News From Terre Haute, Indiana

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November 13, 2013

Vigo approves voting centers for 2014

Seven centers to open one week before election day

TERRE HAUTE — Vigo County voters will cast ballots in vote centers in 2014 after a resolution approved Tuesday by the Vigo County Council.

The council’s approval was the final step in the process to establish vote centers in the county, eliminating voting in precincts. The county will provide 18 voting centers on election day.

In addition, the Vigo County Annex will be open two weeks before an election for absentee ballot voting. Then, one week before an election, seven of the voting centers will open for absentee ballot votes. Those seven sites are Baesler’s Market, the former Indiana State Police post, Valley Grill, Booker T. Washington Community Center, New Life Fellowship Church, West Terre Haute Community Center and Kroger North.

Vigo County has 76,382 registered voters, with 75,772 active voters in the county, according to the vote center plan submitted to the council.

“I hope it works,” smiled Vigo County Councilman Mike Morris as he moved to approve the resolution establishing the vote centers. Councilwoman Kathy Miller seconded the motion. The resolution was approved 6-0. Councilman Rick Burger was absent because of a family issue, said Council President Bill Thomas.

In another issue, the council debated paying off more than $250,000 in overtime pay accumulated during the past three to six years.

Councilman Mark Bird requested the council work with the county sheriff and county sheriff merit board to enact a policy, starting in 2014, that any overtime not used during the year as compensation time, should be paid at the end of the year “instead of allowing this to accumulate,” Bird said.

“Some of this time was incurred several years ago when their pay was actually less than what is it is now,” which will cost the county more to pay at current pay levels, Bird said.

Some deputies, Bird said, have as much as 400 hours in overtime.

Vigo County Auditor Tim Seprodi said the intention is to bring the overtime amount down to zero. In years past, accumulated overtime was only partly paid down, not entirely paid off.

“I have had discussions with the sheriff to put in place a policy that will not allow this to happen in the future,” Seprodi said.

“This overtime has accumulated over the course of several years. They [deputies] will earn overtime regardless, due to the nature of the job,” the auditor said. However, a control measure is needed, the auditor said, “that will allow them to earn overtime, but be paid out in the year that it is earned and not carried forward five to six years.”

Seprodi said one idea being considered is to limit overtime accumulation to 100 hours. This action would require the council to pay overtime annually; however, it would be reflected in future salary ordinances, the auditor said.

Morris questioned why deputies would not want to be paid overtime immediately and why overtime has been allowed to accumulate. Morris said he favored cleaning up the overtime issue.

Maj. Jeff Fox of the Vigo County Sheriff’s Department said the department has a practice based on a past county policy that overtime was not paid, but the overtime was allowed to accumulate. A deputy could use that “in a time and a half format. For example, if I have eight hours of overtime, I could take a day off and because it is earned in a time and a half format; my bank [of overtime hours] is reduced by 5.25 hours,” Fox said.

Fox said the issue came to light this year as the department has several officers retiring and another officer died of cancer. When retired officers leave, any accumulated overtime must be paid out.

“When those numbers came to light, I think that is what brought the attention to the point, ‘Well, what is truly the liability to the county from the sheriff’s office?’” Fox said.

Fox said officers like the ability to use overtime as an emergency bank of time, in the event they need time off other than for sick or vacation time.

Thomas instructed the auditor to work with the county sheriff and merit board to enact a policy in 2014 to pay overtime annually.

The council unanimously voted to pay $271,181 from the County Adjusted Gross Income Tax to pay for the overtime. Of that amount, $19,272 was allocated to pay for Federal Insurance Contributions Act or FICA.

In a law enforcement-related issue, the council also approved $65,000 to pay for the temporary housing of inmates in the Knox County Jail to keep the jail’s daily population below 260 as a result of a lawsuit from the American Civil Liberties Union of Indiana. The council also approved a transfer of $23,000 from food to care of patients and inmates for the county jail.

Vigo County as of Tuesday had seven inmates in the Knox County Jail. The county pays $35 per day for each inmate, plus any medical costs.

In another issue, the council voted to amend the county’s salary ordinance to create a new position of director of solid waste. Vigo County this year opted out of the Clay-Owen-Vigo County Solid Waste District to form its own district. The new position was funded at an annual rate of $37,682.

Reporter Howard Greninger can be reached at 812-231-4204 or howard.greninger@tribstar.com.

 

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