Vigo takes step toward merging departments

Larry Robbins 

Vigo County leaders took a step toward merging its highway and engineering departments Tuesday at a meeting of the Vigo County Council’s personnel committee.

Comprised of three council members, the committee forwarded to the full council, with a favorable recommendation, a proposed ordinance that would combine the county’s highway and engineering departments and create a new GIS (geographic information system) department.

County Engineer Larry Robbins, joined by commissioners Brad Anderson and Brendan Kearns, presented to the committee the ordinance they say would make local government more efficient.

The proposed ordinance would expand the role of the county engineer, who would oversee the combined department, and would eliminate the positions of assistant county engineer, highway office manager and assistant highway superintendent.

In the creation of a GIS department, also to be rolled into the engineering department, the county would need to create a new GIS director position. It would also facilitate a move for the GIS manager from the county’s Area Planning Department into the new GIS department. The GIS plat supervisor position in the county auditor’s office would be eliminated.

Robbins said he and the commissioners have been working out the details of what a department merger of this scale should look like for months and that he’s confident the merger is what’s best for the departments.

“I am truly passionate about this,” Robbins said. “I live in Vigo County, I grew up and was raised here and I want to see it do the best that it can do.

“If I can utilize this and move the county forward, I’m all for that.”

Robbins said the merger has the potential to save the county just more than $2,000 annually in payroll, what with the elimination of positions and the creation of another.

Kearns offered the plan his full approval.

“In the progressive counties I’ve talked to, this is the model they’re using,” Kearns said. “... I think this is a good step in being progressive on how we can structure the county so that it is more efficient.”

Committee member Lisa Spence-Bunnett asked Robbins how he’d ensure the cross-department coordination that he promises the plan can deliver.

Robbins said that’s a task department leadership has to tackle.

Spence-Bunnett, David Thompson and Aaron Loudermilk approved the plan and forwarded the measure to the full council. With approval of job descriptions and needed amendments to the 2020 salary ordinance in the balance, committee members said it’s likely the proposal will appear before the council multiple times in the coming months.

Reporter Alex Modesitt can be reached at 812-231-4232 or at alex.modesitt@tribstar.com. Follow him on Twitter @TribStarAlex. 

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