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Prosecutor looks for way to retain employees

Schalk’s plan to split salary of vacant position
Kaitlyn Clay, Staff Writer, [email protected]

Harrison County Prosecutor J. Otto Schalk approached the county council Monday evening to discuss some restructuring of employment positions and salaries that he hopes to do within his office.

In the past 10 years, Schalk noted he has lost seven deputy prosecutors and eight investigators to higher paying jobs in and outside of the county. He said he was afraid that if compensation for his team was not raised to a competitive rate, he could begin to lose others as well.

Schalk hopes to raise those rates by still saving the county money, something that intrigued the council.

Soon, two deputy prosecutor positions will become open at the prosecutor’s office, and Schalk intends, if approved by the council, to hire only one new person to fill one of the positions. By eliminating the other position, he intends to distribute that salary to the rest of his team.

“I am not asking for more money, and I am not asking for a new position,” Schalk said. “I am just asking to reallocate previously allocated money.”

He explained to the council, that because it funds the health care plans for county employees, this would save the county about $30,000 it would normally spend on an average family health care plan for this position.

“A lot of what we accomplish in our office is because of what my team does,” Schalk said. “I want our prosecutor’s office to be a benchmark for the state, and none of what we do would be possible without the people I work with. I ask that they receive compensation that makes them want to stay here. I can do this while still saving the county money. This is a win-win for many people and will save our taxpayers dollars.”

A few of the council members had questions regarding where these salaries fell on an employee salary evaluation the county had completed by a consulting firm, but Schalk said it would be hard to compare due to the amount of additional tasks his employees do compared to the evaluated positions.

“One of two things is going to happen: either we will pay around $60,000, which (Schalk) will spread out amongst his staff or he will hire someone, which he has every right to do, and we will have to pay around $90,000,” Councilman Brad Wiseman said. “It’s pretty simple math to me.”

Wiseman then made a motion to approve Schalk’s request, which was seconded by Richard Gerdon. The motion passed 6-0, as councilwoman Jennie Capelle was absent.

Gregory Mustric, a representative from Woda Cooper Companies, an integrated real estate firm, approached the council to explain his intention of a potential project.

Mustric had approached the Harrison County Board of Commissioners at its most recent meeting, where he explained the company’s hope in constructing a senior housing development along Poolside Drive NW off of S.R. 337 in Corydon. He explained to the council, however, that the idea has since evolved to a townhouse development that would allow both families and senior living to occupy the units.

Mustric explained that first the project would need approval from the rental housing tax credit program, which would help Woda Cooper Companies finance the project; if that is approved, construction could begin as early as next summer.

Also at Monday night’s meeting, Harrison County Coroner Jeremy Mc-
Kim asked for an additional $40,000. He expressed he had asked for $75,000 in his 2021 budget but was only allocated $35,000.

McKim noted he is only two autopsies behind where he was at this point last year and knows he will need that money to complete the year. The council is expected to vote on this matter at its next meeting.

In old business, the council approved a motion to appropriate insurance funds for a repair on a highway department vehicle. It also unanimously approved the purchase of a lawn mower for the county parks department.

The council’s next meeting is scheduled for Monday, July 12, at 7 p.m. at the government center in Corydon.