The Pulaski County Council and Commissioners are each asking
the other group for direction on courthouse security. Last week, the commissioners
indicated that they’re ready to act on the issue. But during Monday’s county
council meetings, Council Member Kathi Thompson pointed out that it hasn’t been
factored into the 2020 budget proposal.
Plumbing issues at the Pulaski County Courthouse are
creating some challenges for Circuit Court. Issues with clogged sewage lines
have prompted county officials to close off certain restrooms for the
time-being, including one in the court’s offices.
After years of discussions, the Pulaski County Commissioners appear to be ready to act on courthouse security. Commissioner Jerry Locke raised the issue with Sheriff Jeff Richwine, during Tuesday’s meeting. “The situation with the courthouse, I’m afraid it might drag on, drag on, drag on, to see what’s going to be done,” Locke explained. “Would it be possible, Jeff, you or some of your people to come up with how many personnel to make our courthouse secure?”
Pulaski County has fewer and fewer people, but the county’s courts and probation office are only getting busier. Chief Probation Officer Chris Allen told the county council Monday that the number of people on probation has gone up over the past three years.
As the Pulaski County Council continues exploring potential budget cuts, the county’s judges and chief probation officer had the chance to share their cost-saving ideas Monday. Circuit Court Judge Mary Welker told council members that there’s $50,000 in the commissioners’ budget for detention of children that she doesn’t think will be needed.
Pulaski County’s judges are worried that resistance from the auditor and county attorney is putting court programs in jeopardy.
In a lengthy and heated discussion during Monday’s county commissioners meeting, Circuit Court Judge Mary Welker said the county’s seen great success with its Juvenile Detention Alternatives Initiative, but when coordinator Dr. Natalie Daily Federer tried to renew its funding, Auditor Laura Wheeler prevented it.
A new court program designed specifically to support families may soon be coming to Pulaski County. Pulaski Circuit Court is looking into what it would take to launch a family reunification court, according to Judge Mary Welker.
The Pulaski County Sheriff’s Department may soon start charging for the release of body camera footage. Sheriff Jeff Richwine brought the idea to the county council earlier this month. “You know, we’ve got the new body cameras going and now, we’ve got our first requests for video, and I think we’re allowed, by law, to charge a fee for those videos,” Richwine said. “And I didn’t know if that was set or if the council sets that fee. I’m sure I just can’t say, as the sheriff, I want to charge $100.”
Pulaski County is getting some new
computer equipment from the state, as part of its switch in court
software. Circuit Court Judge Mary Welker told the county
commissioners last week that Superior Court Judge Crystal Brucker
Kocher has been working hard on the transition to the Odyssey system,
and Circuit Court will benefit, as well.
The Pulaski County Commissioners have
decided to hold off on upgrades to the county’s email system, until
office holders have a chance to learn more about the proposed
changes. IT Director Matt Voltz told the commissioners last week that
the new system would make it easier for the courts, jail, and
prosecutor’s office to communicate when scheduling cases.
Public hearings over three potential
tax abatements will be held during tonight’s Pulaski County Council
meeting. Council members have recently taken steps to make the JSI
Steel and IBC Thermoplastics properties eligible for abatements,
along with a site near U.S. 421 and County Road 200 South that’s
being considered for a potential value-added agriculture business.
New Pulaski Circuit Court Judge Mary Welker has a bit of organizing to do, as she settles into her new position. She told the county commissioners Monday that Judge Michael Shurn appears to have left behind some unfinished paperwork when he left office. “There’s 300 to 400 files that are waiting on orders, and I think everybody knows that that was an issue. And as judge, I have two choices. I can just give those files to Judge Shurn and say he has to do them, or our staff can do them, make sure they get done, make sure they get signed, make sure they get filed, and I think that’s the only appropriate way to deal with it because there’s 300 or 400 of them.”
Pulaski County may finally be switching its court software, to bring it in line with much of the rest of the state. Superior Court Judge Crystal Brucker Kocher, Prosecutor Dan Murphy, and Circuit Court Judge Candidate Mary Welker met with the county council and commissioners earlier this month, urging them to make the switch from CSI to Odyssey.
A tight race for circuit court judge was one of the big attractions in Pulaski County’s Primary Election Tuesday. Mary Welker narrowly beat Tim Murray for the Republican Party nomination, with 50.6 percent of the vote over Murray’s 49.4 percent. That was a margin of just 22 votes.
The races are set for May’s primary elections. In Starke County, one hotly-contested office is county clerk. Current auditor Kay Chaffins is challenging incumbent Vicki Cooley for the Democratic party nomination. The winner would presumably face Republican Bernadette Welter-Manuel in November’s general election.