During its two-hour meeting Monday night, the Warsaw Common Council approved the 2020 budget and related items, transferred funds for two police K-9s and road work, discussed legal counsel and approved a tax abatement.

Members of the council have looked into having its own legal counsel separate from the city attorney since an incident earlier this year when Police Chief Scott Whitaker allegedly pushed an elderly man down, though he contended he helped the man down.

Whitaker was not in uniform at the time, but believed the man might be driving while under the influence, though he later learned it was the man’s wife driving and she wasn’t a good night driver.

While Whitaker did not face any sanctions, officers Jason Dobbins and Ross Minear were suspended for 10 days for copying body camera video in violation of department policy and providing that footage to two city councilmen. The Indiana State Police concluded there was no need for an investigation into Whitaker’s actions.

At Monday’s council meeting, a resolution was presented to the council by a council committee for an attorney to provide legal advice to the council on an as-needed basis. No action was taken on it to give council members time to consider the resolution, which city attorney Scott Reust helped draft for council members Ron Shoemaker, Mike Klondaris and Diane Quance. The city attorney answers council questions, but is more a representative of the mayor.

Each councilmen was provided an opportunity to speak about the resolution, and six of them were in favor of the council having access to their own legal counsel. Jeff Grose, a 20-year member of the council, said at this time he was not in favor of it and he had many concerns and questions.

The resolution was tabled to the Oct. 21 meeting.

The 2020 budget was approved on second reading as presented, with the council having approved it once at its previous meeting when a public hearing was held.

Mayor Joe Thallemer said, “Remember that once it is approved, it will be sent off to the Department of Local Government Finance and they will respond with a 1782 Notice, typically sometime in December, and we will have the opportunity to make adjustments to the budget – down not up.”

He said the budget currently has a tax rate of $1.35 per $100 of assessed valuation, but it will be down from that when all’s said and done, “I think significantly, but nonetheless this is kind of our starting point.”

The 2020 budget totals about $29.6 million. Thallemer said Clerk-Treasurer Lynne Christiansen solicited spending cuts for 2019 from the department heads and those should be presented to the council at its next meeting; and as the end of the year draws nearer, cuts for the 2020 budgets will be gathered.

The council also approved the general, police and fire salary ordinances as presented, and the elected salary ordinance as presented on first reading.

The council’s nonprofit contract proposals were presented and passed. For 2020, the city is preliminarily looking to give Kosciusko Community Senior Services $20,000; Beaman Home, $5,750; Animal Welfare league, $27,000; City County Athletic Complex, $20,000; Kosciusko Area Bus Service, $19,055; KABS capital improvement match, $11,240; Warsaw Community Development Corp., $22,725; Housing Opportunities of Warsaw, $26,000; Lilly Lakes and Streams, $20,000; Warsaw Little League, $5,000; and $10,000 to a special transportation project.

All nonprofit contracts for 2020 were the same as 2019, except AWL received a $5,000 increase; WCDC, $4,365; HOW, $19,000; and Lilly, $2,500.

The special transportation project is an idea from the council’s nonprofit committee to provide transportation to city residents who do not have transportation of their own to city events like First Fridays, according to Councilman Ron Shoemaker. Councilwoman Cindy Dobbins said they’re still working the project out and are in the preliminary talking stages. KABS does not deliver on nights or weekends, they said.

City Planner Jeremy Skinner asked the council to approve a resolution to designate the newly annexed Airport Industrial Park as an Economic Revitalization Area. Going forward, the ERA would allow the city to grant any industries and businesses within that industrial park tax abatements. The council unanimously approved the resolution.

The council then heard and approved a waiver of noncompliance and tax abatement for Instrumental Machine & Development, a locally based supplier of specialized orthopedic instrumentation, sterilization trays and accessories.

Skinner said as part of IMD’s tax abatement, and as part of being new to the city, IMD “is proposing a project that will add an additional 26,400 square feet, additional manufacturing equipment in the ballpark of $1,165,000 and real property improvements of approximately $3.2 million, with an additional 15 jobs as part of this expansion.”

A news release from Kosciusko Economic Development Corp. says the Warsaw facility expansion will add up to 34 new jobs by 2022.

Per Whitaker’s request, the council approved the transfer of $30,000 from health insurance to other capital outlays for the purchase of two dual-purpose K-9s. The dogs will replace Dax and Mako.

“Both K-9s have been retired and are no longer serving the Warsaw Police Department, and both of those were assigned to our patrol division and it was a second-shift assignment and a third-shift assignment,” Whitaker said.

Money will come out of the Warsaw Police Dept. appropriation for training to pay for the training of the two officers and K-9s, Whitaker said.

Two officers will go to Vohne Liche kennels, near Fort Wayne, to pick out K-9s by the end of this month. The dogs will be taken to the officers’ homes to get acclimated for a week, and then return for six weeks of training.

“We’re moving rather quickly and we’re hoping to have these K-9s active and on the street by early December,” Whitaker said.

Street Department Superintendent Jeff Beeler presented the next transfer request, which also was unanimously approved.

A total of $247,000 from street salaries was transferred. Of that, $100,000 will go toward downtown trash cans ($30,000), salt ($50,000) and de-icing liquids ($20,000); $20,000 toward asphalt and patch; and $127,000 toward street repairs and maintenance ($50,000 for crack sealing, $50,000 for micro surfacing, $12,000 for road markings and line painting and $15,000 for paving Center and Buffalo streets intersection).

Another transfer request from Beeler was for $20,000 from cumulative capital development fund for a brick-pattern epoxy crosswalk at the Center and Buffalo streets intersection after the traffic light modernization project is completed. Beeler said the crosswalk may not be completed until the spring.