The Journal Gazette
Sunday, October 24, 2021 1:00 am

Political notebook

'Civility' prevails at EACS amid mask differences

Journal Gazette

An East Allen County Schools board member reflected on the split decision six weeks ago to remain a mask-optional district.

“While not the easiest decision for some, I think it was the right one,” Ron Turpin said during Tuesday's board member comments. “I think as you look at East Allen, we don't have nearly the angst and drama that they had for other school systems. I think we still have civility here.”

Turpin said the district is “moving in the right direction” even though he isn't satisfied with quarantines and contact tracing.

Earlier in the meeting, he was the only board member who voted against a security camera installation project affecting 12 buildings because the devices would support contact tracing efforts in addition to improving security.

Applied Technology is slated to do the work for $203,719.

Turpin said he appreciates that people in EACS are respectful to each other even if they don't always agree.

No bluffing here

It turns out face masks have uses beyond reducing the spread of COVID-19 and other viruses.

Councilwoman Sharon Tucker, D-6th, referenced one of those uses during Tuesday's Fort Wayne City Council meeting. City Council invited the Solid Waste District and Red River Waste Solutions to discuss the city's trash services. Red River filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy reorganization last week in a Texas court.

No representatives from Red River attended the meeting. Instead, city attorneys walked the council through the bankruptcy proceedings and the city's limited options.

About halfway through the 90-minute discussion, Tucker remarked that she had put her face mask back on because her poker face was failing her. She said Red River officials also had not attended a Solid Waste District meeting they had been invited to.

The Democrats on the council wore masks through the meeting while the Republicans did not, which has been the case at meetings since the mask mandate was put back in place at Citizens Square. Regardless of how many faces were fully visible, all of the members had stern expressions during the discussion.

Sanitation or public safety?

Two members of Fort Wayne City Council shared two different ideas for what they think is the most important service the city provides.

Councilman Geoff Paddock, D-5th, first brought up the notion of a “most important” service during a 90-minute discussion Tuesday with attorneys about Red River Waste Solutions' recent Chapter 11 bankruptcy filing.

“In my view, perhaps the most important service we provide to the community is sanitation,” Paddock said. “Law enforcement and firefighting and all of those things are right up there, but if we don't have a proper way to deal with sanitation, we could be, you know, in extreme trouble.”

No one immediately disputed Paddock's opinion. All City Council members shared concerns about trash collection problems worsening as Red River goes through its reorganization.

Councilman Glynn Hines, D-at large, brought the comment up later before City Council approved the three-year union contract with the Fraternal Order of Police Labor Council. The agreement matches the 5% raise for each of the next three years that the council recently approved for the local chapter of the Patrolmen's Benevolent Association.

“In an earlier discussion about essential services, I would say public safety is more essential than garbage even, so thank you for serving,” Hines said with a smile.

Honoring John Caywood

Allen County Council President Kyle Kerley shared some kind words about John Caywood, “a devout public servant of 30 years.”

Caywood, 53, county building commissioner, died Oct. 14. In a statement shared Monday, the Allen County commissioners referred to Caywood's death as “sudden and unexpected.”

Kerley asked everyone present at Thursday's meeting to “remain standing for a brief memoriam” after the Pledge of Allegiance.

“He did a lot to modernize the department, and he's a big part of the reason why Allen County has had the success that it has had recently and the continual growth we've had,” Kerley said before the moment of silence. “He was also a man of faith, so I know he is looking down on all of us today in a much better place.”

Final gavel ahead of 'a big step'

Outgoing Allen County Councilman Joel Benz, who was the council's president in 2020, got to hold the gavel one last time during his final meeting Thursday.

Benz resigned this month after accepting the position of executive director of Three Rivers Ambulance Authority. Benz, who was a paramedic for the authority and Parkview Hospital, has 20 years of emergency medical service experience.

“He's taking on a big step,” said Councilman Kyle Kerley, the council's current president. “With that, with the permission of the vice president, I would like to turn over the gavel for the remainder of the meeting to Councilman Benz.”

Benz immediately started laughing as he and Kerley switched seats.

“Surprise, surprise,” Councilman Tom Harris said. “He did not know this was coming.”

Devan Filchak and Ashley Sloboda of The Journal Gazette contributed to this column. 

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