County Commissioners seek additional $500,000 for roads

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

With money to patch Putnam County's roads running out fast, the Putnam County Commissioners are looking for more money to at least keep the county's roads drivable.

County highway co-supervisor Jim Smith reported during the Tuesday meeting that money for making the patching material will run out very soon, leaving the county unable to patch roads for the remainder of the year. The only remaining solution would be to fill holes with gravel, which easily washes out.

Given the situation, Commissioner Gene Beck made a motion the commissioners go before the county council to request $500,000 from the rainy day fund for the roads.

Beck said in the last 10 years, increasing material prices -- particularly for oil -- and smaller budgets from the state and county have made the job of fixing the roads much more challenging.

"The council, eight years ago, took $250,000 away from us. So if you figure up what $250,000 times eight years is, that's how much of a shortfall we have," Beck said.

While commissioners Kristina Warren and Nancy Fogle voted in favor of the additional money request, Fogle expressed other concerns about the highway department.

"I think we need more money -- I just wonder sometimes if we're working as smart as we ought to be working," Fogle said.

Fogle has recently expressed concerns about highway employees taking days off with little notice and about the amount of time actually spent out on the roads during a day.

County Assessor Nancy Dennis is also experiencing a shortfall in her office. Her department has been scrambling throughout the year to keep up with the reassessment schedule, but remains a month behind on data entry.

Dennis said the reason for the lag is when the state has the county's information for review, no data can be entered during that period. This has put them a month behind.

In order to catch up, Dennis gave the commissioners two proposals. One involves using current employees working overtime to catch up. The worst-case scenario for this proposal is an additional cost of $40,651.60 to the county.

The other proposal would be to hire part-time employees who would need to be trained on data entry. The worst-case scenario of this plan is a cost of $28,457.20.

Ultimately, the decision of if and how the additional money will be allocated falls to the county council.

"The council is who is going to be able to figure out the money," Fogle said.

The commissioners approved the request 2-1, subject to the council's approval. Beck opposed the measure.

"I vote no," he said. "I don't think we need to be spending any additional money right now." He added that with a total of eight employees, the assessor's office should be capable of getting the job done.

"I'm doing my best to keep all the dates the state wants. Everybody's working hard," Dennis said.

Dennis also received permission to fill two full-time and two part-time positions. All positions already exist in the budget and simply involve filling open spots.

The commissioners also approved a request from adult probation officer Teresa Parrish to fill two part-time positions in her office.

Will Niebold of the Veterans Affairs Office submitted a retirement letter to the commissioners. He is retiring for health reasons.

The county will advertise the open position.

Finally, Jared Hutcheson and Brent Cash came to the commissioners to tell them about their new telecommunications and computer companies. Both men formerly worked at HOP Technologies, but their jobs were eliminated when HOP was sold to another company.

Hutcheson formed 12. Telecom (pronounced "twelve point"), while Cash formed 12. Technologies. Hutcheson's company will handle telephone systems, while Cash's will work on computers.

"We're going to provide the same services that we did through HOP, but at a reduced rate," Hutcheson said. "Basically, I thought there was a need for a local company with local contacts."

"I hate that this big company came in and took out the customer base that we built up," Cash said.

All three commissioners expressed interest in keeping the county with local companies. Both Hutcheson and Cash will have contracts prepared before the July 18 commissioners meeting for county attorney Scott Hoff to review.

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