The Washington Times-Herald

February 14, 2013

Council says no to board's legal fees

By Nate Smith
Washington Times Herald

WASHINGTON — The Daviess County Council decided to table Wednesday the payment of $2,950 in legal fees the Bennington Levee Board has incurred, causing one of its board members to walk out of the meeting.

Levee board member Tom Graham, who has been to most county meetings when the question of claims came up, told the council the Army Corps of Engineers will be at the levee today to look at the current progress. But Graham said he is not sure if the corps will certify the levee in the first quarter of this year, something the county said he assured.

“I can sit here and say by April, but I can’t back that up,” Graham said. “We are subject to the Corps of Engineers.”

The county is currently suing the levee board, three local investors, including Indiana Farm Bureau President Don Villwock and a construction company for damages to the Bennington Levee in 2010. But, the county has to pay for all expenses the levee board cannot pay, according to state statute.

At question Wednesday if that includes the legal fees for the board’s defense in its lawsuit with the county. Although the county commissioners voted to approve the claim last month, the council decided to pay $85,580 in claims and not the $2.950 legal bill to Evansville-based firm Ziemer, Stayman, Wetzel and Shoulders on Wednesday.

Graham asked why.

“I don’t like (the state statute). You don’t like it,” Graham said.

County attorney Grant Swartzentruber countered by saying the county is liable to the repair, not the board’s legal fees.

Graham then walked out of the meeting.

“That’s not right Grant. You know it’s not right,” Graham said.

This is not the first time the county and the levee board have clashed. Last month, the commissioners threatened to withhold payment of $200,000 in bills the levee board owes without a timetable on repayment to the county.

Following Graham’s exit, the council directed Swartzentruber to find out a specific timeline for reimbursement and to make contact with the corps to get some idea on when the levee will be recertified. They also said they will take another look at the bill.

“Someone should know a lot of things, but they don’t seem to,” Council member Ken Solliday said.

Coincidentally, the levee board then held a meeting with its attorney later Wednesday. During the levee meeting, minutes were discussed and a question about assessment of the city of Washington for their water wells was discussed.

Attorneys for the parties also met Wednesday afternoon.

Abatement

The council accepted a 10-year tax abatement for the proposed expansion of MacAllister Machinery south of Washington.

The abatement is for real estate and personal property. The amount is determined by assessment. Last year, MacAllister announced plans to expand by 50,000 square feet and adding 61 new jobs by 2016.

“It’s going to be a great project,” Councilman Mike Sprinkle said.

Additional appropriations

The council approved several large additional appropriations, including $200,000 for the final payment for dispatching software.

Although the software has been at the sheriff’s department for a while, Sheriff Jerry Harbstreit delayed the final payment until everything was satisfactory. Harbstreit said everything was working well.

The council approved two additional appropriations for $294,616 and $226,288. These two amounts were reimbursements and had to be reappropriated to be used later.