Government-as-business was the theme of this year's State of the County address by Commissioner Doug Bauman, who declared, "It's all about sales. It's making people feel good about doing business" with government.
He delivered his talk at a luncheon meeting of the Decatur Chamber of Commerce in Woodcrest Retirement Community, with some 60 people attending.
Bauman said, "Government is in the business of providing services to constituents" and "the vast majority of people have few complaints if they see accountability and services provided."
He added that those in government "owe service and accountability" to the public.
It would be hard in Indiana, he said, to top the good relationship that has existed for a long time between the three county commissioners and the seven county council members in this county. Those 10 elected officials are involved in a great amount of what is accomplished by local government.
Bauman expanded his vision to the state level by making a plea to the legislature and the governor to keep township governments operating: "leave them alone," he simply urged.
Turning national, the commissioner said the United States "has more to offer the world than ever" and the nation's problems "are serious, but not insurmountable."
He referred to the famous Four Freedoms defined and defended by President Franklin Roosevelt before and during World War II: freedom of religion, freedom of speech, freedom from want, and freedom from fear.
Bauman noted, "Today, we face coming out of a great recession, religious turmoil, and a polarized political atmosphere that threatens to give freedom of speech a bad name." However, "Americans are not strangers to tough times" and have rallied in the past to bypass impasses.
Some of the items touched upon by Bauman include:
• The county's general fund was in almost as good a shape in January this year as it was in January of 2010: about $5 million. "Fiscally, we're solid," Bauman said, thanks to "very frugal" spending by county officials.
• Last year, 96 percent of local tax bills were paid, which was good news for the finances of governments, schools, libraries, and the county's sewer and solid waste districts.
• The highway department, having seen reductions of $1 million in state and local funds in the past six years, will turn only 3.5 miles of stone roads into chip-and-seal roads this year, down from eight miles in 2010 and well down from 15 to 17 miles year ago. Bauman said the department has kept expenses down by not replacing three people who retired and one who quit or was let go, and not replacing older equipment.
• The health department is working with the county's regional sewer board to try to get a $4.7 million state grant to begin work on rural sewer lines.
• The county spent $423,000 on projects to replace or improve bridges in 2010.