WINDFALL – A local farmer and businessman agreed to purchase needed material for the Tipton County Surveyor’s office to have work done on the George Wood drain, north of Windfall.
Farmer Steve Pierce said Wednesday he met with Surveyor Jason Henderson about needed work on the drain. Pierce said Henderson informed him there was not enough money in the maintenance account to do the work.
“If I would pay for the materials, I would get reimbursed,” he said.
Pierce was billed $6,082.74 in May, which included $397.94 in sales tax. He received a second bill for $8,074 in June, but declined to pay $528.26 in sales tax.
He has been reimbursed by the county for the first payment, except for the sales tax.
“I agreed to buy the materials,” Pierce said. “From what I understand, I was not supposed to do that.”
Pierce has a letter signed by the surveyor’s office indicating the funds would be repaid by the county.
“I’ve been working on this for a year,” he said, “couldn’t get anything done. My fields are located at the tail end of the drain. My crops would drown out.”
Pierce said the Indiana Department of Transportation has placed a stop-work order on the project because no permits were received by Henderson’s office.
“The drain has been fixed at both ends, but not in the middle,” he said. “It needs to be repaired.”
Pierce said he had been paying a maintenance assessment fee on the drain and wants to know how much was collected and where it was spent.
“Where did all the money go?” he asked.
Henderson said the agreement with Pierce was cost sharing, a practice used numerous times.
“The property owners need help on their fields,” he said. “Steve Pierce agreed to purchase the materials. We do reimburse land owners.”
Henderson said the paid sales tax is a “sticky” point, and the county can’t reimburse Pierce for the sales tax amount.
On Friday Henderson said the agreement with Pierce was not cost sharing. He said Pierce agreed to purchase the needed materials and would be reimbursed.
Henderson wouldn’t describe the transaction as a loan to the county. He said the work could not have been started without Pierce purchasing the materials.
Commissioner Jane Harper, president of the Tipton County Drainage Board, said it’s a concern that Henderson referred to the deal with Pierce as cost sharing. She said the board never approved a cost share.
She said in a cost share, the farmer doesn’t expect to be reimbursed for a portion of the costs.
Harper said Pierce indicated he would be repaid as funds become available, which is not cost sharing.
Concerning the payment of the sales tax, Harper said she is unsure what can be done legally.
“I’m convinced he [Pierce] has to be compensated for his outlay,” she said. “He was serving as the county’s banker, which was unknown by the drainage board. Mr. Pierce acted in good faith.”
• Ken de la Bastide is enterprise editor of the Kokomo Tribune. Contact him at email@example.com or 765-454-8580.