The Washington Times-Herald

Local News

March 14, 2013

Council tables legal bills - again

WASHINGTON — The Daviess County Council again tabled legal bills brought to them by the Bennington Levee board.

The council unanimously voted Wednesday to table $11,837 in legal bills to Evansville-based attorneys Ziemer, Stayman, Wetzel and Shoulders for its defense of the board against the county.

Council members and County Attorney Grant Swartzentruber believe the claims to be outside of their fiduciary authority.

"I think we should table those (claims) until we hear from them later," council member Jo Arthur said.

The levee and the county are still at odds due to the levee¹s breach in 2010. Two weeks ago, the county accepted a $200,000 settlement with the levee board and four other defendants for the south breach of the levee.

Although settlement figures have been made for both the north and south breaches to the levee, the county has been saddled with $645,000 by the levee board to repair the levee and bring it to compliance with the Army Corps of Engineers.

State law mandates that if the board cannot meet its duties, the county will pay the bills. So far, the money has come from county's riverboat fund.

Auditor Gail Doades has told the council the fund is close to empty.

"I have no problem paying if that gets the levee certified but I don't want to pay their attorneys anymore," Arthur said.

Bennington Levee board member Tom Graham was not present at the meeting.

Last month, he walked out of a council meeting when a legal claim from the board was tabled.

Council member Mike Sprinkle, who also owns land near the levee, said the Corps of Engineers was at the levee last week for a preliminary visit.

Sprinkle said the levee work had some minor issues to fix.

Swartzentruber said he and attorneys for the defendants, including Indiana Farm Bureau President Don Villwock, and the levee board are finishing the formal settlement letter. The council will vote on the formal settlement in April.

Interpreters

County Health Nurse Kathy Sullender asked for permission to enter a contract for certified interpreting services.

Sullender said the service is telephone based and available in a number of languages, including Burmese. She said it has been difficult to find an interpreter and has to ask for help from children in the past. Last year, a Burmese resident translated for free but has since moved on.

"Currently, we don't use translators for very long," Sullender said.

The service costs $1.10 a minute and is used by Daviess Community Hospital for their needs. If approved by the state, grant funding will be used to pay for the service.

The council unanimously voted to enter into the contract.

The health department also asked for an additional appropriation for the new public health educator, Cheryl Jones. The appropriation was for equipment.

Sullender told the council that Jones will soon be setting up CPR and first aid classes in the Amish and Mennonite communities.

"There is a lack of training in the community and with the time it takes to get out there, we've seen some very poor results," Sullender said.

The request was approved.

Extra inmates

Sheriff Jerry Harbstreit told the council the state Department of Corrections might be sending an additional 35 inmates to the Daviess County Security Center later this month. Currently, the county has eight to 12 state prisoners in the jail.

The state pays the county a fee for the inmates. Daviess County is the only jail in the state with a certified education program, the RARE program, that takes time off a prisoner¹s sentence.

County garage

Council president Mike Myers told the council he toured the old county garage on S.E. Third Street with Clerk Sherri Healy. He agreed with Healy and the Daviess County Commissioners that something needs to be done about the storage issue at the garage.

"Definitely, there is a spider problem down there and now it is up (at the courthouse)," Myers said.

The courthouse and the garage are to be fumigated for spiders and other insects later this month during Easter weekend. For the future, Myers said a long-term solution needs to be sought.

West Boggs golf

West Boggs Superintendent Mike Axsom told the council he plans to seek an additional appropriation next month to add a golf course manager to the park.

Axsom said the course, Lakeview, was until this year under the management of the Byrd family and they paid a yearly lease to the park. The contractor, Mike Byrd, died last summer in an automobile accident.

"In talking with them and the park board, it became evident to take the golf course back in our control," Axsom said.

He said Byrd's son, Eric, will be retained as a manager of the course but the board will retain ownership. Axsom said the park's revenue will jump higher with the golf course.

"It's reasonable to think if they made money (from the course), we can too," Axsom said.

Council members will vote on a $68,800 additional appropriation next month.

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