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Highway workers will get overtime

If a heavy snowfall interrupts Christmas dinner for highway workers who must take to the roads with graders and loads of salt and cinders, should they be paid overtime rates, even if they haven’t worked more than 40 hours that week?
The current personnel policy, adopted last year, says no. But that policy is like all other rules, which are not exactly made to be broken but are always subject to change with the times. In this case, Harrison County’s head honchos, the three commissioners, reassured four workers who came to Monday’s meeting that they will be justly rewarded for their work.
The workers said they have always earned overtime when such emergencies occurred before.
They made no bones about the fact that they would opt to stay by a cozy fireside with family and friends instead of venturing out into the icy, snowy mess that greeted them two weeks ago, during Christmas week, if all the thanks they could expect would be a regular paycheck.
‘I consider that to be work above and beyond the normal activities,’ Commissioner J.R. Eckart told the workers. He said they should be paid time and a half for those hours of work to satisfy the immediate problem. Then the personnel policy can be corrected, he said.
Commissioner James Goldman’s motion to that effect was seconded by Jim Heitkemper.
Highway department superintendent Glen Bube and county engineer Darin Duncan will now work out a clearer policy for the handbook.
The commissioners also heard a proposal to implement a ‘VINE’ program here. VINE stands for Victim Information and Notification Everyday.
It’s a program implemented in Louisville in 1994, after a woman was murdered by an ex-boyfriend who had been released from jail without a warning to the woman.
Victims are notified through an automated computer program.
Sheriff Mike Deatrick told the commissioners the program would be helpful here. ‘Last year we had 260 battery cases,’ he said. ‘After they’re released (from jail), we try to notify the victims.’
That is required by Indiana law, he said, but added: ‘With this computer deal, it would work out so much better.’
Sometimes officers aren’t able to reach a person, so they leave a note on their door. And, sometimes, Deatrick said, the wrong person gets the note first.
‘If the wrong guy comes home first, there could be another battery,’ the sheriff said. ‘We do have some very violent people get upset because they had to go to jail.’
The program would cost $19,000 to set up and then $1,400 monthly.
With the sheriff’s assurance that the program would be beneficial, the commissioners OK’d sending the request to the council for possible funding with riverboat human services money.
The request will be made at the council’s next planning session, Jan. 24 at 7 p.m.
The commissioners also decided to hold a planning session this Saturday at the courthouse, beginning at 9 a.m. The meeting will be public, but public comment will not be included on the agenda.
The commissioners hope to set the Top Ten priorities for 2005, in true late-night ‘Letterman style.’