A memorandum of understanding approved by the Kosciusko County commissioners Tuesday will allow the county to join the Michiana Area Council of Governments’ brownfield coalition officially, enter into an agreement with MACOG and share in a $600,000 grant.

County Assistant Planner Matt Sandy said, “As you know, we are a member of the brownfield coalition through MACOG. Through the last year, we’ve been looking at the aspects of it, funding, sites.” He said the coalition is looking at trying to redevelop brownfield sites. “Us being a part of it makes it an opportunity not just for us but the smaller communities within our county, too.”

He introduced MACOG Executive Director James Turnwald, who said in October 2018, MACOG asked for the county’s endorsement of an application to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

“That was successful. U.S. EPA is a little bit of a slower agency to work with, so although we were informed in June of our award, we didn’t receive our agreement to proceed until October 1, so that’s why we’re just now coming to you a year later after submitting that application,” Turnwald said.

He said the EPA grant MACOG received was for $600,000, which will help with phase I and II assessments of properties.

Commissioner Cary Groninger said he’s been a part of the talk about the brownfields at MACOG meetings. “This is going to be a great program, I think, for our four-county area here with that grant, to be able to look at some of these properties that currently have environmental issues or are in a brownfield area. This gives us money to be able to do environmental studies, and hopefully then get additional grants or funding to actually clean them up, because this money is mainly just for the studies.”

Turnwald said the term brownfield typically refers to real property that either has the presence or the potential presence of a hazardous substance or contamination. The studies will determine if properties actually have a problem or not.

Commissioner Bob Conley asked if it was just for in the county or would it include the city of Warsaw. Turnwald explained that the easiest way for the coalition to be formed was for each of the counties to enter into the agreement and that would cover all the municipalities within those counties.

“There will be no responsibility of the county over any of those municipalities. That’s MACOG’s responsibility. It’s just you all as the county, you enter into the agreement,” Turnwald said.

The grant is for three years and there will be public meetings, he said.

The commissioners also passed a resolution to approve Kosciusko County as a vote center county. The county council approved the resolution Thursday.

In presenting the resolution, Clerk of the Circuit and Superior Courts Ann Torpy said, “I want to clarify this resolution just confirms that we’re open to the potential to the change as a vote center county. There’s not a committee formed. This is the first step we have to take to create the committee to move on and start develop a vote center plan.”

She said the plan has to be approved by the secretary of state in order for the county to move to voting centers.

She provided the commissioners with a packet of information and statistics, including how moving to a vote center county can potentially save the county money.

Groninger asked if the voting centers would have electronic pads where anybody in the county would be in the database, eliminating the need for the ledger books that voters have signed in the past.

“It opens it up to where any voter can vote at any polling location one time,” Torpy said, noting that her other request before the commissioners Tuesday was for the purchase of e-poll pads to allow that to happen.

“So if a voter happens to work at Zimmer and they live up at Syracuse, they can vote here in Warsaw and not have to race back home and be home by 6, or get up early and be at the polls at 6 in the morning because they can’t get there during the day,” Torpy said.

She said studies will be conducted to determine where the vote centers will be and how many are needed to accommodate everyone.

“The county, based on registered voters, we would have 12 to 14 vote centers. Currently, we have 38 polling locations. Sixty-five percent of our polling locations are combined with other precincts, so we’re already close to that,” Torpy said.

Going to e-poll pads and vote centers also will reduce the number of poll workers needed. A countywide election can take over 600 poll workers, representing both political parties.

She said most of the surrounding counties use vote centers.

The commissioners approved the resolution and the purchase of the KnowInk e-poll pads for $94,050, with yearly costs for service after that. Torpy said the money to buy the pads will come out of the election board budget. She’s also working with Verizon to get a deal on the JetPacs and the cellular data service, which may decrease the cost by about $6,000.

In other business, the commissioners:

• Approved the purchase of 30 computers for the Kosciusko County Sheriff’s Office. The low bid was for $36,627, according to IT Director Bob Momeyer.

“These are to replace seven-year-old computers that are running the Windows 7 operating system, which becomes unsupported in January,” he said.

• Approved County Administrator Marsha McSherry’s request for $3,750 to Masonry Solutions for repair work and maintenance on the west side of the old courthouse; and $3,480 to Masonry Solutions for repair work in the attic on the vestibule in the old courthouse. The repair work stems from damage to the courthouse’s chimney, Groninger said.

• Heard McSherry received a proposal from SDS Communications for repairs at the Work Release Center. About two weeks ago, it had a lightning strike, McSherry said. She is working to get a second quote, but wanted to approve one on an emergency basis before the next commissioners meeting. She will bring it back to the commissioners for their ratification at their Oct. 29 meeting.

The county’s insurance has a $5,000 deductible, and Groninger said Work Release got a “pretty good zap” from the lightning strike.

• Approved an ordinance to officially rename Mariposa Circle to Mariposa Drive.

• Approved Sandy to pursue an agreement with Schenider Geospatial Corp. to provide online permitting software for the county.

• Approved to accept Bluebird Acres subdivision, first and second additions, into county maintenance, as requested by Highway Superintendent Scott Tilden. The 2,881-feet road segment name is Dove Lane. It’s in Van Buren Township near Milford.