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With the new W. Keith Ruble Park slated to open in September, the Vigo County Parks & Recreation Department is seeking $170,000 to build a restroom on Ivy Tech Community College campus to serve as the park's trailhead.

Vigo County Commissioners requested to have the money appropriated from the county's Economic Development Income Tax or from the county general fund.

"I am excited about this," Commissioner President Mike Morris told the Vigo County Council on Tuesday during its non-voting sunshine session. "It is an excellent project. This is a partnership with Ivy Tech," Morris said as the community college will maintain the facility and run utilities to the trailhead.

The 822-acre park, formerly owned by Pfizer, is located behind Ivy Tech's main campus and named after long-time Vigo parks superintendent W. Keith Ruble, who retired in 2013.

Ruble Park will comprise 30 percent of the county’s 2,700 acres of parkland and become the largest county park. It's niche will be hiking through relatively untouched ground, with 11 miles of trails, with the possibility of 12 miles.

In 2013, the county acquired the land for $50,000, with half paid with a grant from the Wabash Valley Community Foundation and the rest from the Vigo County Redevelopment Commission. At the time, the Indiana Department of Environmental Management cleared the site of all environmental remediation. The county also had a Phase 1 environmental study conducted on the site.

However, the property has restrictions, including maintaining environmental caps requiring some areas maintain a 2-inch clay topping. That restricts building on the site. Pfizer had placed about 650 acres of the property into the Indiana Department of Natural Resource’s Classified Forest and Wildlands Programs, which provides for the use of native grass prairie that enhances and provides habitat for wildlife.

Pfizer restored previous portions of the property after a 2008 flood. The company ceased operations in Vigo County in 2010.

Councilwoman Brenda Wilson questioned who would own the trailhead facility. Rachel Mullinix, executive director at Ivy Tech Foundation-Terre Haute, said Ivy Tech would run utilities to the restroom, maintain it and own it. Adam Grossman, director of the Vigo County Parks and Recreation Department, said the county funds are part of a matching grant that Ivy Tech and the county are seeking through the state's Next Level trails program to enhance the project.

Mullinix said state grant money would be used to make a connecting trail from the trail head to Dixie Bee Elementary and to Garden Quarter, a nearby apartment complex.

County Auditor Jim Bramble recommended the project be funded from the county's general fund, saying the fund has $17 million and is expected to receive $11 million in a June tax settlement. After expenses, the general fund will still have close to $20 million, the auditor said.

In some other business, Norman Loudermilk, executive director of the Vigo County Juvenile Center, is seeking to add two detention officers. The costs, with in insurance, as well as Social Security and Public Employee Retirement Fund expenses, ranges from $51,285 to $65,623, depending on the employee insurance coverage. The night shifts would be 12 hours with rotating days.

Loudermilk said the center currently has 14 full-time positions but has to use part-time or "relief staff" to cover for vacations or sickness for the night shift. The new full-time positions would save the county money in training and uniforms over part-time staff. From 2016 to 2020, the center has had 140 relief staff employees, of which only six are still at the center. Each part-time staff must go through 120 hours of training as a state requirement.

Loudermilk told the county the juvenile center last year spent just over $131,000 in relief staff salaries, Loudermilk said. That cost would cover the the new employees, even when insurance expenses are added, Loudermilk contends.

Additionally, Loudermilk sought $31,000 for a new truck and $68,760 for building repair. That cost also includes funding for a security system for the vehicle, used for transport of juveniles, staff and meals.

In another issue, the county health department seeks to increase a department employee salary from $44,090 to $51,000, plus $2,000 longevity pay. Joni Wise, health administrator, said the supervising employee makes the same salary as employees who are supervised.

Council President Aaron Loudermilk said the council should not make a decision on compensation without expert review and recommendation.

County Commissioner Brendan Kearns told the council commissioners will seek a salary review from Waggoner Irwin Scheele, a Muncie-based management consulting firm that helped establish a salary scale for the county, as well as have a fair market analysis done by the county's human resource department.

The council next meets to vote on the issues at 5 p.m. May 11 at the Vigo County Annex, at First and Oak streets.

Reporter Howard Greninger can be reached 812-231-4204 or Follow on Twitter@TribStarHoward.

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