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Council opts to remove township assessors pay from salary ordinance

The Harrison County Council moved Monday night to remove all township assessors’ salaries off the 2009 salary ordinance. The move reversed a decision made in August by the council to pay the 12 assessors. The duties of the township assessors were eliminated July 1 with the passing of House Bill 1001, a sweeping property tax reform act, by the state legislature.
Council vice chairman Chris Timberlake made the motion to sign the salary ordinance excluding pay to the township assessors. Councilwoman Rhonda Rhoads seconded the motion.
‘I want to do what I wanted to do at budget time,’ said Timberlake. ‘They don’t have responsibilities any more.’
Councilwoman Leslie Robertson said she doesn’t think it would be a good way to spend Harrison County tax dollars.
‘Most counties have opted not to pay them,’ she said.
The state mandated the county to pay the township assessors for their Level II certification, which amounted to six people and $6,000. But, the state left the decision to pay their salaries up to the counties.
Councilmen Gordon Pendleton, Ralph Sherman and William T. (Bill) Nichols voted against Timberlake’s motion, and chairman Carl (Buck) Mathes switched his previous vote to break the tie in favor of the measure.
Mathes, who was the most outspoken voice for paying the salaries in August, said he only voted for the motion because the ordinance had to be signed before the end of the year. At that time, he also said the assessors deserved the pay because they were voted to a four-year term.
Speaking to the township assessors in the audience, Mathes said, ‘Talk to your lawyer. If you decide to sue, get in line. I think you’ve got a pretty good lawsuit.’
The total cost to pay the assessors would have been about $47,000.
In other business Monday night, the council moved to allow Mathes to sign a letter without the council’s consent from the North Harrison Community School Corp. Board of Trustees for a grant from the Dept. of Local Government Finance related to the Morgan Elementary School project. At the council’s last meeting, the general consensus of the board was to not sign the letter.
However, when representatives from North Harrison contacted Mathes the next day and told him the state needed the signature to continue the renovation process, Mathes, that day, signed the letter, which only asked for the chairman’s endorsement.
Mathes said the letter assured the county it is not responsible for any of the debt incurred by the North Harrison school district.
Nichols made the motion, seconded by Pendleton, to allow Mathes to sign the letter, but the motion failed 4-2.
‘Too bad, I done signed it,’ said Mathes.
Timberlake then made the motion, seconded by Robertson, to allow Mathes to sign it without the council’s consent. The motion passed with only Pendleton voting against it.
The council voted unanimously to replace Robert Stults on the Harrison County Parks board with Teresa Sutton.
‘I want to make sure our parks stay alive, they don’t get run down,’ she said.
Mathes said Stults, who asked to go off the board, had been a valuable member to the parks board.
The council funded, with a 5-1 vote, $168,653 out of the riverboat fund for the Lanesville connector road project. Nichols voted against the expenditure.
The council unanimously approved $20,000 out of the county general fund for care of inmates, $39,900 out of the CEDIT fund for prisoners’ meals, $2,800 out of the parks and recreation fund for park utilities and $5,300 out of the tobacco settlement fund for county health department employees’ health care.
With a 5-1 vote, the council approved $22,000 out of the county general fund for county employees’ health insurance. Rhoads opposed the motion.
Out of the riverboat fund, the council unanimously approved $21,000 for the IKON Images scanning project, and, for the old hospital, $10,000 related for maintenance and $30,000 for utilities.
The council decided to move its meeting time, beginning in 2009, from 7:30 to 7 p.m.