Starke County Forester Seeks Reimbursement for Forest Maintenance

Bruce Wakeland

The Starke County Commissioners cleared up some confusion regarding expenses and claims for the Starke County Forest. Forester Bruce Wakeland approached the commissioners and asked how he should handle reimbursements when paying out-of-pocket for small maintenance expenses at the forest.

Wakeland previously donated a 129-acre parcel of land to the county that he manages as part of Wakeland Forestry Consultants. The land, located on State Road 8, was designated as the Starke County Forest, funded by selling timber as opposed to gate fees and county funds.

The forester told the commissioners that the first year after the forest was designated, the water was very high in the area because of beavers continuously blocking a culvert. He explained the water was over several paths in the forest, restricting access to the majority of the area. As a result, he hired a company to do some lane maintenance to build up the lane and put a gravel field notch to redirect the water elsewhere. This work came at an expense of $720, but Wakeland said there have been several small issues that have come up as well that he has to address.

Auditor Kay Chaffins told Wakeland to submit claims for the expenses which would be paid back into the Starke County Forest account, and County Attorney Martin Lucas said any expenses less than $1000 are discretionary and do not require quotes or bids; however, expenses between $1000 and $150,000 require quotes to be approved, and anything higher than that must go through the full-fledged bidding process.

The commissioners encouraged Wakeland to approach them before taking on any expenses but said emergency cases that require immediate action are understandable.