COUNTY NEWS: Voting machine try-outs; health clinic money; septic fee discussion

Voting machine try-outs scheduled for October

Brown County voters are encouraged to come to the library next month to try out several different types of voting machines and give feedback to the Brown County Election Board.

Vendors from several different companies that are vying for Brown County’s business will be set up in the lower level of the Brown County Public Library on Wednesday, Oct. 9 between 4:30 and 7:30 p.m.

The election board could make a decision on which vendor it will use as early as the next evening, Thursday, Oct. 10, its regularly scheduled meeting.

The next time most Brown County voters will vote again will be in the spring of 2020. Only in-town Nashville residents will have an election this fall. The town’s election board has made a decision separately on which types of machines its voters will use in November.

Brown County Clerk Kathy Smith will be inviting as many vendors to bring machines to this equipment show as possible.

Many machines will include a voter-verified paper auditing trail — a way that voters can check their choices on paper — which will be a requirement by 2029.

Even if vendors cannot make it to the show to exhibit their machines, they will be invited to send proposals to the Brown County Election Board.

Brown County is no longer in a contract with an election machine vendor, so it can make a change this year if board members wish to do so.

In addition to the actual voting machines, the county may be in the market for new pollbooks, Smith said. Its three-year agreement with Election Systems & Software (ES&S) to maintain the electronic pollbooks that it has now was up in August. They need a software update, and there was some confusion about whether or not that could be done on the machines the county has.

The election board planned to hear from ES&S about the pollbook issue at its Sept. 12 meeting.

Health board moves to protect ‘health clinic money’

The Brown County Health Board turned down a request from county officials to apply more than $100,000 in an unused fund to the county’s ambulance bill.

Health Officer Dr. Norman Oestrike told the health board in July that he’d been approached by county council members about “donating” the $120,000 or so that sits in the health care clinic fund to help pay for ambulance service.

At the time, the county was coming up about $100,000 short to pay its ambulance bill. County leaders have since moved money around in different ways to make up what was owed.

The health board decided against giving this money to the county for that purpose.

Oestrike said that some of the money had come from the health clinic that the county used to run in downtown Nashville. After a couple unsuccessful attempts to reopen that clinic, the money was returned to the county, where it has sat unused for several years.

Some of the money had been donated specifically for local health care, said health board member Cathy Rountree. She was concerned that if it were given to the county council or commissioners for a one-time payout on a bill, it wouldn’t have the impact it was intended to have.

Audience member Jim Schultz suggested that the money be moved into a fund at the Brown County Community Foundation so that perhaps it could be used to provide scholarships to the Brown County Health and Wellness Clinic, which is operated by Brown County Schools. The health board liked that idea.

Fee increase requested for self-installed septics

The Brown County Board of Health is considering a request to raise fees for people who install their own septic systems.

The request came from the county’s septic inspectors, Ernie Reed and John Kennard. Reed said that people who install their own systems — and don’t do that sort of work for a living — often require more inspections. Even though they have to pass a written test on state and county laws, those one-time installers often require “twice as much time” from the inspector as professional installers, Reed told the health board.

The permit fee is currently $200; Reed asked it to be doubled. They also pay a $100 licensing fee; that would stay the same.

A $50 “reinspection” fee also can be charged, but the department hasn’t done that much, Reed said. It will now be charged if inspectors go to a site and find a gate closed or some other obstacle that prevents them from doing their work, said Office Manager Judy Hess.

Board members weren’t ready to vote at their last meeting in July because some of them had questions about the fairness of raising the fee and whether there were any other ways to structure it. The board’s next meeting will be Tuesday, Sept. 17 at 5 p.m. at the County Office Building in Nashville.