County Council approves plan to fill empty dental hygienist position

Last year’s budget issues continue to affect the mindset and decisions of members of the Bartholomew County Council. After extended debate, the body agreed to refill a the position of Dental Hygienist / Coordinator at the Health Department.

The current person in that position is leaving and the county council decreed that most positions in the county need to be justified before they are refilled. That edict came down after a massive budget battle in the fourth quarter of 2015 which led to the County Commissioners handing over approximately one-million-dollars in money targeted for road projects in order to make up the budget gap. County department heads are required to appear before the council to justify having that position be refilled. Positions dealing with public safety and the Sheriff’s Department are not required to seek permission from the council to hire replacement employees.

Amanda Organist, the county’s Director of Nursing, explains that one if the duties of the dental hygienist is to go to area schools to help make sure youths are getting good dental care. She explained that the county pays for supplies and equipment, while a grant covers dentist fees and certain dental work.

Council President Evelyn Pence wondered if the position could go unfilled until the summer when the county would have more information about incoming funds. That drew a sharp rebuke from Councilman Mark Gorbett, who said that the council should not be “micro-managing” county department heads. He noted that the money for the position was already in the budget, so the position should be filled. Council member Laura DeDominic says the position is vital for children who have parents that don’t take proper care of them, for whatever reason. Councilman Jorge Morales agreed, adding that the county’s budget problems shouldn’t be hoisted upon the backs of children who have no say in the matter.

The council ultimately approved the request to refill the position on a vote of five-to-two. Pence and Jim Reed were the “no” votes. While both agreed that the program, which has been in place since 1972, a good one, they said they are concerned about future budget constraints.