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Thursday, Apr. 28, 2016

Council explores savings options

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

With current budget reductions handed down from the state, county council members have been forced to look at some interesting ways to run the county.

Reductions include $700,000 in the highway department and $600,000 in the county's operating fund. Council members agreed action needed to start with the 2009 budget.

Council member Keith Berry noted it would be a matter of separating needs from wants.

"We have to get down to needs," he said.

To save the county from bankruptcy, the council decided to assemble a fact-finding committee consisting of three council members -- Nancy Fogle, who will chair the committee, will be joined by Opal Sutherland and Roger Deck -- one county commissioner and a concerned taxpayer.

The committee will review each department's budget to look for any possible reductions. The group will report its findings at the council meeting in June.

While the council is desperate to figure out how to attain this massive reduction, it did vote to back the commissioners on a hiring freeze. The freeze has been put into place in part to help the highway department with its $700,000 reduction.

Commissioner president Gene Beck was present at the council meeting and said a meeting was held Tuesday afternoon with employees of the county highway department. Employees were told should they receive another job offer to take it.

Beck noted Putnam County is not alone in the loss of funds from the state. But it means the county may not be able to purchase any more salt or make necessary road repairs.

Roger Gibson, who was present in the audience, approached the council about two roads near the county line in need of repair. He was referring to approximately three to five miles of CR 895E and CR 900N, which are currently considered the worst in the county.

Beck said the highway department would grind the roads when the weather becomes dry enough. It's the only thing that can be done, he added.

It would cost $10,000 to $15,000 to patch both roads, which is money the highway department doesn't have.

However, the department will be replacing a closed bridge on S.R. 236 near Roachdale. The $75,000 was appropriated from the cumulative bridge fund.

In addition to budget discussions, council members discussed the tentative approval process. It has been the council's past practice to give a department tentative approval on a matter to help get the ball rolling.

"It started as a tool, but has gotten away from its original purpose," said council president Mitch Proctor.

The discussion turned into an agreement that tentative approval would no longer be given on any matter unless it was an emergency. And the auditor's office is no longer able to represent any other department in a matter before the council.

In other business:

* The sheriff's department was approved to transfer funds from the jail account to the sheriff's office account. The money will be used to pay the salary of an additional detective. Sheriff Steve Fenwick said there is enough help in the jail, but the department is in need of another detective. No additional money will be spent on the new position.

* The probation department was given approval to hire James Hardwick part time. Hardwick is a qualified teacher and taught for several years with the Department of Corrections. His role will be to teach classes such as Thinking for a Change.

"This is not taxpayer based," noted Superior Court Judge Denny Bridges.

Hardwick's salary will come out of a probation users fee fund.

* Alice Greenburg, director of the Putnam County Library, was given approval from council on the library's capital projects plan. The plan includes computer equipment, software, licensing, building maintenance and bookmobile, among other things.

Proctor told Greenburg, "We appreciate the good work at the library."

* Elizabeth South was officially appointed the council's attorney. It was matter not taken care of in the January meeting.

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Maybe the county should make some highway employees that can retire to retire.

-- Posted by senior'08 on Wed, May 20, 2009, at 6:11 AM

Yes the one's who can take a retirement should. Nothing against their age but their families are probably raised and on their own and some of those employees are raising children and trying to get them food clothing and schooling. Times are so tough and this is sad for all of the employees. Maybe they should cut alot more at the STATE level!!!

-- Posted by cowgirlsrule on Wed, May 20, 2009, at 7:34 AM

I know a lot of the County Council members and they are good people. They are trying to make some tough decisions during this recession. They deserve our support, not our criticism.

-- Posted by not gullible on Wed, May 20, 2009, at 8:57 AM

Roads in Putnam Co have always been the worst in the area and they will only get worse under current economic times. Don't mow the roadsides this year; make sure all employees put in an honest days work; be innovative as necessity has always been the "motherhood of invention"; where is the wheel tax going; where is the gasoline tax going (we should have more than our share due to excessively high local gas prices).

-- Posted by OpenMic on Wed, May 20, 2009, at 11:56 AM

Can anyone tell me how much county councelmembers are paid?

-- Posted by secondthought on Wed, May 20, 2009, at 12:42 PM

Please tell Mr. Beck that salt for the roads is a need. There is tremendous waste in county governement. It is hard to believe that quite a bit can't be found to remove from the budget.

Also, how much has been wasted on the "roof project" at the couthouse and still it is not nearly fixed? The county needs to get input from many citizens and get a list of priorities that is supported by people in the county.

Stop wasting our money!

-- Posted by justasking on Wed, May 20, 2009, at 7:38 PM

Why pick on the highway employees? We do need for the roads to be kept in good condition. I think it's time for the citizens to start asking questions such as "How much are the commissioners and council members paid on an annual basis for sitting at meetings and voting on something? No physical work done by them, and many of them have other sources of income, but maybe not benefits, so do they want to serve, or are they interested more in the easy pay and the retirement benefits? How much do those benefits cost the county? How much does the county pay to members of other boards and do those members receive benefits as well?" Maybe that's where the cuts should come from, not the people who actually 'work' for the county! I think people would be shocked if they had any idea about the amount that is spent for some of those positions and the benefits!

-- Posted by howsthishappen on Thu, May 21, 2009, at 7:36 AM

Instead of forming a fact-finding committee why don't you ask the community? And I find it ironic that the council members were voted in and now are saying to save the county from bankruptcy, we need to form yet another committee. The best part is they are putting themselves on this committee. If you can't do the job in the first place, why would you think you could do anything different on a committee? You're so-called committee should consist of county residents, not yourselves. Look for other solutions through people who just might have the perfect idea on how to save our county from "bankruptcy." You were all voted in and you haven't done the job. If you were doing a good job, we wouldn't be in the mess that we're in. And you can't look for other organizations to bail you out. As always, someone doesn't do their jobs and they always want a hand out when everyone else has done the hard work and proven they can succeed!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

-- Posted by secondthought on Thu, May 21, 2009, at 7:40 AM

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