The Washington Times-Herald

December 13, 2012

County to pay $100K more for levee

By Nate Smith
Washington Times Herald

WASHINGTON — The Daviess County Council approved several additional appropriations for more than $100,000 each, including an additional $111,000 for the Bennington Levee.

Most of the levee appropriation, $97,000, was for cost overages on fixing the north breach of the levee. Tom Graham of the Bennington Levee board told the council the costs to repair the breech were over the bid amounts, but under engineer estimates.

“If you need more to fill the hole, you get paid to fill the hole,” Graham said.

The cost overrun, Graham said, was not for labor but for  materials. The north breach of the levee is being rebuilt after a settlement with the county, the levee board and three farmers, including Indiana Farm Bureau President Don Villwock, earlier this year. Settlement talks are still ongoing on the south breach.

Because of state law, if a board such as the Bennington Levee board cannot pay their obligations, the county is required to pay.

“We do have an obligation to pay them,” County Attorney Grant Swartzentruber said.

Council President Mike Sprinkle agreed, and the council approved the $111,000 appropriation, 5-0. Council member Dave Smith was absent and member Jack Graber had to leave before the vote.

Graham told the council the board has enlisted the services of Indianapolis-based firms Ice Miller and Umbaugh and Associates to research a bond issue the levee board would make to pay the county back. Graham said the bond would pay the amounts needed faster than just regular fees.

“We really appreciate (the county) doing this, but we have to reimburse,” Graham said. “We understand this.”

The $111,000 was not the only large additional appropriation made Wednesday as two other large claims were paid. The largest, $179,978, was the annual contract with the Daviess County Economic Development Foundation.

DCEDF Executive Director Ron Arnold said the funds will be used only if a need arises, like infrastructure.

“What we do is we draw against that if there is a need,” Arnold said.

Arnold said there will be some infrastructure in the works for the expansion of the MacAllister facility west of Washington. The request was unanimously approved.

The final $100,000 appropriation was for pauper attorney claims. This request was also approved.

“I wish we had some way to bring this (amount) down,” Sprinkle said.

Part-time wages

County part-time employees will get a three-percent across-the-board wage increase next year as the council approved a raise.

This is the first time in several years the council has approved raises for part-time employees. Earlier this year during budget hearings, the council approved a $600 increase for full-time employees.

Council members were given a breakdown of the county’s 43 part-time employees and where they serve and for how much. Some were astonished how much they are needed in some departments.

“I never really thought of some part-time employees that work a full-time job,” Council member Ken Solliday said.

Before voting for across-the-board raises, there was a question of who on the part-time payroll should get a raise. Auditor Gail Doades said in order to comply with audits, the council would have to go through each part-time employee and determine if they would receive the raise.

At first, a three-member committee was tasked to decide but after they were informed this could be a violation of the state’s Open Door law, the council decided 6-0 to give the entire part-time roster the raise. Graber was present for the wage vote.

But the council said in 2013, categories will be created for part-time employees to help classify their work.