The president of the Purdue Master Gardeners Association, Harold Diedrich addressed the Marshall County Council last week with a citizen taxpayer concern.
Diedrich questioned if the 2024 County Budget had been approved and if the reduction of services by Purdue Extension was reflected in next year’s budget. He also explained that he wouldn’t have attended the County Council meeting if a simple promise of a small deliverable had been fulfilled.
Diedrich went on to tell the council he had been demanded to attend a meeting by registered letter summons as president of the Master Gardeners to discuss the roles and expectations that the Master Gardner Association had with Purdue Extension. He said the Purdue reps showed up 20 minutes late. He contends they didn’t show the level of respect that volunteers deserve, and after a cooperative exchange of duties between Purdue Extension and the Master Gardeners they signed a commitment guideline. Once Purdue found out Mr. Diedrich was attending the County Council meeting to express his concerns he said Purdue Extension hasn’t completed a single item on the commitment guidelines.
Diedrich told the council, “After all the demands, lack of cooperation, non-delivery of promises I was bantering for cooperation with my extension agent and said I’d be 100% or more if they just delivered what they had promised.” He went on to say he was threatened by a Purdue Extension Director Josh Winrotte and warned that he would be removed as a Master Gardner volunteer for not taking director and violating adult expectations and not holding the values of the Master Gardner Program.
Mr. Diedrich asked County Council members three questions.
- Has the 2024 budget been approved?
Council President Jesse Bohannon told Mr. Diedrich the 2024 budget was approved at their last meeting.
- Can a contracted service be held accountable when the service level performance declines?
Councilwoman Nicole Cox addressed the question saying, “Yes. There needs to be some accountability. I’ve actually addressed with Josh (Winrotte the Area 8 Director of Purdue Extension). We are going to be requesting that a quarterly update be brought to us so that we can see what is actually happening at the Extension.”
Cox went on to say that Marshall County hasn’t had an active 4-H Educator for over 20 months and the county doesn’t have a true department head.
- Are the staff in the office of Purdue Extension Office Purdue or Marshall County employees?
The educators are Purdue employees, and their support staff are county employees.
Diedrich suggested hiring resources to fill the gaps.
Councilmember Tim Harman asked council attorney Jamie O’Brien about the statutory language for Purdue Extension. He was told the council handles the funding, but the commissioners are the ones to approve the contract. Harmon asked what the county’s recourses are if a service provided is too aggressive or passive in their services. He suggested a pathway using the county’s state representatives to assist with major issues if the extension employees aren’t cooperative. The attorney suggested reviewing a copy of the current contract with Purdue for services provided and checking to see if they are providing the services the county is paying for.
County Auditor Angie Birchmeier said the commissioners review an annual sign a contract for extension services with Purdue. She said they haven’t seen the 2024 contract yet.
Council member Will Patterson thanked Mr. Diedrich for bringing the issue to them and for his time and talents in volunteering.
During the Public Comment portion of the Council meeting, an area director from Purdue addressed the council and said he wanted to clear up a few inaccuracies and get on the agenda for the December meeting to discuss the services provided by Purdue.