Salary Increase Approved For Syracuse Employees By Council

The following story by Denise Federow, Times-Union Correspondent

Town of Syracuse employees will be seeing a bit more in their paychecks next year with action taken by the Town Council Tuesday night.

Council members approved the 2021 salary ordinance which reflects a 2% across-the-board increase.

Annexation Request

Ben Plikerd, Brook Pointe Inn, was present on the virtual meeting regarding his annexation request. Town Manager Mike Noe said Plikerd signed a petition that stated he was 51% contingent to town but Noe wasn’t sure what was the next step.

Plikerd said he was aware that this could take as long as a year to be finalized and best case scenario seven months, but he wanted to make sure the town was on board and they were keeping the ball rolling.

Council Member Tom Hoover said he wanted more details, like what it would cost the town to run sewer and water out to Plikerd’s property.

Plikerd said he only needed sewer service and thought he could tie in at the Burger King lift station.

Council President Paul Stoelting said, “I think we’re all in favor of it and the opportunity to expand further, we just need more information.”

Noe said he’d find out the next steps and costs and whose responsibility it should be. Plikerd said he just needed to know the town supports the annexation. Plikerd wants to add 30 cabins on the property and needs to have sewer service to be able to do so.

CARES Act Funding Discussed

Clerk-Treasurer Virginia Cazier told the council the town of Syracuse received $93,500 in Coronavirus Aid Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act funding and out of that money, the police department wanted to purchase 10 in-car radios at the cost of $54,535.70 plus $3,400 to install.

The fire department also requested over $20,000 for reimbursement for overtime and part-time pay and supplies related to COVID.

Cazier was questioning if or how to pay the fire department when it usually does not pay the fire department’s payroll, but Fire Chief Mickey Scott was told by township trustees to go to the town.

Council Member Larry Siegel wanted to know if the funds were allocated for overtime and protective gear. Virginia said she was told they want to reimburse payroll first so they’ll turn payroll in, get reimbursed and put those funds in the general fund where they can then use it to buy the radios.

There was a lengthy discussion and some confusion about how CARES Act funds are allocated and how they should be used. Council Member Tom Hoover ultimately said, “There’s no use to argue – let’s take care of our first responders.”

Siegel abstained from voting because he said he didn’t understand it and wanted more information.

In other police news, Chief Jim Layne reported that they received an Indiana Department of Homeland Security grant, along with Wawasee High School as sub-grantee in the amount of $214,375. Layne said he didn’t realize it was a reimbursable grant, which means they need to spend the money first and then be reimbursed. He asked to transfer $214,375 out of Economic Development Income Tax funds to the police department and then once they receive the reimbursement from the grant they’ll pay EDIT back.

Cazier told the council they just needed approval and in December they’ll have an ordinance to approve. The council approved the transfer.

In other business the council:

•    Approved retaining the current health insurance with PHP at a monthly cost of $29,916.64.

•    Approved an emergency ordinance transferring $14,000 from capital improvements to professional services from TIF/South Benton to cover shortages for the new road in the industrial park.

•    Approved taking $257,964.75 out of EDIT and put into 2020 construction fund.

•    Authorized Stoelting to make decisions along with department heads about staffing if employee hours or means of work need to be cut because of COVID.

•    Heard the water loss report was turned into IDEM.

•    Heard the leaf pick up season is slated to continue until Dec. 4.

•    Approved the Fire Chief paying $6,613.95 out of equipment funds.