County Council Approves $500K Additional Appropriation For Bell Library

(photo supplied / Beaman Home)

Bell Memorial Public Library Director Stephen Boggs returned to the Kosciusko County Council meeting Thursday evening, and his request for $500,000 in additional appropriations was approved.

Boggs discussed the library board’s plans for renovations at February’s meeting. They include an upgrade to the lighting system and work on the library’s exterior.

He said the library board of trustees will seek 20-year bonds with bids taken at the May meeting. The tax levy will not be increased because of the project.

Council President Ernie Wiggins asked for public comments for or against the bond sale, and there were none. The Council unanimously approved the library’s request.

Councilwoman Sue Ann Mitchell discussed wage committee recommendations, saying the $2-per-hour wage increase for maintenance personnel was acceptable to the committee members once job descriptions matched the work being done. She said part of the problem seems to be lack of communication with management. Fellow committee member Mike Long agreed with that assessment.

Commissioner Cary Groninger attended the meeting and agreed with the Council members. He said the two maintenance people are working many extra hours. There is room for a third person, however, when individuals apply they either do not respond to interview requests or fail to show up for them. Groininger said the two current employees have a lot of knowledge about the facilities and the pay increase is more in line with wages offered in the community.

The Council approved the pay of $24 per hour at the six-year level with annual percentage increases only each year until their 10th year of employment, as recommended by the wage committee. The county commissioners will transfer funds to cover the cost with no additional appropriations allowed.

Also approved was the hiring of a new maintenance employee at $23 per hour, the three-year wage level.

Mitchell noted that compensatory time can only be accrued up to 240 hours. Any hours worked over this cap has to be paid in wages, if approved by the department. She said this has come to light because of a soil and water employee who is leaving and is owed comp time, noting that the employees work for other entities, but the county  pays the wages.

The Council approved hiring a conservation program technician for the soil and water district, but will not pay for training of the new individual.

Following that discussion, a change to the salary ordinance amendment for maintenance was approved for two annual salaries of $50,112 per year and one annual salary of $48,024 per year. Also approved were two transfers, from the general fund to the maintenance fund, of $2,695 each, for Howard Prater and Ben Johnson.

Kosciusko County Health Department Administrator Bob Weaver advised the Council an additional $80,640 has been received in CARES Act money and he recommended the funds be spent for a part-time public health specialist, $70,640, and for supplies, $10,000, which was approved.

County Administrator Marsha McSherry requested additional appropriations from the CARES Act reimbursement fund of $286,370, which was approved.

Prosecutor Dan Hampton requested acceptance of the 2021 Senior Prosecutor HUB grant for $20,000, which was approved, along with a Senior HUB grant cooperative agreement document.

Chief Deputy Sheriff Shane Bucher’s request to accept $10,000 in CHIRP/SAVE funds was approved. The money will be used for overtime accrued as deputies keep an eye out for school bus stop arm violations.

The council also:

• Reappointed Frank Kurth to the Lakeland Regional Sewer District, as recommended by the district’s vice president, Bob Marcuccilli. Kurth’s term expires April 2025.

• Appointed Jill Howard to the Syracuse-Turkey Creek Township Public Library board. Her term expires in December 2024.

• Heard Auditor Michelle Puckett’s February encumbering report moved an unused $2,885,115 from 2020 balances to 2021 funds.

Council members are Wiggins, Mitchell, Long, Doug Heinisch, Jon Garber, Joni Truex and Kathy Groninger. The next County Council meeting is April 8 at 6 p.m. in the old courtroom in the courthouse.