Berne council approves an unsafe building law

    A dilapidated, burned-out building on Jefferson Street that has been giving city officials in Berne nothing but headaches for more than a year can finally be addressed, following the city council's emergency adoption on Monday of an unsafe building ordinance which mirrors Indiana code.
    Taking action on the ordinance without discussion or comment, the council adopted the measure that had been distributed two weeks earlier for its review. The new law will go into affect in less than a month, following the required legal publication of the ordinance.
    According to city attorney Jim Beitler, the lack of a dangerous building law had tied the city's hands in its attempts to order the landowner to have the property in question to be cleaned up or razed. One councilman said neighbors of the property have complained long and loud about the unsafe conditions there.
    Beitler cautioned, however, that the new law does not mean the process of forcing property owners to clean up dangerous eyesores or potentially hazardous sites will be a quick and easy one. He said the legal process is still cumbersome and time consuming, but would not be possible without the new ordinance.

Worker's compensation
package is upgraded

    The council on Monday also took action to correct an oversight which came to light recently by updating the city's worker's compensation program.
    According to Clerk-Treasurer Gwen Maller, an on-the-job injury recently sustained by a member of the city police department revealed that police officers in the city were not covered by the city's worker's compensation policy to the same extent as were other city employees. Maller said the lack of proper coverage was not an error on the part of the city, but was reflective of police coverage carried by nearly every municipality in the state.
    After exploring various options to bring the police officer coverage more in line with other city workers, Maller said a proposal was presented to the city's board of public works to sign on with the Indiana Public Employee Plan, or IPEP, at a minimal increase in cost. IPEP, said Maller, is a nonprofit, self-funded worker's compensation program for Indiana public employers. The additional coverage, she said, will ensure police officers are adequately compensated for lost work time, medical and accidental death claims.
    The board of public works had recommended the increased coverage, and city council agreed to the proposal.
    Maller also noted that members of the police reserves in the past have had no worker's compensation coverage. City council corrected that situation as well on Monday evening by agreeing to purchase a supplemental coverage package from BFIS Insurance for the police reserves.
    "I would feel better knowing that our police officers are covered just like the rest of our employees," said Councilman Mark Wynn.