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Council ‘fixes’ part-time employee pay vote

The Harrison County Council Monday night admitted it had erred at its last meeting by approving more money for a part-time position than allowed by county ordinance. The council corrected its mistake.
‘We need to rescind the motion adopted at the last meeting,’ said Chairman Gary Davis, referring to the $13 hourly pay approved for a Harrison Circuit Court secretary whose hours would be reduced from 40 to 30 at the same weekly pay.
Also, the council violated a standing rule not to make financial decisions at its planning session.
‘We got doubly carried away,’ Davis said. ‘I accept the responsibility as chairman. I should have never allowed it.’
Councilman Kenneth Saulman, who made the original motion, immediately moved to rescind it, and it was seconded by Carl Duley.
Duley said, ‘If you never make a mistake, you never do anything. We’re not perfect, but we’re here to fix it.’
Davis said the maximum hourly rate for part-time county employees is $10.80, which is governed by an ordinance established last year during budget sessions.
Judge H. Lloyd (Tad) Whitis said the council must abide by its ordinance. Had he known the ordinance existed, he would not have asked to deviate from the rules.
‘Obviously, they can’t do that,’ Whitis said, adding he wasn’t told about the ordinance when he asked at the auditor’s office how to change the employee’s pay.
The judge said two things should be learned from this incident: a pay scale for county workers should be considered, and the county’s ordinances need to be compiled in a reference book, one for the council and another for the commissioners.
‘This whole flap could have been avoided,’ Whitis said.
In another employee matter, the commissioners asked the council to consider hiring a full-time maintenance person to oversee jobs at each of the county-owned buildings: the courthouse, annex, old jail, justice center and highway garage.
And they want that person hired yet this year so he or she can become familiar with the new mechanical systems as they are installed during the $4.5 million downtown courthouse and old jail renovation.
In the past, problems have been fixed by outside contractors, which gets expensive, Commissioner J.R. Eckart told the council.
The new employee would also supervise maintenance workers at each of the buildings, he said.
The council took no action but said it would consider the matter.
In another matter, the council and commissioners disagreed over the use or non-use of funds in the cumulative bridge account, which is funded with a tax rate, to replace two small bridges, one on Pfrimmer’s Chapel Road and another on Rocky Creek Road.
The commissioners wanted to use riverboat infrastructure money instead of cumulative bridge funds, which, they said, has a reserve of $500,000 in investments, as recommended by the state to handle emergency repairs.
Councilman Carl (Buck) Mathes said he believes the funding should come from the bridge account so the commissioners don’t move ahead ‘faster than their means,’ at the expense of other needed road projects.
‘We keep chiseling away at the infrastructure money, and you all are less apt to ask for some county road projects,’ he told the commissioners.
Eckart said, ‘It’s a planned replacement rather than waiting until it collapses, and there’s no money in ‘cum’ bridge to do this.
‘We’re not willing to dip into emergency reserves.’
Duley pointed out that the county’s finances are strong enough to handle emergencies. ‘We have a pretty good back-up, as you know,’ Duley said to Eckart and Commissioner James Goldman.
The council denied the request from riverboat funds for the bridge projects.
‘The citizens need to understand that we have the money,’ Davis said, instructing the auditor to advertise the spending from the cumulative bridge account.
Eckart and Goldman told the council they won’t spend the money from reserves so the projects could be delayed until the bridge fund builds up, once the late tax bills can be sent out and the funds collected.

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