County news # 2In a rather contentious meeting the Marshall County Council voted 4 to 3 to create a new position in the County Highway Department, replacing the Administrative Manager with an Engineer Director position.

During Monday’s council meeting, Marshall County Commissioner Kurt Garner discussed a new job description taking the current Administrative Managers position and turning it into a County Engineer/Director’s position.

Reading a prepared statement Garner noted that the current job description would permit the hiring of a licensed engineer.  Duties listed in the job description include communication with the public and comprehensive road planning.

Garner said, “Both Commissioner Delp and I feel that a greater level of expertise would be immeasurably beneficial in this position for a number of reasons.”  He went on to say, “The most important of these are the development of long range planning, estimating, best practices with construction, having trained eyes on increasingly more drainage issues and maybe most importantly to the public is the responsiveness to those we are elected to serve.”

While neither Garner nor Delp claim to be experts in these fields, Kurt did say, “Combined we bring over 60 years experience to the table with construction and management and over 20 years experience in elected or appointed public office.”  He went on to say, “We believe the added value of having an engineer guide out highway department will raise the standard of our road program and demonstrate to the public that we are taking the use of their tax dollars very seriously.”

The recommendation from Waggoner, Irwin and Sheele was a proposed pay range from $62,837 to $76,800.  Garner noted that the State of Indiana will pay $20,000 to the county for a licensed engineer.

Garner presented two options for funding the new position.  Option 1 combines the salaries of two current positions: the Administrative Manager ($40,590.94) and the Assistant Clerk ($31,376.80).  With the state’s reimbursement of $20,000 the county would save $15,167.74 on the highest level of pay for the engineer.   The second option would retain the clerk’s position and allow it to be filled if deemed necessary. At the highest pay for the engineer the county would have an additional pay of $16,209.06.

County Council president Judy Stone questioned advertising and obtaining three applications with the current job description and now wanting a new job description.  She also asked if the personnel committee had seen the new job description and Garner said no.   Stone asked what the affect will be on the current supervisor’s position, Jason Peters. Garner said they don’t have plans to change the supervisor’s job description at this time. She also commented that State Code for the reimbursement states, “The county highway engineer to perform duties of office of county highway supervisor in order to receive the grant,” and continued, “That’s a concern to me.”

Councilmember Penny Lukenbill clarified the Indiana Code saying, “I states ‘shall’ perform duties of the highway supervisor.”  He continued, “That’s kind of worrisome to me.” She asked how they, Garner and Delp, plan to reconcile the highway supervisor position if you really are committed to keeping Mr. Peters on as the Highway Supervisor.”

Garner said, “Jason’s roll is in directing the crews.  It’s not unusual to have a highway department where you have somebody that’s directly over that and someone at the top that administers the department.”

Lukenbill said she has agonized over this.  She said, “I see where there probably some expertise could be a good thing but I’m kind of concerned about the $36,000 extra, keeping the position of the extra clerk even thought we get a state reimbursement of $20,000.”  She went on to ask, “Will the gas tax payers, the drivers in Marshall County realize that extra $36,000 in added value to what our highway department will hopefully raise too?”

Councilwoman Lukenbill said she realized the engineer wouldn’t be able to do bridge inspections and work on many of the federal projects, that would still be hired out.  She also mentioned MACOG and the work that they do for the county with their expertise.

Councilman Jon VanVactor said when the council asked the County Highway Department to create a road plan.  Jason Peters and Laurie Baker brought back a good road plan that is scientific and determines the roads that need to be worked on based on the condition of the road and the traffic of the road.  He also said the new job description is a new position and the commissioners should re-advertise the position with the new job description.  He deferred to the commissioners to make the determination of an administrator or an engineer.

Commissioner Mike Delp said he was in agreement with the new job description.  He said, “The bottom line for me is, I want to see some elevation out there in that position.”

Commissioner Kevin Overmyer told the County Council he wasn’t aware of the new job description and that Mr. Garner had contacted the county’s HR consultants to assist with creating it.  He also questioned how the position could have been advertised when the salary hasn’t been approved by the council.

In reading the job description Commissioner Overmyer said the Engineer/Director would prepare documents for claims and vouchers, handle payroll, answer phone calls and work on bridge construction.   He said, “We have experts that are doing that now.  We have a host of people if we run into problems that we can call it we have a question.”  He also questioned the professional liability insurance and said when Pioneer Drive was completed the company had to pay the county about $80,000 for a mistake.  He said, “It we make a mistake who reimburses us?”

Overmyer also told the council that Marshall County had an engineer in the late 70’s and in 1999 and it didn’t work out either time.

A motion was made by Heath Thornton and second by Jon VanVactor to approve the new job description making the new position Engineer/Director.  Thornton, VanVactor, Bill Githens and Penny Lukenbill voted to approve the new position and job description while Judy Stone, Don Morrison and Jim Masterson voted no.  It passed with a 4 to 3 vote.

The Council also approved the pay range of $62,837 to $76,800 by a vote of 4 to 3 with Stone, Morrison and Lukenbill voting against the pay range.

It was also determined that the new job position must be re-advertised for a minimum of 5 days.

The vacant clerk’s position at the county highway will remain vacant until the new position Engineer/Director is filled and a determination is made if it is necessary to fill the clerks position.