Finances and infrastructure were the main topics of Hamilton County Commissioner Steve Dillinger’s State of the County address to the Noblesville Chamber of Commerce Jan. 25 at The Mansion at Oak Hill.
County officials had to make $11 million in budget cuts for 2012 – approximately 9 percent of the General Fund, according to Dillinger. He said the cuts were made possible with “creative budgeting and creative management.”
“We’ve struggled, just like you have in your business or government agencies,” he said. “We asked department heads and elected officials to identify budget cuts they could make without affecting services.”
Other cost-cutting measures included reduced personnel costs through attrition, consolidating the Juvenile Detention Center and reducing the number of employees needed to safely operate the facility, in addition to using $3.2 million of the rainy day fund and cash balance (the county still maintains a balance of more than $28 million).
The county also changed health insurance networks, which Dillinger said resulted in $1.8 million in savings. Like Noblesville schools and the city, the county has developed a county employee health clinic with Riverview Hospital, which will house two doctors and three nurse practitioners. Initiatives to promote healthier lifestyles and an agreement to provide prescription drugs offer an additional $800,000 in savings.
“These management decisions have potential savings of $2.6 million in employee healthcare costs per year,” Dillinger said.
Dillinger said the county is focused on three major roadway projects – 146th Street, 206th Street and Ind. 37.
The 146th Street West (Springmill Road to the Boone County line) project is planned for bid letting later this year, with construction starting in 2013.
“The project is funded with 20 percent local dollars and 80 percent federal dollars,” said Dillinger.
The county has completed preliminary engineering on the 206th Street Corridor (Cumberland to Carrigan roads) project, and has purchased four homes along the street. Dillinger said the next step is holding a public hearing this summer. The intersection of Carrigan Road will be changed to a roundabout.
“This will help traffic immensely in that area,” Dillinger said.
The final major roadway project is a study of the Indiana 37 Corridor. Dillinger said similar to what Carmel did with U.S. 31, the study is being conducted by INDOT, Hamilton County, Noblesville and Fishers. The study, which costs $250,000 and should be completed in May, is examining the feasibility of converting the at-grade intersections to grade separated interchanges.
“This corridor is predicted to fail in the next 20 to 25 years if left as is,” explained Dillinger. “You don’t address problems by waiting to the 18th year to address it. This is a study that very, very badly needs to come to fruition.”
By Robert Herrington
Robert is the managing editor of Current in Noblesville.