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Court security salary raise request fails

Long-time Harrison County Councilman Gary Davis spent his final meeting Thursday night like he had so many others during the course of his 16-year career: drawing a line in the sand over a request and fiercely and unwaveringly fighting for his side of the issue.
It never mattered who was in front of the council making the request, whether it be a commissioner, sheriff or a judge.
This time it happened to be Circuit Court Judge John T. Evans, who needed a $5,000 pay increase for the newly-created and approved position of court security officer.
Evans said he wanted to commence the process of offering the job to someone but the salary of $30,590 was not adequate, so he came to the council to ask for it to be bumped to $35,590.
‘Judge, the problem is our salaries are governed by the job description,’ Davis said. ‘We had the position description reviewed and approved by (Wagner, Irwin, Scheele & Associates) and, if we want to increase the salary, we need to modify the job description.’
Evans said he thought the evaluation by WIS, the county’s human resource consultant, was incorrect.
‘Their evaluation does not match what the market would support for this position based on the qualifications and requirements I set,’ he said.
Davis said the process through the human resource firm was implemented to avoid the council arbitrarily changing salaries.
Evans said he didn’t know if the firm accounted for lack of experience or was looking at an entry-level mall security salary.
‘That’s not really what I’m interested in or what we discussed,’ he said.
Evans said he needs someone with significant law enforcement or corrections experience, and there’s not sufficient funds to do that.
‘All I can tell you is, if we adhere to the pay plan, which would be my intentions to do, we need to have the job description revised,’ Davis said.
Councilman Kyle Nix said he thought the issue was the pay plan is not accounting for experience.
‘If John (Evans) didn’t write up the job description properly, then that needs to be changed,’ Davis said. ‘We ask the department head, in this case John, to prepare a job description for a position we want to create, send that to Wagner, Irwin, Scheele … it’s independent of the county council so we can avoid making arbitrary changes in salary … it sounds like it needs to be rewritten.’
Evans said he could write a new description, based on what’s been done before, and it may come back in the $45,000 range.
‘I’ll find that description, and that’s what I’m going to write,’ he said. ‘I’ll just work backwards from what I need.’
Councilwoman Holli Castetter said she feared it would open the flood gates if the $5,000 was approved for the position.
Councilwoman Jennie Capelle said the judge can mandate what the salary is going to be and the council can’t do anything about it. She then made the motion to give the $5,000 raise and then get the job description to fit it.
‘That’s not the way the process is supposed to work,’ Davis said.
Nix said the council has found ways to make hires in the past, such as signing bonuses for police officers and anniversary bonuses.
Capelle’s motion was seconded by Councilman Sam Day.
The motion failed 3-4 with only Capelle, Day and Nix voting in favor.
‘I will say I’m for this, but it was brought to me the first time tonight; I’ll probably be able to give you your answer at the next meeting,’ Councilman Gary Byrne said. ‘I think you should get this, but we need due diligence. Give us time to do so.’
‘I appreciate your consideration, but I’m not sure how you’re in favor and vote against it,’ Evans said.
Davis said he thought the issue could be resolved in a few days.
In other business, the council approved a personal property tax abatement for C&R Construction’s $4 million expansion project at their company location in Harrison County Business Park on Schwartz Road. The asphalt plant project will add 10 jobs for a total salary compilation of $345,000. The motion carried 7-0.
The board also unanimously agreed to declare an Economic Revitalization Area for two plots totaling 147 acres near Depauw for Fred Smith’s Store Fixtures’ planned expansion. The ERA declaration must be done before tax abatements can be granted. A public hearing will take place at the council’s first meeting this month (Jan. 14) at 7 p.m. at the Government Center in Corydon.