There’s a new director taking over Jay County Emergency Management.

Jay County Commissioners hired Portland resident John Hankins on Monday to take over the role from Amy Blakely, who announced her resignation in March. (She had been filling in the position until the county hired a new director.)

“For most of my adult life, I've been responding to emergency situations,” said Hankins.

His experience in law enforcement dates back to 2001, when he started as a reserve deputy at Jay County Sheriff’s Office. Hankins served as a sheriff’s deputy from 2005 to 2009. He moved to Texas shortly after and worked as a canine handler and deputy at Wheeler County Sheriff’s Department for about 10 years. In July 2020, he returned to Portland. He’s been serving as an officer at IU Health Jay since October 2020 and has also worked part-time at Portland Police Department. On the side, Hankins offers custom engraving and design work through his business, Johnny Lazer.

He complimented Blakely — she’s led the office since January 2021 — for her time as director and said she will be missed.

Hankins expressed his excitement to get started. His connections with emergency personnel, he added, will be helpful moving forward.

“(Emergency management is) a little bit different from what I’m used to, but we’re gonna do the best we can and get prepared for whatever the future may hold,” he said.

He will take over as director May 16.

Jay County highway superintendent Donnie Corn noted his department will begin chip and seal work June 6. Approximately 9 miles of stone road will be converted this year.

One of the department’s dump trucks is out of commission, he added.

His hope is to allot funds to replace the 13-year-old vehicle, which has been having issues for years, in the upcoming budget cycle for 2023. Two new dump trucks ordered last year are scheduled to arrive by the end of this month.

Also, Commissioner Brian McGalliard suggested they contribute just under $10,000 toward a new parking lot for American Legion Post 227 in Dunkirk. McGalliard noted the lot at 118 W. Commerce St. is in need of repair, and the legion has requested about 50% of the funds necessary for construction. Commissioners Rex Journay and Aker said they would like to speak with Dunkirk Mayor Jack Robbins and Jay County Development Corporation executive director Travis Richards before making a decision.

Commissioners also heard from Jay/Portland Building and Planning director John Hemmelgarn, who shared a report detailing the last four months, showing that approximately 81 permits/applications have been issued so far. That includes seven new home permits. In addition, three confined feeding operations have filed intent to build applications: Zach Louck Farms, Mulenkamp Brothers and Arrowhead Poultry.

In other business, commissioners McGalliard, Aker and Journay:

•Agreed to move the next commissioners meeting to May 31. (Aker will be out of town the fourth Monday of the month when commissioners regularly meet.)

•Recommended Jay County Council contribute $18,000 to A Better Life – Brianna’s Hope. The recommendation was forwarded to commissioners from Jay County Economic Development Income Tax (EDIT) Advisory Committee. Funds will be used to expand the organization’s new podcast, “Faith In Your Recovery.”

•Agreed to give $200 toward mental health training for John McFarland of Jay Emergency Medical Service. Commissioners previously agreed to give $2,000 toward the director’s training. The additional $200 will cover books and other related costs. (Jay County Drug Coalition will also be contributing funds to pay for another individual to go through the training and become an instructor, noted Aker.)

•Agreed to give Jay County 4th of July Committee its annual allotment of $5,000

•Accepted an annual permit for Jay County Landfill at $35,000, a permit from Indiana Michigan Power to work on power lines along a portion of county road 1150 West and county road 400 South and a $3,180 bid for paper from Progressive Office Products of Portland

•Paid a quarterly claim of $346,248 from Lifestream Services. (The funding comes through an Indiana Department of Transportation grant.)