TOWN NEWS: Employee raises; savings shifted to water, sewer project funds

Most town employees are getting raises of at least 3 percent in 2017.

A few are getting more, and others are getting nothing.

The inequality was why Nashville Town Council member David Rudd voted against the new salary ordinance Dec. 15. He wanted to see an across-the-board raise of 3 percent, and made a motion for that. He was voted down 4-1.

The proposal that did pass — 4-1 with Rudd against — was to give all staff below department-head level a 3-percent raise, to give town council members no raises, and to make all three department heads’ salaries equal to each other at $50,000.

The three department heads are Nashville Clerk-Treasurer Brenda Young, Town Manager/Economic Development Director Scott Rudd (council member David Rudd’s nephew) and Police Chief Ben Seastrom.

For Young, the raise amounted to less than $200; for Rudd, it was about a 5 percent raise, and for Seastrom, it was about an 11 percent raise.

Assistant Police Chief Tim True will make $45,000 — a 12.5 percent raise. However, he and Seastrom pointed out to the council at the Dec. 1 meeting that when they started in their new jobs in May 2015, they accepted lower salaries than what the previous department head and assistant were making in order to give their officers more money.

The Nashville Police Department’s Crisis Intervention Advocate, Tonya Harden, will receive no raise because her job is grant-funded.

Town council members won’t get raises either; they will still make $8,752 each for the year.

Town employees who can earn certifications related to their jobs will still have opportunities to earn more money after completing those courses.

North-end town restrooms might close for winter

The Nashville Parking and Public Facilities Commission has been asked to consider closing the Mound Street restrooms in January and February.

Town Manager Scott Rudd told the town council Dec. 15 that the town had added 60 percent more stalls since the Village Green Restrooms opened in May. He said the Mound Street restrooms see little use during the winter months, and the restroom attendant had asked for the closure. The town also needs to renegotiate her contract, he said.

Nashville Police Chief Ben Seastrom said closing them would help him and the other town officers; he said transients tend to end up there warming up and showering.

Rudd said the discussion about closing the Mound Street restrooms had been had for a couple years. Town council President “Buzz” King said he was OK with closing them, but council member Arthur Omberg suggested the parking and public facilities commission — a town-appointed subcommittee that deals with parking lots and restrooms — talk about it in their next meeting.

That meeting is on the calendar for 6 p.m. Tuesday, Jan. 10 at Town Hall, 200 Commercial St.

Town raises level at which losses would be reported

A new ordinance requires the Nashville clerk-treasurer to contact the Indiana State Board of Accounts if more than $500 in cash or $5,000 in town-owned assets is stolen or otherwise found to be missing, unless it was clearly a clerical error.

Establishing a “materiality threshold” was a requirement of a state law passed in 2015.

The law requires that erroneous or irregular variances, losses, shortages or thefts of public property be reported to the SBOA, but individual units of government were allowed to set their own level of what would become a reportable offense.

The law requires public officials who have knowledge of or reasonable cause to believe there was a misappropriation of public funds to notify the SBOA and the prosecutor.

The town’s new ordinance says that even though state law requires it to set a loss amount at which it will contact the state, that doesn’t mean the town won’t investigate losses that don’t reach that level. Clerk-Treasurer Brenda Young repeated that point at the Dec. 15 meeting, at which the town council passed the ordinance.

It reads: “The Town of Nashville shall investigate all erroneous or irregular variances, losses, shortages or thefts, regardless of whether they meet the materiality threshold established by this ordinance. Upon conclusion of each such investigation, the Town of Nashville shall: 1. Implement procedures designed to prevent the recurrence of such incidents; and 2. Take appropriate disciplinary action against the employee responsible for the incident.”

Prior to this new ordinance, the town’s reportable loss threshold for items was $1,000. Young said the list of items of that value was huge, so the threshold was raised to $5,000 upon the recommendation of the town’s financial adviser and the SBOA.

Savings shifted to water, sewer project funds

The bottom line on Nashville’s water and sewer department budgets has changed by only about $1,000 since last year, but there’s been significant movement on the inside.

During the Dec. 15 Nashville Town Council meeting, Town Manager/Economic Development Director Scott Rudd drew attention to one particular line: the money budgeted from both departments to be spent on health insurance.

Between both departments, the town is budgeting to spend $98,511.07 less on health insurance in 2017 compared to 2016.

Through shopping around for different health insurance plans, the town also was able to add family coverage as a more affordable option than it had been in the past, Rudd said — and the plan still cost that much less than the one they had.

“Over 10 years, that’s $1 million if we can maintain it,” Rudd said.

“It’s fantastic. That will give us all kinds of money to put toward other things, like capital projects and savings,” said Utility Coordinator Sean Cassiday.

The 2017 budget shows a $56,000 boost to the capital projects budget in the water department and a $50,000 boost to the capital projects budget in the sewer department.

Other savings was expected to be found in supply budgets.

Cassiday said he and Rudd had been more closely researching what was being bought and how.

Town changes process for business sign approval

Not as many business owners or entrepreneurs will have to appear before the Nashville Development Review Commission now that the town council has approved a rule change.

Town Hall staff are now allowed to approve business sign applications that do not exceed 12 square feet per side instead of sending the application to the DRC to consider. Previously, the size limit that could be approved without the DRC’s input was 4 square feet.

DRC President Penny Scroggins advocated for the change, saying it would save time and money. The DRC might not even have to meet as often, as many of the agenda items were having to do with signs, she said.

The council OK’d the change which Town Manager/Economic Development Director Scott Rudd described as a way to “streamline the process for businesses.”

Scroggins also asked the council at the Dec. 15 meeting to consider not renewing a contract with Indiana Landmarks. One representative from the historic preservation group advises the DRC and attends meetings monthly.

Scroggins suggested perhaps the representative could be available as an as-needed consultant; she said maybe the $5,000 spent on her contract could be put to better use elsewhere, such as on fire protection or water improvement projects in town.

Nashville Clerk-Treasurer Brenda Young said the Indiana Landmarks representative was particularly helpful when Young served on the DRC for eight years, back when the CVS Pharmacy was being built. The design of that building had more of the look of a historic building than a modern chain store. But the DRC doesn’t have any large projects like that in line now.

Young and Rudd said they’d look into what the options might be for Indiana Landmarks participating in fewer meetings.