LOOGOOTEE – The Loogootee Board of Public Works & Safety hired a new police officer Monday.
Patrick Allbright, a 2015 Loogootee High School graduate, has experience with both the sheriff’s departments in Martin and Daviess counties. He then joined the Marine Corps, but was soon discharged due to an injury.
Allbright will fill the vacancy on the police force after former chief Kelly Rayhill was recently named the full-time school resource officer for Loogootee schools.
During the Loogootee City Council meeting which followed, the council voted 4-1 to switch health insurance providers. Carroll Rayhill, Teresa Nolley, Ron Gilbert and Tim Lawrence voted to give the city’s business to Kerns Insurance, Loogootee, while Rick Norris wanted to stick with Benefits 7, Vincennes.
Kerns Insurance was represented at the meeting by Alyssa Kerns, co-owner with her husband, while Benefits 7 was represented by Jay McNeece, who lives in Washington.
During the August meeting, McNeece presented a health insurance renewal for 2022 through Anthem, which called for a premium increase of 12.9%. He said it was the best option he could find.
Monday night, Kerns agreed with McNeece, presenting the same proposal to the council. The annual cost to the city would be $237,225, up from $210,072 this year.
Norris said he wanted to stay with Benefits 7, because the company had provided good customer service with no complaints from city employees. However, when he made a motion to stay with the current provider it died for lack of a second.
Rayhill then made a motion to switch to Kerns, which was seconded by Nolley and approved by the council.
Nolley said having competition for the position of insurance provider might “keep them on their toes” as far as providing good customer service.
Mayor Noel Harty agreed with Norris that Benefits 7 had provided good service to the city. However, he said this situation put them “in a quandary,” because they promote a philosophy of “buy local.”
Much of the balance of the meeting dealt with a discussion about the city’s Public Works Department and a possible restructuring in the future. For several years Bo Wilson has been superintendent over the department, which includes the water, wastewater and street departments.
Harty said the city used to have separate superintendents over each department, but the council decided to put one person in charge of everything in an effort to save money.
Nolley said the work load and responsibility was too much for one person, suggesting public works be reorganized into separate departments.
Wilson, who has hinted he may retire in a few years, said the city needs to have someone in his position to oversee the public works department, but also have people in charge of running the operations of the water, wastewater and street departments.
Harty said during his 10 years as mayor, no employee has “stepped up” to get a state license needed to be in charge of one of those departments.
Wilson suggested an incentive of an additional $1 per hour for any employee who successfully completed the process to receive a state license. He has four licenses himself, with the only one missing being a commercial driver’s license.
Among the suggestions Harty made in August for the 2022 salary ordinance was a new position of assistant public works superintendent. After a discussion, the council unanimously agreed to put this new position in the budget, but not to name someone for the position until next year. They want to determine the city’s financial situation at that time.
The council also agreed to pay $1 per hour more to any employee who successfully obtained a state license, but limited the pay increase to two licenses per employee.
A suggestion was made to require employees receiving licenses to remain with the city for a certain amount of time, but Clerk-Treasurer Roger Downey wasn’t sure that provision would be legal.
Wilson supported the idea, saying he did not want his department to become a “training ground” for employees who leave for better pay elsewhere after receiving the licenses.