COLUMBIA CITY — The Whitley County Commissioners had their first meeting of 2019 on Monday, Jan. 7, discussing road projects and requests from Sheriff Marc Gatton.

Brandon Forrester, Whitley County engineer, informed the commissioners that he had received the agreements from INDOT for the three projects approved for Community Crossings funding from the Office of Community and Rural Affairs.

With permission from the commissioners, Forrester will also be able to advertise the projects and accept bids for the work. While those three projects enter the next stage of planning, Forrester is wasting no time in submitting an application for the next round of Community Crossings funding for the projects that did not make the cut in the last round.

“I’m not going to wait until July because it appears to me that the awards are based on the money available,” Forrester said. “And if everybody doesn’t apply in January and does apply in July, then it might not be there.”

Gatton also went before the commissioners to submit three different requests. Gatton first requested permission to purchase additional tables that will be placed in the cell blocks for inmate use with money already available in the jail’s budget. Another request involved giving a car that used to belong to the sheriff’s department to Community Corrections, which is in need of a newer vehicle. Both requests were approved by the commissioners.

Gatton also had a request to hire a new deputy for the department following the departure of one of its previous officers. The department, according to Gatton, currently has 17 deputies, but due to increased traffic in the courts and jail, the department would ideally like to bump up its force to 21 deputies to meet demand from the increase in traffic in the courts.

“At the end of last year, Judge (Douglas) Fahl also came over asking for an increase in staffing,” Gatton said. “We have to take them over to court and serve any process papers, all that falls back on the sheriff’s department.”

It being the first meeting of the year, the commissioners were tasked with electing officers as well as appointing people to represent the county on different committees and commissions. The commissioners agreed to keep George Schrumpf as the chairman of the commissioners, with Thomas Western as the vice-chairman.

For the most part, the commissioners were in agreement over the current appointees for the various committees. Commissioner Don Amber also agreed to represent the commissioners in the pre-trial services program launched by judges Matthew Rentschler and Fahl. Schrumpf explained that this board considers cases where a person may be released from the Whitley County Jail of their own cognizance in an effort to combat jail overcrowding.