GREENSBURG –A longtime probation officer will serve as new director of Decatur County Community Corrections as the department begins seeking candidates to fill two other open positions.

The Decatur County Board of Commissioners approved the appointment of Ben Buening as new department head during Monday’s regularly scheduled meeting at the courthouse, on the recommendation of Superior Court Judge Matthew Bailey and the community corrections board.

Buening was lauded for his work as a probation officer by Superior Court Judge Matthew Bailey, who brought the request before the commissioners.

“Ben is enthusiastic, motivated … I think he’s going to be a terrific leader at community corrections,” the judge said.

Buening, a graduate of North Decatur High School and Purdue University, has served as a probation officer since 2004. He and the department will be evaluated by the Indiana Department of Correction (IDOC) in line with standard program assessment procedures.

Bailey noted that the probation department and community corrections are currently working closely together in order to have “seamless supervision of people who are offenders in the community.”

To that end, Bailey also sought approval for a new case manager and an additional probation officer, the latter of whom will replace Buening. The goal, the judge said, is to have a total of four officers working in the adult supervision program.

Buening is the son of Commissioner Jerome Buening, who abstained from voting on the appointment. Commissioners Rick Nobbe and Mark Koors both voted in the affirmative on the request, and all three board members approved the additional hires requested by Bailey.

The judge explained that the case manager position would be funded out of existing monies available to community corrections via fees it collects.

In order to hire Buening’s probation replacement, community corrections received a grant of $61,500 from the IDOC. That annual funding is expected to continue, though Bailey did not know if it would be provided in a single payment or divided into separate payments at the start of the new fiscal year in July.

Bailey said he hopes another such grant could fund the needed fourth probation officer in order to add the position without utilizing taxpayer money.

Highway Department update

Decatur County Highway superintendent Mark Mohr said the process for applying for a road funding matching grant from the Indiana Department of Transportation (INDOT) appears to be similar to last year’s methodology.

Mohr said department staff is about 10 percent of the way through the process of determining road ratings, a necessary component of the application for INDOT’s Community Crossings grant. The superintendent noted that bid openings and awards are slated for late summer, as was the case last year.

In 2016, the county received a $1 million matching grant from INDOT which it used to complete more than $2 million worth of paving projects.

Meanwhile work began Monday on a portion of CR 700 S.,west of Letts, that will result in a temporary road closure. Mohr said the work would likely take two to two and a half days to complete.

Another project is expected to begin soon on CR 900 W.

Mohr and other officials also recently toured a highway facility in Ohio County as part of an assessment by an engineering firm that is intended to examine the local highway department and determine the best location to meet its future needs.

“They have some very nice facilities,” Mohr remarked.

Mohr further took time to detail a recent request to change the speed limit on CR 1100 S., which, as is the case with all rural roads, is set at 55 miles per hour. That speed is to be assumed unless otherwise posted, Mohr said. The superintendent said an engineering study that accounts for speed, number of vehicles traveling the road and other factors would be necessary to change the speed limit, however, and he indicated the potential cost likely isn’t worth the effort.

Mohr noted that CR 1100 S. is primarily straight and recently paved and that such studies typically involve roads with potentially dangerous curves, such as CR 60 SW.

Lake McCoy property purchase, clean-up process continues

The process for a local resident planning to purchase county-owned property in Lake McCoy could stretch on for several months as officials work to survey the area. Decatur County Surveyor Andy Scholle and new county attorney Ken Bass will meet to discuss issues with property boundaries soon in order to move forward with resident Larry Globe’s plan to buy two lots, the officials said.

Scholle mentioned that the greatest difficulty faced so far in his research is “a lack of data” relative to the original subdivision plat established nearly 90 years ago. Concerns over rights of way, easements and mortgages are also complicating matters.

The two locations are part of 15 to 18 properties recently acquired by the county, which hopes to find ways to clean them up and begin collecting property taxes, Nobbe said.

Drone to film courthouse for school project

North Decatur Elementary School (NDES) students will soon have a bird’s-eye view of the Decatur County Courthouse and its famous tree as part of a unique learning exercise.

NDES teacher Linda Smith detailed a facility usage request that will see fellow educator Dave Sell pilot his personal drone around the courthouse clock tower for approximately one hour the morning of Monday, May 15.

The project will take place from 8:30 to 9:30 a.m. per the official request.

The drone has the capability of sharing live footage with internet-enabled devices, allowing the students to watch the flight in real-time.

Smith said the project was born out of recent online meetings with students in classrooms around the world. Those children were just as enthralled with the white mulberry jutting from the top of the tower as anyone else might be, so the teachers decided a live-look at the tower -- and plenty of photos obtained from the brief flight -- would be educational and exciting for the students.

Smith said the project could serve the dual purpose of satisfying the kids’ curiosity about the tree while also promoting Greensburg and Decatur County’s signature tourist attraction. It will also factor into classroom activities as the children will write reports or engage in other learning activities around the drone’s flight.

The commissioners unanimously approved the request.

Likewise the board gave the go-ahead for a couple to use the Westport Covered Bridge for a wedding ceremony Sept. 9.

Youth baseball parade set

Decatur County Youth Baseball participants will have a parade later this month that will allow the kids to have a moment in the sun as a new season on the diamonds begins.

Kyle Linville, a youth baseball coach, told the commissioners that the parade will begin at approximately 8 a.m. Saturday, April 29, and will last until about 8:45 a.m. The players will line up between 7:15 and 7:45 a.m. and will walk from Kohler Park on Park Rd. to the baseball fields.

“It’s just recognition of the baseball team and sponsors,” said Linville.

Linville said the Decatur County Sheriff’s Department is aware of the parade and will close off a portion of the road for the duration of the event. Staff of the Greensburg Country Club are also aware and are not opposed to allowing the parade to take place. Last year’s parade was rained out and not rescheduled, Linville said.

No formal approval from the commissioners was necessary as the parade does not make use of a county facility, Nobbe noted.

The next meeting of the Decatur County Commissioners is set for 8 a.m. Monday, May 1, in the Decatur County Courthouse meeting room.

Contact: Brent Brown 812-663-3111 x7056; brent.brown@greensburgdailynews.com