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.