Commissioners Give Go-Ahead To Begin Work On Auxiliary Courtroom

(BEDFORD) – The Lawrence County Commissioner gave Judge William Sleva the go-ahead to begin transforming the former WorkOne office at Courthouse Plaza into an auxiliary courtroom.

Due to COVID-19, court cases are backed logged and a special judge may be needed to hear cases in a timely manner.

The Prosecutor’s Office will also use the new courtroom to hold grand jury hearings.

Judge Bill Sleva

Judge Sleva is applying for a grant which should cover construction cost. The cost of construction should not exceed $50,000.

The Prosecutor’s Office is assisting with furnishing the courtroom and the recording equipment needed.

“It will not be elegant, but functional,” said Judge Sleva. “If we don’t do this we will be in a dire situation.”

In other business:

The Commissioners signed an interlocal mutual aid agreement with Orange County. The agreement allows for each county to ask for assistance from the other when needed.

Bedford Street Commission Dave Flinn

Bedford Street Commissioner David Flinn asked the commissioners to transfer the deed of two properties in the county’s name back to the City of Bedford. The lots are located at John Williams Boulevard and Garvey Lane and were the site of the former fairgrounds.

Highway Superintendent David Holmes reported crews are mowing and skip patching roadways.

Highway Superintendent David Holmes

“We are doing rough spots in District 1 and will then move to District 2,” Holmes added. “This is just a temporary fix because of the money situation.”

Lawrence County has hit the brakes on the summer road paving program while facing a roadblock in the form of an anticipated revenue shortfall stemming from the COVID-19 pandemic. 

The county’s Motor Vehicle Highway and Local Road and Street funds serve as the sources of money to pay for road paving and maintenance. Revenue from Indiana’s gas tax primarily fuels those funds via monthly payments from the state.

However, since COVID-19 hit Indiana in March, auto travel declined and gas prices plunged below $2 per gallon as people heeded travel restrictions and calls to isolate themselves at home. As a result, gas tax revenues in the state dropped.

Holmes says funding for Lawrence County will drop by more than $700,000.

Holmes will apply for a $1 million Community Crossing Grant.

Phase two of bridge inspections are almost complete. Inspectors did find cracks in Otis Park Bridge which will be welded and repaired. The pony truss bridge on Armstrong Station Road. Officials noted that it is deteriorating and Holmes believes the 8-ton weight limit will probably be dropped to a 5-ton limit.

Work continues on Bridge 150 over Mill Creek.

Holmes also praised the work of county mechanics who worked on the transmission on the county-owned road grader.

“It was pretty impressive watching them do this,” Holmes added. “They saved us between $15,000 to $20,000.

Sheriff Mike Branham

Sheriff Mike Branham reported there were 122 inmates in the Lawrence County Jail this morning. Of those, 95 were males, 28 females, one level 6 felon, no Department of Correction holds, and two parole violators.

Last year at this same time there were 166 inmates in the jail.

Sheriff Branham requested permission to donate a 2013 Taurus Interceptor to the Oolitic Police Department.

Sheriff Branham also thanked the bridge crew for helping prepare the shooting range for the Indiana Sheriff’s Association Annual Summer Conference on August 4-7. The conference will be held at French Lick Springs Hotel. During the event, those attending will be using the shooting range in Bedford.

Emergency Management Director Valerie Luchauer

Emergency Management Director Valerie Luchauer reported the county has received two shipments of personnel protection equipment including masks and gowns. The county will be reimbursed through the CARES Act.