County Council Approves Park Board Appointees

Three of the seats on the Kosciusko County Park and Recreation Board have been filled after the auditor announced her one appointment and the County Council voted on their two Thursday evening.

The Commissioners will announce and vote on their two appointments to the Park Board Tuesday.

In May, the Commissioners approved an ordinance creating the Kosciusko County Parks and Recreation Department and Board. It is a volunteer citizen board.

At Thursday’s Council meeting, County Auditor Michelle Puckett said the Park Board Committee met and went over the recommendations for members.

As the auditor, she said she has one appointment for a one-year term and her choice was Troy Turley, who has agreed to serve.

Councilwoman Joni Truex said there were over 25 people who sought a position on the five-member Park Board and she thanked each of them for applying.

“We, as a committee, chose, and they have accepted, Aggie Sweeney as a Democratic representative, and Rob Bishop (Republican),” Truex said.

Bishop will serve a four-year term and Sweeney will serve a two-year term.

Asked for more information on Sweeney by Councilman Mike Long, Truex said Sweeney has a lot of experience in everything from grant writing to funding, finding funding sources, management and supervision. “She also has visited every state park everywhere she’s lived,” Truex said.

Bishop is an avid cycler and has a lot of outdoor experience, Truex said. “Plus, he has a passion for the county, which Aggie does, too, but she’s fairly new here,” she said.

Bishop, being a county employee, has the knowledge on how the county operates, Truex said, which is hard to find.

She said they were very impressed with all the candidates. The Park Board is starting from scratch in creating the department, she said.

The Council unanimously approved the appointments.

Noting they had no choice but to approve it, the Council also approved a 2022 salary ordinance amendment for the sheriff’s salary by a vote of 6-1. Councilman Mike Long voted against it.

Sheriff Kyle Dukes was not at the meeting to present the amendment, but Puckett told the Council she would answer any questions they might have about it.

“This is by law, correct?” Councilwoman Kimberly Cates asked.

“This is another state mandate,” Long said.

“Unfunded state mandate, yes,” Cates agreed.

The maximum sheriff’s annual salary for July 1, 2021, to June 30, 2022, was $164,950. With the salary ordinance amendment, the maximum sheriff’s annual salary for July 1, 2022, through June 30, 2023, is $170,276. However, since Dukes did not win re-election in the primary, he will only receive wages through the end of the year.

After the salary ordinance amendment was passed, the Council approved the transfer of $2,130.32 from the sheriff’s approved holidays fund to the sheriff’s wages to fund the difference between what the Council had budgeted to what was determined to be the sheriff’s new salary.

“I don’t think we have any choice. I’ll make a motion to approve it,” Councilman Ernie Wiggins said on the transfer. It was seconded by Councilwoman Kathleen Groninger. The transfer was approved 6-1 with Long voting against it.

“The Council has no choice in this matter,” Cates repeated.

“It’s not an option,” Mitchell stated.

After the Council’s meeting, Puckett explained, “Since our county sheriff is not paid by contract, he doesn’t have a contract with the county, so he has to be paid by Indiana code. So, Indiana code says he gets a certain percentage of the prosecutor’s salary. The state salaries – which the prosecutor is paid by the state – spans on a fiscal year, not a calendar year. So every year, July 1, those wages increase so then we have to come back and do a salary ordinance and transfer to cover that new increase that the state gives their employees. Because how we budget, we don’t have that information at this time of year.”

If the new sheriff chooses to sign a contract, she said he will be paid by contract and not by Indiana code. He would negotiate that contract with the Commissioners.

In other business, the Council approved:

• An additional appropriation of $313,952 out of the rainy day fund for the communication radios.

County Administrator Marsha McSherry said, “This will allow the county to recover the ACH (automated clearing house) that fraudulently, happened to the county in May.”

Updating the Council on the public safety communications project, she said, “I was up there on the north site last night. The shelter’s delivered. We have about 80 foot of tower put together on the ground and the steel was all delivered Wednesday, so that’s a plus.”

By the end of the day Thursday, she said she believes 100 feet of tower will be erected on the north site.

They are scheduling the steel to be delivered to the central site. “We have the power there, the UPS unit was delivered, so they’ll bring the equipment down from the north site and they’ll put it all up together, the entire tower, at the central site, and then move on to the south site. So we’re seeing some progress in that regard with the towers,” McSherry stated.

• A transfer of $58,825 from the county cumulative capital development fund’s land and improvements fund to the property liability insurance, as requested by McSherry. She said this was due to an increase in the county’s insurance.

• The American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) additional appropriations as presented by McSherry. The expenditures already were approved by the ARPA committee, Commissioners and Council, but “this is just appropriating the funds for these projects that have already been approved,” McSherry said.

The expenditures include $68,460 for the Animal Welfare League cat house building renovation; $7,318, IT Authpoint license reimbursement; $10,293, IT Authpoint additional licenses; $31,580, IT Meraki Access Points; $54,691, network switches; and $100,000 for Secure Email Service.

• A transfer of $43,597 from the Kosciusko County Highway Department’s workmen’s compensation insurance to its liability insurance.

• For the Highway Department to apply for a 100% reimbursable $40,000 at-grade crossing grant. The grant, if received, will cover all the paint markings on the road that identify railroad crossings.

• For Emergency Management Director Ed Rock to apply for the Hazardous Materials Emergency Planning grant that the county does annually. He said there’s no matching dollars required for it anymore and it’s 100% reimbursable. The grant is for $20,000.

• For the Kosciusko County Sheriff’s Office to apply for a $24,000 grant from the Indiana Department of Homeland Security. No matching funds are required from the county. The grant, if approved, will help the KCSO purchase portable ballistic shields.

• For the KCSO to apply for a $20,000 reimbursement grant from the Kosciusko County Community Foundation. The grant will help purchase equipment for the dive team.

• The transfer of $10,000 from the county dispatch part-time fund to its overtime fund, as requested by Central Dispatch Director of Operations Sarah Lancaster. She said the transfer was due to staffing shortages.