Kokomo Tribune; Kokomo, Indiana

September 8, 2013

Public Eye

Kokomo Tribune

---- — Walking a tightrope

During a dispute between the Howard County Council and County Commissioners concerning oversight on the spending of Economic Development Income Tax funds, Larry Murrell, county attorney, was left in an awkward position.

Commissioner Paul Wyman said members of the county council were breaking an agreement reached in 2012 to provide $1.2 million for drainage projects in exchange for $200,000 in special projects.

Council members contended the agreement was for one year, while Wyman said it was an ongoing agreement. Wyman argued the commissioners should be able to spend the funds without prior council approval.

Councilman John Roberts asked Murrell if he represented the council or the commissioners.

Murrell said he represents the council, commissioners, drainage board and anyone within 50 feet of the county building.

“This discussion is getting close to a conflict of interest,” Murrell said. “I have two clients that disagree.”

The dry and dusty trail

The city of Kokomo has done wonders on the south side of the Wildcat Creek, in the trailhead area around the old railroad trestle, but they aren’t finished by any means.

Walkpath users will doubtless notice the gravel base laid down over the railroad tracks heading south, ending at a point just north of Markland Avenue. This week, Kokomo Mayor Greg Goodnight said the gravel base is temporary, and that the plan is to install a new, paved path which will run at the bottom of the hillside, parallel to the train tracks.

Duke Energy, which owns the property along South Main Street, where the electric sub-station is located, has yet to sign off on the new trail route, so the city put in the temporary path. City officials also want to preserve the rail lines for potential future use.

40 hours pay, 40 hours work?

During the budget discussions by the Howard County Council the familiar topic of employee’s receiving a paid lunch hour was raised by Councilman John Roberts.

Roberts said he could support a 3 percent pay increase in 2014 for employees, if the paid lunch hours were eliminated.

“I can support the raise if the employees are paid eight hours of pay for eight hours of work,” Roberts said. “It would benefit the employees and the taxpayers.”

Auditor Martha Lake said many of the women working for the county have children and a change in hours would cause baby sitting problems. She said it would also take away from time with their families.

Roberts said he didn’t want to micro-manage the county departments and would allow each elected official and department head to determine how it would be achieved. Commissioner Paul Wyman said work is being done on a revision of the county’s employee handbook. He said the changes would address the issues of compensatory time, overtime and the paid lunch hour.

The revisions to the handbook are expected within the next few months. It will be interesting to see what the commissioners recommend to the council.

What’s a majority?

During the lengthy discussion concerning the Wildcat Wind Farm project in eastern Howard County, opponent Grace Aprill proudly presented the commissioners with 2,000 petitions signed by people against wind farms in the county. Wind farm proponents quickly noted that there are 152,000 people in Grant and Howard counties combined, putting a question mark on Aprill’s claims of a majority.