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Question: Just what do the commissioners do?

A few days ago a friend asked some simple questions about county government, especially the Harrison County Board of Commissioners:
‘What do they do?’ she asked. ‘And whatever that is, do they do it part-time? Full-time? How does what they do affect me? Are they paid? Could I do it?
‘I read about them in the paper all the time, but I just don’t have a good understanding of their role, their responsibilities.’
To be different, we’ll address last things first, the ‘Could I do it?’ question: Undoubtedly, yes, but because you are a politically savvy woman, it’s not likely you would get elected here in Harrison County. Few women ever take that chance at rejection. They should, though, because even if women aren’t elected, political campaigns offer the chance to bring up key issues for debate and get the officials’ stance on the record.
Think animal control, for instance. Even though that subject has had more than its share of attention the past 25 or so years, we still have no animal control. Lots of talk, lots of debate, lots of speculating, but still no facility, no animal warden.
Continuing to work backward: This year the three commissioners make $1,615 a month, which translates roughly into $201 an hour for each of their four-hour meetings. In addition to that, the guys attend the county council’s two sessions each month, which average at least two hours each, so subtract about $50, and the take drops to $151.80. Telephone calls can take hours each month. Then, count the cost of gasoline from home to Corydon and back plus a hefty supply of antacids and aspirin for all the stress and headaches, and the income doesn’t seem quite so attractive. However, they are eligible for county health insurance, so that’s definitely a perk.
So, yes. They are paid. Now, on to how their actions might affect you:
If you own property, you will pay an annual property tax bill, which reflects in part the costs of many programs and/or agencies that the commissioners fund (but only with an OK from the county council, but don’t worry about that now; we’ll address that another time).
Without the commissioners’ approval, there would be no money for many of the things we take for granted, like police, emergency ambulance service, snow removal, road maintenance and upgrading, and so on. If you’re due any money from the county, the three commissioners must first approve the expenditure. If you want to get county backing for a youth center, say, like the Gerdon Youth Center, you would ask the commissioners first. If they approve, they would submit the request to the county council, which might be called the county’s bank.
Just figure it this way: If it has anything to do with county services, the commissioners, in tandem with the county council, call the shots.
I hope this answers at least most of the questions.
But, you’re welcome to come witness all this for yourself. The commissioners and the seven councilpersons are your ‘servants,’ after all. The commissioners meet twice monthly at the courthouse, on the first Monday at 8:30 a.m. and on the third Monday at 7:30 p.m. The council meets the second and fourth Monday at 7 p.m.

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