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Engineer seeks support to work 2 counties

The Harrison County engineer wants to take on new work while keeping his current position. After nearly an hour-long discussion, not every member of the Harrison County Council is on board with the idea.

Kevin Russel, who has worked as the county’s engineer for 20 years, wants to add Crawford County Engineer to his title and become the engineer for both counties.

Russel said he would become the first county engineer in the state to become the engineer for two counties and cited a new state law, passed earlier this year, as his reason for the additional work.

House Enrolled Act 1025 increases the state subsidy for a county engineer’s annual salary. Before the bill went into effect, the state contributed $20,000 to each county engineer annually. The new law doubled it to $40,000. The state lawmaker behind the bill said this increase would encourage neighboring counties to work together.

Crawford County does not have a county engineer, but the increased funds from the state has its commissioners and council looking to hire their first engineer, and Russel is being considered as the person for the job.

Russel said he did not need Harrison County elected officials to approve a motion to pursue the position but asked for the council’s support Monday night during its regularly scheduled meeting.

“I feel like I have a track record that I am more than comfortable standing in front of anybody and defending,” Russel said.

With the additional state funding, the county would save $20,000 it would not have to spend on Russel’s salary, he said.

The engineer said two members of the Crawford County Board of Commissioners are supportive, but the Crawford County Council has concerns after speaking with their counterparts in Harrison County and found that some members are against the idea.

Council members who brought up their concerns Monday night included Kyle Nix, Jennie Capelle and Brad Wiseman.

“It’s not that I think you can’t do it; I just don’t like the concept,” Capelle said, adding that both are large, rural counties.

Russel mentioned several benefits he has brought the county during his time. It includes another $750,000 in new funds from the state for the Lanesville connector-road project.

Wiseman said all these accomplishments were done while he solely worked for Harrison County and those types of accomplishments might not happen if Russel works for both communities.

“I’ll just be very blunt. If I can’t find a way to make this work, my days here, I’m not saying I’m going to quit; I’m not,” Russel said. “I love my job and my heart is here … ”

Adding he hopes to work as the county engineer another 20 years, Russel said, “I think the benefit to Harrison County is clear, and I’m asking for your support.”

Wiseman later said, “I want to know how we explain to taxpayers in Harrison County how we’re going to pay you the same salary but allow you to work less time.”

“If I can’t give you the answer, you shouldn’t support it,” Russel said, citing that the county will receive an extra $20,000 from the state.

“I think the benefit to Harrison County is clear,” he said.

“It sounds great on paper,” Wiseman said. “I’m not saying I’m totally against it.”

Russel gave the council a draft of the agreement that the two counties would sign. In it, either county can terminate sharing Russel’s services if he doesn’t meet their standards. He added the Harrison County Board of Commissioners are supportive of the agreement.

“There are a lot of good things I can do down there that can have some really good impacts for that community, too,” Russel said.

Russel said the Crawford County Council has tabled the decision to hear how the Harrison County Council publicly spoke about the idea.

The Crawford County Council will next meet Tuesday, Sept. 10, at 7 p.m. at the Judicial Complex in English, while the Harrison County Council’s next meeting will be Monday, Sept. 9, at 7 p.m. at the Government Center in Corydon.