Where They Stand Brian Baird, county commissioner

What experience do you have that makes you most qualified to be a county commissioner?

Understanding the system and the way it works, being involved in the last four years in major projects we’ve had to do. I love serving; it’s what I do.

What are the top three issues facing the county, and how would you address them?

Always budgets — that’s always No. 1. We have to continue being very frugal and pricing things out. Secondly, always looking at jail expansion, which comes up every year. It’s coming, and there’s nothing we can do about it. We need to be prepared. Thirdly, look at maintenance on the buildings. We own property and buildings that have been let go for so long that we started a maintenance building project, and need to continue to keep up on that maintenance.

What is the role of a county commissioner? What will be your goals if elected?

The role is to take care of taxpayers’ concerns, overseeing employee policies and contracts. We handle a lot, a lot more than what I thought when I first came in. It’s an everyday job. Wants to keep moving things forward. We made great strides in our maintenance department and animal control department. We’re really involved with the sheriff’s office.

Following every meeting, commissioners meet in executive session, and the notice provided does not follow the law because it doesn’t specify which specific reasons a private session is needed. Would you continue this practice? Why or why not?

Doesn’t know that the practice is not done properly. Would have to leave that question up to county attorney. We don’t have executive sessions after every meeting — typically about 3 or 4 times per year. The numbers are always listed on the agenda but we don’t necessarily meet after every meeting.

Johnson County faces a unique challenge in its unincorporated areas, which range from more rural areas on the south end of the county to a suburban area on the north end. Residents have complained about county ordinances that restrict where people can park in neighborhoods or that allow residents to shoot on their property in the Center Grove area. How can the county make rules and guidelines which will meet the needs of all of those areas? Do any county rules need to be changed? If so, what and why?

Doesn’t think that we have an issue. Been a lot of conversations about parking in the subdivisions, but the parking ordinances that we have in place are fair, and work in most areas. We’ve dealt with homeowners associations in subdivisions to discuss issues. A lot of that is determined by the homeowners associations. No county rule changes he is aware of.

Growth continues in the unincorporated White River Township area of the county, and residents have long been asking for more amenities, such as parks and trails. What should the county do to address these needs?

We’ve had some discussion on that, with the needs for trails. Given time, all of those things will be considered, but the taxpayers are throughout the whole county, not just the Center Grove area. That’s a heavily-populated area, but trails can be incorporated into the subdivisions that are built in there. Have several parks and need to put some funds in to make it the best it can be. Have the best parks and could utilize them better than what we’re using them.

Road funding continues to be an issue for local governments, including the county. Years ago, the county added a wheel tax to help bring in more money for road work, but local officials have continued to say there is a need for more funding. What should the county do to make sure there is enough money to fix, repave and build new roads?

Have to look at different and more advanced ways to fix roads. Doing that will rejuvenation process that we have now. We have 600 miles of roads to cover, and we’re always short. There’s always more money that we could use, especially with infrastructure and bridge repairs. We should use new technology to make roads last longer. Is glad the state realized we needed help there. In two to three years, we’ll notice an improvement by using newer technology when repairing roads.

This year, the county began charging an innkeeper’s tax to bring in money so a local convention, visitor and tourism board can promote local attractions and events. How do you believe that money should be spent? How much involvement do you believe county government should have in overseeing that new entity and how those dollars are spent?

Think we did a really good job in finding the right people to be on that board. The board should have freedom to make decisions. They should have the freedom to do the job we asked them to do. Thinks they’ll make good decisions and will promote the proper things in Johnson County.

Do you believe the county needs any new taxes? If so, what and what would it pay for?

At this point in time, doesn’t feel we need any. Need to keep doing the best with what we have. Council has done a really good job at overseeing budgets so we are living within our means. We’re going to make a difference and utilize our funds efficiently, like consolidating the GIS department. We’re continually looking at ways to lessen government, instead of grow it.

Do any changes need to be made to the county’s staffing levels? If so, what should be changed?

Will continually look at that as we have every year. Thinks there’s some areas where we have a little more than what we need on certain days, but then on other days, seem to be short-staffed in other areas. We’re watching customers that come in, see how we handle those and how quickly we get to those customers. 

Jail overcrowding continues to be a concern, especially in light of recent changes in state law on who can be sent to state prisons. What should be done to address overcrowding at the jail? How should it be paid for?

Looking at that almost daily. We’re keeping our eye on the jail, with the inmates and how quickly they come in and get out. We’re moving them in and out quicker and trying to do some things to help that situation. Jail expansion will probably be down the road, unless we can figure out a way to change things. We have to get really efficient in how we figure out how to pay for it. Some of that should be coming from the state, since they’re the ones requiring more inmates to be in our jail versus the state prisons. They created the issue on a local level.

The county is planning a new community corrections facility. What would you want to see in that building? And how will additional expenses, such as staffing and operating costs, be paid for?

His vision for that is to move adult probation there, juvenile services (not including juvenile detention) and make that an area where we can get people in that program help. We see a continual circle of people going in and out of jail — we’re not doing anything other than putting them back in jail. We want them to get services to get them back into jobs, out of the jail system. The other entities moving in there would be helped out by Johnson Memorial Hospital. Putting them all in the same area, and then can get help to the people that need them.