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Ag rules, 2 others set for vote

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GREENFIELD — Hancock County Commissioners have set themselves up for a busy meeting May 29, with final decisions on issues related to taxes, tattoo parlors and agribusiness.

Two of the three commissioners met Tuesday morning and introduced several ordinances, but they wanted more information before giving final approval.

Commissioners Tom Stevens and Derek Towle heard about how the agribusiness ordinance received a unanimous recommendation from the Hancock County Plan Commission last month.

Now it’s up for commissioners to give a final approval on the ordinance, which provides guidelines for business growth on farmland.

“The majority of the people that have spoken to me are bragging on it,” Stevens said after the meeting.

Stevens said he hasn’t recently heard from people who are against it. While he’s one of three members on the county’s executive board, Stevens is ready to give his vote of approval.

“The public input on that was at the plan commission,” Stevens said. “We’re not going to open that up for a public hearing (May 29).”

The ordinance regulating piercing and tattoo parlors will also be up for approval May 29. The ordinance requires tattoo parlors and artists to pay the county health department an annual fee. They will also be inspected every year to make sure they are up to state health standards.

The ordinance was discussed two weeks ago, but since then county attorneys have decided to take out fines for those who don’t comply with the state safety code. Attorney Ray Richardson said if they do not comply, they will not be allowed a permit to operate. The county can also take tattoo artists to court for not paying the annual inspection fee.

Also up for discussion May 29 will be two tax-related items that the county council has already approved.

The Hancock County Council wants to establish a separate rainy-day fund for local-option income tax money, but it’s up to commissioners to set up the fund.

The account would be established with unexpected revenue that came from the statewide accounting error earlier this year.

Stevens said he’s in favor of the idea but wants to hear more about it from a county councilman.

Commissioners also want to hear more information about a proposed agreement between the county and the eastern townships.

The county council is willing to give Blue River, Brown and Jackson townships $15,000 each to assist with emergency medical response costs for one year.

But Stevens says he’s not willing to sign such an agreement just yet. He said he is proud of the initiative in 2009 to gradually reduce assistance to townships. He said if the county assists a few townships, it is not fair to other county residents.

“The way it had been done in the past is very inequitable. That’s why I’m proud of what we did,” Stevens said, adding that townships should be self-sustaining. “Before I can support this, I need to hear from the council about where they are in their efforts for self-funding.”

Stevens also balked that the initiative to help townships started at the council level. It takes both the council and commissioners to sign an inter-local agreement with townships.

“The council, I think, had their commissioner hats on again,” he said.

While the items are up for discussion May 29, the commissioners will also meet at 8 a.m. May 22 specifically to discuss long-term expenses for the county.

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