Council floats park board loan

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Greencastle City Council members signed off on a plan Tuesday night to release $129,000 from the city's Rainy Day Fund to the city parks department with a promise that they will eventually get that money back.

As previously reported in the BannerGraphic, the parks department was awarded a $129,000 Land and Water Conservation Grant from the state DNR to make improvements at the newly acquired Big Walnut Community Park, which is a portion of the greater Big Walnut Sports Park that was deeded to the city last year.

The parks department is in the process of paving a road through the park, adding a walking trail, children's play area and nine-hole disc golf course. They hope to have the additions completed this year.

As part of the deal with the DNR, the parks department has to spend the money out of its own account up front and the DNR agrees to reimburse the city once the project has been completed.

The parks department has already begun to incur some costs for the project, mainly as it relates to the paving of a gravel driveway through the park. Not having adequate funds in its own budget, the parks department had to borrow the money from the city council.

On Tuesday, council members voted unanimously in support of Resolution 2008-1, which is a temporary loan to the parks department, in the amount of $129,000, to be used for the project. The parks department is to pay back the Rainy Day Fund once the reimbursement from the DNR is received.

In other business, the council approved the first reading of an ordinance to adjust the salaries of various city employees. Ordinance 2008-2 will come back to the council next month for a second and final reading.

The following changes were included in the ordinance:

* Since the death of Water Plant Supt. Terry Dale last year, his position, along with the sewer plant superintendent's position (held by George Russell) have been eliminated and replaced with a single "Utility Superintendent." Mayor Sue Murray, who proposed the idea, said she modeled it after what other cities in Indiana have done recently. Russell was promoted to the Utility Superintendent's position and his salary will be raised from roughly $53,000 to $58,000, as part of the ordinance approved on first reading Tuesday night.


* The assistant superintendent's pay at the sewer plant moves from roughly $31,000 to $36,000. This person has taken on the responsibilities that the sewer plant superintendent had.

* Mayor Murray has added a $14 per day salary for employees of the water and sewer plants who must wear pagers and be on call around the clock. She said Tuesday night that she felt the extra compensation was needed since those individuals are not allowed to be more than 20 minutes from the plant when it's their weekend to be on call.

* Like at the sewer plant, the water plant will now have an assistant superintendent since there is no longer a water plant superintendent. That person's pay will be raised from roughly $35,000 to $38,000.

Even with these adjustments in salaries, the mayor said the city is saving a significant amount of money by eliminating the two superintendents' positions and making a single "utility supervisor."

* Finally, the mayor has combined two part-time secretarial positions at city hall into a single, full-time job. The two part-time jobs paid salaries of $16,000 and $9,000. The new full-time job will pay slightly less than $30,000 annually.

As a special note to readers, Tuesday night saw the city council with a light agenda for the second time in as many months since the new mayor and new council members took office. The meeting lasted less than an hour, when previous council meetings would run two hours or more.

The new mayor has restructured the agenda to make department reports first on the list. Department heads are allowed to address the council if they so choose, but they are no longer required to physically appear in front of the council on a monthly basis. However, they are still required to submit a written monthly report.

So far, the new council members haven't brought a lot of issues to the meetings, which has also helped to cut down on the length of the meetings. Previous council members have spent significant amounts of time at the end of the meetings running through laundry lists of issues and concerns. Perhaps more issues will be brought as the new council members get more acquainted with their surroundings.

Also, meetings have been shorter due to a lack of ordinances and resolutions that have been brought before them, either by the mayor or other city officials. But as the year progresses, those may increase as well.

The city council meets at 7 p.m. on the second Tuesday of each month at city hall.

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