

Earlier, Daviess County Health Officer Dr. Merle Holsopple issued a release calling for the community to fight the coronavirus, “We are concerned about the rise in numbers of positive COVID-19 cases and make a strong plea to our businesses, churches, community centers and industry to help with following the CDC infection control guidelines as well as Indiana Executive Orders. We do not want to shut down our economy or close our schools and hope that everyone does their part to keep our county open and safe.”

In other business the commissioners opened bids for highway department products. Nine bidders submitted proposals for items including concrete products, rock, pipe and lubricating products. The bids were taken under advisement and will be awarded at the next meeting.

Daviess County Highway Supervisor Phil Cornelius offered some updates on major projects in the county. He reported that all but three parcels of land for the expansion project on CR 900 E. have been finalized and that those last three are under negotiation.

“We are close on those,” said Cornelius. “We are about as late, time wise, as we can go and still bid the project this spring, but if we get those last three done, we should be OK.”

Cornelius also reported that the recent rains have slowed down the Sportsman Road project. He said the approaches still need to be paved and the rumble strips put in and the striping. The work is expected to wrap up in mid-November.

The commissioners approved a couple more CARES Act purchases out of the $1 million the county received from the federal government earlier this year. The purchases will include 10 new iPads for the use of the county council and commissioners. Officials say they hope that by adding the equipment that they can cut down on the paper officials use and make them more efficient. The county also agreed to add a plexiglass piece to the new health department office to make it a little safer for the receptionists.

The refinancing of a bond issue for Daviess Community Hospital received its approval from the commissioners. The refinancing on the 2011 bonds for $20 million will only change the interest rate. Those bonds are being paid off by the hospital, but are backed by the county. The bonds will still be paid off in 2029. The action will save $1.5 million.

“This gives the hospital a significant savings and it lowers some of the risk to the county,” said Gabhart.

The commissioners agreed to the purchase of a new phone system for the Daviess County Sheriff’s Department. The new system will come through RTC Communications at a cost of $36,302 and a monthly fee of $300. The change will take the sheriff’s office off of AT&T and put it on the same system as the courthouse and the Government Center. Officials say that the savings in the monthly cost should pay off in six years.

Annual agreements between the county and Purdue Extension and the county and city of Washington were also approved. The Purdue Extension contract is for $201,000 which is the same amount the county paid last year. The interlocal agreement with the city was for $6,000 and covers services provided by the Daviess County Emergency Management Agency.

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