By LISA MEYER TRIGG, Editor
County officials gave initial approval to a tax abatement for a long-time local industry, but were mixed in their opinion on a pay raise for the county highway superintendent.
Buzzi Unicem USA, formerly Lone Star Industries, will be constructing a new materials handling building and storage silos to burn non-toxic waste products.
The Putnam County Council heard from Bill Dory of the Greencastle/Putnam County Economic Development Commission requesting the 1,400-plus acre site be declared eligible for the abatement, which would save the company about $70,000 in local taxes for 10 years.
The building is an investment of $600,000 and the equipment with it was estimated at a $1.8 million investment. The starting date for the project is September, with completion in January.
Local tax abatement on the property would bring an estimated savings of $44,004 to the company, while abatement on the equipment would be a savings of $46,280.
The council passed a resolution declaring the site an economic revitalization area, making it eligible for a tax abatement to be requested on June 19.
Meanwhile, the council talked about the salary for its county highway superintendent, Dave Sutherlin.
Commissioners Kristina Warren and Gene Beck told council members Mitch Proctor, Jay Fogle, Darrel Thomas, Keith Berry and Roger Deck that Sutherlin's pay is low compared to counties of similar population. In fact, when overtime is figured into highway department pay, some of Sutherlin's employees make several thousand dollars more than the superintendent.
Warren said Sutherlin had considered leaving the highway department for a job with a $50,000 salary. His county salary was $38,356, and that is less than quite a few of the employees he manages at the highway department due to their overtime compensation. Sutherlin is not eligible for overtime pay.
However, Sutherlin had agreed to stay with the county pending a pay raise, which accompanies a change in his job responsibilities, Warren said. A major task will be a priority list for bridge replacement and repairs. She cited his years of experience as a reason to keep him on the job.
Of the county's 220-plus bridges, 96 of the structures are rated at 50 percent or less. That means local motorists are at serious risk when crossing some of the structures, and it is not easy to tell which ones just by looking at them.
The commissioners said they want to see a short-term plan for bridge replacement and repairs rather than a long-term plan. The county only receives about $918,000 annually for its cumulative bridge fund.
Recently, the county has closed three bridges due to structural problems, and one bridge will get some emergency repairs in order to stay open to traffic.
Warren also noted that the pay raise to $47,945 will use money that is already appropriated for salaries, so no additional money is needed. Three employees have left the department and no one has been hired to fill those slots, so there is extra money in the overtime pay account.
Council member Roger Deck, who at one time served as the county's highway superintendent, agreed that the pay for the position is too low. But he said he had a problem with anyone a 25 percent increase at one time. Deck said he would favor the increase if it was distributed across three years.
But when it came to a vote, Deck was the only opposing voice with Proctor, Thomas, Berry and Fogle approving the salary ordinance change.
In other business, the council: