News From Terre Haute, Indiana

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January 14, 2014

Miller to serve as Vigo County Council president

TERRE HAUTE — Kathy Miller, D-4th, will serve as the president of the Vigo County Council in 2014, with Councilman Rick Burger, D-at large, serving as president pro tem, following a reorganizational meeting of the council Tuesday.

It marks the fourth time Miller will serve as president. Miller previously served as president in 2009, 2010 and 2012.

“The main thing, I think, that we will have to face and look at this year is what the state legislature decides to do with the business personal property tax,” Miller said, “and what kind of impact that will bring down to local governments.”

If the tax were eliminated, the county would face a $3.2 million reduction in revenue.

After the election of officers, the council debated eliminating council committees, established under rules of the council. The committees, composed of three council members, hear funding requests, personnel requests, budget change requests and personnel matters.

Councilman Ed Ping, D-at large, moved to eliminate the committee process. “I think it is not democratic because of the voting. A committee can decide not to have something go before the full council,” Ping said.

Miller said the council rules allows the president to move an issue brought before a committee to the full council.

Ping sought to have one council person selected instead of three members on a committee. Ping said the single council person would serve as a fact finder on a specific issue before the council.

The motion was defeated in a 5-2 vote, with Ping and Councilman Tim Curley, D-1st, voting in favor.

Curley then moved to establish a “sunshine session,” similar to how the Terre Haute City Council conducts business. Curley also sought to have all seven members, instead of three members, serve on the county’s annual budget committee. That committee this year will work to present at 2015 budget for consideration before the full council.

That motion was defeated 4-3, with council members Miller, Burger, Mike Morris, R-4th and Bill Thomas, D-2nd, opposing, and members Curley, Ping and Mark Bird, D-at large in favor.

County commissioner Mike Ciolli said he wished the council had tabled the rule change to consider other ideas. Ciolli said he thinks the committee process slows the council. Derrick Scott, a former Vigo County councilman and chief of the Sugar Creek Fire Department, said he supports the committee concept.

Scott said prior to committees “there were some meetings that we were voting on something that I really didn’t know what it was. We would spend an hour discussing the topic before getting to a vote. I didn’t think that was a very educated vote at lot of times,” Scott said. “There were a lot of times we made decisions on issues we only heard about that night.”

Scott said he thinks committees provide more information to council members.

After the meeting, Miller said she thinks the committee process “causes the council to be more transparent in government to the public.”

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