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Lanesville awarded IPEP employee safety grant

Mike Arnold, Contributing Writer

Lanesville’s 2021 employee safety funding received a significant boost through a grant it received from the Indiana Public Employers Program, police chief Melvin (Lee) Hancock announced during the town’s Nov. 9 regular council meeting.

Hancock said the town has purchased workers compensation insurance through IPEP for a number of years, generally spending about $3,000 annually. He was aware from past experience IPEP grant funds might be available and responded to a press information sheet publicizing the program. The grant required a 20% match from town funds. He said since $2,000 was planned to be spent, the overall amount was made $10,000, with the grant award totaling $8,000, Hancock said.

The $2,000 was approved by the council during the meeting.

Hancock said he learned of the award earlier that day and believes only a handful of Indiana cities and towns qualify for the grants each year.

“We were extremely fortunate to get the grant,” he added, saying he believed about eight awards were usually made per year to entities of varying sizes. “We were one of the lucky agencies statewide that got it.”

While Hancock applied for the grant, he stressed funds can be used by any of the town’s departments, such as utilities or town hall employees, so long as the funds are committed toward employee safety. Some items already being discussed for possible purchase include lights, safety vests, helmets, flashlights, flares and cones.

In particular, Hancock said, the utility department previously expressed a need for strobe lights on the town dump truck, which is something that could also be covered with these grant monies.

“We can use it for a variety of different things,” he said. “This is good for us, really good for us.”

Funds will be received between January and March, and Hancock will record how they are spent. While the town has a history of purchasing its workers compensation coverage through IPEP, Hancock said to his knowledge it had never previously applied for one of the grants.

In making Lanesville’s case on the grant application, Hancock said he noted it was increasing in size, with annexations adding three neighborhoods. As such, he said he felt like IPEP saw it as a “small, but growing” town.

“That’s the kind of thing they (IPEP) want to get into,” Hancock said of his impression of what may have made Lanesville stand out from its competitors.

Hancock said the police department was researching replacement of its ballistic vests, which would have presented a significant expense. The grant provides funds to complete those purchases, he said, as well as adding money to upgrade eye wear, hearing protection and other items.

“These issues needed to be addressed,” he added.

Timing of the grant award was also positive. Hancock said the situation caused by COVID-19 could impact 2021 tax revenue. As a result, the added funds should help offset what may have been an otherwise lean year.