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’13 budget includes ‘Operation Dog Gone’

The Harrison County Council completed the 2013 budget process last week with its final meeting Tuesday evening, Oct. 2, and moved on to public readings of the budget before it is adopted later in the month.
The council met a total of 10 times throughout September and October, not including regularly scheduled meetings, to complete the budget.
The total General Fund budget reached more than $11.5 million, while the entire county budget includes not only the General Fund but also the Riverboat, CEDIT, Rainy Day and other separate department budgets.
The budget includes ‘Operation Dog Gone,’ which is to enhance a much-talked about issue during the past several months, animal control.
The program, which will be implemented by Harrison County Animal Control Officer Bruce LaHue and two part-time wardens, will be taken out of riverboat gaming funds at a cost of $95,000.
In a previous meeting, LaHue said the program will allow part-time employees to be paid out of riverboat to help shore up the inadequate resources and abilities to keep up with the public’s needs and, most importantly, the ability to eliminate dangers to the public.
‘I am the only animal control officer for the entire county and have been required to work 60-to-70-hour weeks for the past four years just to keep us all out of the headlines,’ LaHue said in a letter to the council.
Implementation of the program will give animal control 16 hours of coverage per weekday and eight hours on weekends and holidays.
Operation Dog Gone was approved by a 4-3 vote, with Councilmen Ralph Sherman, Gordon Pendleton and Phil Smith against.
In other budget matters, the council did not elect to give raises above and beyond the normal 2 percent to the Harrison County Sheriff’s Dept. front office workers.
In March, a large crowd gathered at the council meeting to show support for Sheriff (Rodney) Rod Seelye’s request to increase the three front-office employees to the level of the office employees at the highway department. Seelye said his employees’ wages are unfair.
The matter did not come to a vote but was agreed upon by consensus.
The budget does not include funding for an assistant engineer. Engineer Kevin Russel relayed to the council that the position did not have to be filled after Steven Day resigned to begin his own engineering firm.
The council voted to not make the schools ‘ through their $2 million riverboat gaming funds allotment ‘ pay for the alternative school. The cost of the school is about $260,000 per year.
Councilmen Davis, Smith and Sherman voted against the motion.
‘I’ve always felt the schools ought to pay for the alternative school,’ Davis said.
Davis said the schools receive funding from the state for the students who are in the alternative school, but they don’t pay anything for the services of the alternative school.
Davis said it was the county commissioners’ intention to have the money taken out of their riverboat allotment.
Councilman Chris Timberlake, who made the motion to pay for the program separately out of gaming funds, said it is a county program that saves the county money by not having to send troubled students elsewhere in the state.
Davis said it’s a good program and that everyone agrees with that, but it is a significant amount of money that could be spent elsewhere if the school paid for it out of the riverboat funds the county gives to them.
Other than the $2 million from riverboat for education, the county gives the schools $2.5 million for property tax debt reduction.
The council decided to not include a line for a study on the grandstand at the Harrison County Fairgrounds, a cost of $30,000. Timberlake made the motion to have it put in the budget, but it failed 3-4 with Davis, Smith, Sherman and Pendleton voting against.
Smith said the fair board needs to come in and explain the issue further and make a formal request.
Pendleton made a new motion to have the fair board and commissioners present a legitimate plan for the inspection and have a request for proposal. It was approved 7-0.
The council voted to keep $110,000 of riverboat gaming funds to be split between the 10 township trustees. Those who opposed the motion were Davis and Smith; they wanted the trustees to come before the council to make a formal request and discuss their plans for the money.
The first public reading of the budget was scheduled to take place last night (Tuesday) at the council’s first monthly meeting of October (it was changed from Monday night because of Columbus Day), and the second and final reading before adoption of the budget will be Monday, Oct. 22.