COUNTY NEWS: 46 paving; PTABOA volunteer needed; big funds transfers

Work planned for Nashville-Columbus 46 corridor

State Road 46 between Nashville and Columbus is scheduled to be resurfaced this year.

Contractors have until March 14 to bid on the job to the Indiana Department of Transportation, Brown County Highway Superintendent Mike Magner told the county commissioners Feb. 21.

Magner said that this summer, drivers can expect lane closures on State Road 46, but that the road will not be completely closed to traffic.

He said the plan is to fill and resurface the road along and do other “small structure” work, such as a culvert replacement project under the road in Gnaw Bone.

Paving will be done from I-65 to Nashville, Magner said.

INDOT public relations manager Harry Maginity said he would know a project schedule after the pre-construction meeting, which will happen after bids are turned in.

Magner told commissioners that the work is supposed to be done by mid-September.

Council looking for assessment board volunteer

The Brown County Council has yet to receive an application from anyone who wishes to serve on the Property Tax Assessment Board of Appeals.

Applicants have until 4 p.m. Friday, March 16 to submit a letter of interest and qualifications to the Brown County Auditor.

Assessor Mari Miller said it would be preferable if the applicant had a Level II assessor appraisal certification, but the council could waive that requirement, since one member of the board already has that certification.

Miller said she’d also like the applicant to have knowledge of property values and assessments.

In the past few years, PTABOA has met two or three times per year. The meetings are usually two to three hours long, Miller said.

This is the third time the council will run an advertisement searching for a PTABOA applicant. Until a replacement is found, member Wendy Earnshaw will continue to serve.

Council OKs spending $900K to pay bills from 2017

The Brown County Council approved over $900,000 to be spent at their meeting Feb. 20 to pay bills and salaries from 2017 in 2018.

“A lot of the bills that come in last year’s budget, those bills don’t come in until after first of year, so we have to hold money that is available for 2017 dollars to pay those things that come in this year,” Council President Keith Baker explained.

“On the outset, it may appear that we’re spending those dollars for 2018 money. That’s not the case. It’s kind of the way it works, that those bills come in late.”

A large portion of the $910,378.84 was for salaries from the end of 2017 that are paid in 2018, Auditor Beth Mulry said.

The county highway department asked to carry over $256,126.65. The cumulative bridge fund is carrying over $100,000.

Mulry said the Department of Local Government Finance does not have to approve an addendum to the 2018 budget for these dollars, since they were approved as part of the 2017 budget.

She also reported that the county stayed within budget for 2017.

Additional appropriations approved for departments

The Brown County Council approved over $250,000 in additional appropriations at their meeting Feb. 20 for the auditor, recorder and highway departments.

The auditor and recorder’s requests totaled about $2,600, to correct a salary calculation and to conduct state-mandated training.

The county highway department had requested three additional appropriations. The first was $100,000 in the cumulative bridge fund for bridge inspections, which are federally mandated every two years.

While doing budgets last summer, Brown County Highway Superintendent Magner did not have a contract approved with the Indiana Department of Transportation and did not have a dollar amount until the end of October, he said.

INDOT reimburses the county 80 percent for bridge inspections using federal money. The county picks up the remaining 20 percent from the cumulative bridge budget.

Magner said the county has almost $900,000 accumulating for new bridge construction in that cumulative bridge fund. The money is to use on any bridge over a 20-foot span, and the county has 84 of those, Magner said.

He said a few bridges are on a six- or three-month inspection rotation. “All of those expenses are built into that one contract,” he said.

Salt Creek Trail grant money moved to pay bill

The Brown County Council approved moving $303,874 from the Salt Creek Trail DNR fund for survey engineering fees, and $49,350 for other miscellaneous costs associated with the trail.

The money does not come from Brown County taxpayers. It came from the Indiana Department of Natural Resources.

What the council needed to do was carry over that money from the 2017 budget to the 2018 budget, Brown County Highway Superintendent Mike Magner said.

“They said, ‘If you do that (build a trail to Brown County State Park), we will set aside a minimum of $750,000 and we will pay for the county with DNR money, we will pay all of the design fees for everything,” he said. “DNR has given us those dollars to spend for that specific purpose of doing design, engineering on anything related to the trail.”

Before public hearings on the Salt Creek Trail last year, survey and design work was done, and Magner needs to pay those bills, he said. Last year, the county budget had $350,000 for that work. It still has $304,000 left in that line item.

“When the time comes to actually come up with a final alignment (trail route), based on all of the right-of-way acquisitions and everything else that takes place, then that will be documented and we would develop construction plans from there,” Magner said.

Resident and commissioner candidate Kyle Birkemeier asked who has oversight of the trail, since he had not heard back from the commissioners about a committee reorganization they had promised last fall. “My concern is, who is deciding how these fees are going to be made?” Birkemeier asked.

Magner said the DNR money came with stipulations that it be spent on an existing contract, on the section from Brown County Schools’ Eagle Park to the Brown County State Park.

“DNR will pay full construction on the section of the trail they specified, which is on school property, plus the design fees for the county. The county is not out any general fund (money) to pay for any design on the whole trail,” Magner said.

The money appropriated also will not be used to design any other phases of the trail, Magner said.

Highway department reports on winter weather costs

The cold and snow this winter has cost the Brown County Highway Department around $200,000.

Highway Superintendent Mike Magner told the Brown County Commissioners Feb. 21 that his department had spent that much on snow and ice removal.

In the last few weeks, his department also has put down almost 5,000 tons of rock on gravel to cover up mud.

“Some of them, you can’t even tell we’ve already done it, so we’re going back to Smith Road, which we’ve already hit four times. You still can’t hardly see we’ve been on there,” he said.

Funds transferred to pay interim bailiff

The Brown County Council has OK’d the hiring of an interim bailiff to serve while the current bailiff is on medical leave.

Vacation funds will be used to pay interim bailiff Gary Dewees to work during trials, Judge Judith Stewart told the council. Dewees retired as the bailiff before current bailiff Andy Reed was hired.

Reed is doing some work from home while he recovers for about three more weeks, and court recorders are picking up other duties, Stewart said. Stewart was aware of only one jury trial that Dewees would have to cover.

The vacation line item currently has $3,000 in it. “I won’t need all of that,” Stewart said.

The council unanimously approved the budget line adjustment and a pay rate of $16.83 per hour.