As Congress continues to work toward another pandemic stimulus package that could include funding for state and local government, Fort Wayne Mayor Tom Henry says federal relief could help offset personnel costs incurred because of the pandemic.
When employees – mostly in the street, fire and police departments – were exposed to or contracted the virus, other workers had to be called in to work to compensate.
“Overtime has been somewhat of a challenge,” he said during an interview Thursday.
In addition to extra labor costs, Henry said he would like to put as much federal money toward assistance for small businesses, particularly restaurants, bars and hotels.
“What concerns me most, and I pretty consistently said this, is to put ourselves in the position as a municipality to help out small businesses, particularly those in the hospitality arena,” Henry said. “I would like to position (the city) to help them not only with payroll protection and PPE but other expenses they might have incurred.”
The mayor used the Green Frog, owned by his wife, Cindy, as an example. The bar and restaurant has been closed for several months but still requires about $1,000 a month in utility bills, Henry said, adding that the predicament is not unique to his wife's establishment.
“There are all these fixed expenses they need to pay and they don't have any revenue coming in.”
It's not clear what any upcoming stimulus package will include, or what restrictions local governments will face when trying to spend that money. But Henry said there are numerous areas the city will explore, “if we're given the latitude over spending.”
“My main concern is to get some of these small businesses back on their feet as quickly as possible,” he said. “We have an obligation to do that.”
Sheriff's race heats up early
With a year to go before the official filing date, a second veteran law enforcement officer has entered the race to become Allen County's next sheriff.
Deputy Chief Troy Hershberger, 53, of the Allen County Sheriff's Department announced Tuesday at Allen County Republican headquarters he is running for sheriff in November 2022.
In December, Capt. Mitch McKinney, 53, director of community relations at the Fort Wayne Police Department, announced his candidacy as a Republican.
Hershberger, head of the sheriff's department's internal affairs, said one priority is to equip 70 officers with body cameras at a cost of about $150,000.
Hersherger, who graduated from Bishop Dwenger High school, and then IPFW with a degree in criminal justice, said he wanted to expand the department's satellite offices beyond the two currently in Huntertown and Leo-Cedarville. He suggested opening a satellite office in “the southern end of Allen County.”
He has experience on the SWAT team, bomb squad, K-9 unit and as a detective. He began his 31-year career as a police officer at the Allen County Jail.
“This is the only full-time job I've ever had,” Hershberger said with his wife, Margaret, at his side.
Several officials from the sheriff's department, including current sheriff, David Gladieux, attended the announcement.
County Commissioner Nelson Peters introduced Hershberger.
On the same day Hershberger made his announcement, the McKinney campaign issued a list of endorsements. They included New Haven Mayor Steve McMichael, County Councilman Chris Spurr, Fort Wayne City Councilmen Jason Arp, Tom Didier and Tom Freistroffer and New Haven City Councilmen Craig Dellinger and Matthew Kennedy.
When new lawmakers have votes on their first bills, both the House and Senate have a little fun messing with the members on the floor.
They ask crazy questions and try to trip the members up. And when the vote goes up on the board they all vote red, which means no, at first before switching to green, which means yes.
Last week Warsaw Republican Rep. Craig Snow had his turn. And, of course, snow was falling outside that day.
Rep. Jeff Thompson, R-Lizton, asked if Snow had spoken to the original author of the law he was changing.
“When should I tell Dad you'll be out to see him?” Thompson asked. His father was the author.
“As soon as the snow lets up,” Snow replied to laughter.
Dave Gong and Jamie Duffy of The Journal Gazette contributed to this column.
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