County Council Approves Salary Changes, CARES & ARP Expenditures

Kosciusko County Courthouse. (Photo: Nick Deranek/News Now Warsaw)

Several county departments presented salary ordinance amendments to the Kosciusko County Council Thursday evening, including one for a new position at the County Highway Department.

Highway Superintendent Steve Moriarty said he met with the county’s wage committee previously, and a few of the Council members met with him a couple times so he could explain his department’s need for the new position of a technology coordinator.

The diagnosing of equipment started about a year ago, he said, and they tried to solve some issues they had in-house.

“So we got diagnos(tic) equipment and had one guy (Mike Hoover), who was a truck driver, come in and start diagnosing our equipment,” Moriarty said. One thing led to another with keeping track of stuff.

“This position, we used to have three guys in the drainage office six years ago and we didn’t rehire when two of them left. One being me, I moved up,” he said, and another guy died. “So we’re down in the office. And with the upcoming new way to do things, I think it would be beneficial, not only to us but to the County Highway to save us money in the long run with programming. He would do all three together.”

Councilwoman Sue Ann Mitchell said Hoover was a programmer before he came to the County Highway Department and he created some “great” programs at the Highway Department. Moriarty said that was correct.

Councilwoman Joni Truex said, “We had the opportunity to go out and actually had this gentleman demonstrate exactly what he has created. I’ll tell you, his programs are user-friendly. He makes sure that they’re all customized all the same and he has a lot of talent.”

She said he could help the county save a lot of money.

The Council approved the salary ordinance amendment for the technology coordinator at $59,104.

Moriarty then presented a salary ordinance amendment for an administrative manager at $51,031 and another one for the office manager at $48,693. He said the positions have changed with more job requirements. The Council approved both of those.

County Recorder Joetta Mitchell requested the Council’s approval for the affidavit she was filing to use her department’s perpetuation fund to supplement expenses and three salaries in her office. Mitchell said she added a chief deputy and a few things like a plat scanner this summer. Her request was approved.

She also presented a salary ordinance amendment for a recorder deputy at $37,506 annually. Mitchell said one of her employees left and was replaced with another woman from another office who is a slightly higher pay grade.

Superior Court II Judge Torrey Bauer presented salary ordinance amendments for a court security/bailiff position for Circuit and Superior I and IV and a court security/bailiff position for Superior II and III. Both annual salaries are at $47,137. Mitchell said at the last Council meeting, they did approve that they could do it and then there was some discussion regarding the number of hours, but they worked through that. Bauer said he knows the bailiffs work longer than 40 hours a week. Bauer’s request was approved.

Prosecutor Dan Hampton talked to the Council about the Senior Hub grant, which the county has had for several years. “The purpose of the Senior Hub grant is to allow the special prosecuting attorney, whoever that may be, to handle child support IV-D cases throughout the northern region of the state of Indiana, which our office is appointed by the Indiana Prosecuting Attorneys Council to do that for the $20,000 grant that is given to us annually.”

There were some issues with how the work was being carried out and when. While he wants to provide the service for the state, he said the caseworker doing Senior Hub was willing to do whatever they suggest but wants to keep doing the work and enjoys it. Hampton and the Council discussed, at length, how to continue on with the grant and the position. By the end of the 23-minute discussion, the Council approved 4-1 the county to continue accepting the Senior Hub grant, and on a year-long trial basis, operate in a similar fashion to Johnson County. The Senior Hub clerk will work on Senior Hub cases for 7.5 hours on Mondays, when there is work to be done, and then do her county work Tuesday through Friday at 9.5 hours a day.

Councilman Jon Garber voted against it because he wasn’t in favor of the county employee working from home on the Senior Hub cases. Hampton told him he would have her work at her office as often as possible.

Sheriff Kyle Dukes had three things to present to the Council, beginning with the same commissary report he previously gave to the County Commissioners. With the money from the jail commissary, he said his department purchased body armor that stops pistol and rifle rounds for $4,562.24; body cameras for $19,145 for 36 merit officers; repainted the front office and provided new desks and office equipment for three employees for $10,542.28; two vehicles for the detective bureau and one for patrol, which they are waiting on; emergency lighting and equipment for the vehicles for $17,440.62; and work release director wage and benefit package first payment of $42,500; and specialized training for the Kosciusko County Narcotics Enforcement Team (NET 43) and SWAT for $6,835.

As of June, the balance of the commissary fund, he said, was $339,357.49. As of Thursday afternoon, Dukes said it was $303,976.29.

He then requested to apply for a $24,000 grant from the Patrick Leahy Bulletproof Vest Partnership to provide all 36 merit officers with bulletproof vests. The request was approved.

Finally, he made a request to transfer $11,000 from the sheriff paid holidays fund to the longevity fund. Dukes said in the past the longevity wasn’t used much so when 2021 was budgeted, he reduced it. This year, the longevity was short. The transfer was approved.

County Administrator Marsha McSherry made a request for an additional appropriation in the CARES Act wage reimbursement for $72,585.

“I believe you received the list. This is for latex gloves, sanitizing materials and COVID testing site, as well as the company that comes in and sprays and disinfects when we have a positive case,” she explained.

The additional appropriation was approved.

Later in the meeting, McSherry said the American Rescue Plan (ARP) Committee consists of Mitchell, Councilman Ernie Wiggins and Commissioner Cary Groninger as voting members and herself and County Auditor Michelle Puckett as non-voting members. In May, the county received half of its dispersement of about $7.4 million. To receive those federal grant dollars, a Committee had to be formed.

“I presented to that Committee the Public Safety Communications Project – the tower portion expense. And I had a letter from our consultant that said that is an approved expenditure. So we took the approved expenditure from the CARES Act Committee to the Commissioners. They approved it and now I’m bringing it to the Council and we get it approved by the Council to use these ARP dollars for the expenditure. So that’s what we’re here this evening to do,” McSherry said, noting the tower portion of the project was for approximately $1.28 million.

There are three towers – one at the Highway Department, one at Claypool Elementary School and the other northeast of Dewart Lake.

The county will receive the other half of its ARP funds in mid May, receiving a total of about $15.4 million. The county has until 2024 to obligate funds and until 2026 to pay the funds out, Puckett stated.

The Council approved McSherry’s request. By spending the money out of ARP, the county saves money in its Economic Development Income Tax fund where the money originally was going to come from.

There’s an Indiana Code that basically says during the first Council meeting in August, the Council is required to review each taxing unit’s levy limits in the county and make recommendations, Mitchell reminded the Council. She read a statement from the Council, which she said was “very similar” to last year’s.

The statement says, in part, “We support taxing units’ efforts to collect what is needed for the unit to operate successfully with the least impact to taxpayers. The Council does not support taxing units having large reserves with no plan, purpose or intent to spend. The Council encourages each taxing unit to look seriously at their budgets and determine if proposed levies are reasonable. If cash balances on hand are in excess of what is needed to operate for one year, the maximum levy should not be needed unless you have plans for a large project.”

The statement also provides a list of steps for the taxing levies to consider.