Council hears requests to revisit county nurse's salary

Wanda English Burnett

Several people attended and spoke in support of county health nurse Vickie Powell at the first regular council meeting of the year held January 19.

Dr. Harley Robinson, president of the Ripley County Health Board, said the board was disappointed at the council’s decision to reduce Powell’s salary by $7,000. He noted that she has had increasing duties and workload and has formed positive relationships with several entities including Margaret Mary Community Hospital, the EMS and fire communities.

Robinson posed the question, "Will this reduction in salary result in reduction of services for county residents?"

Dr. Robinson spoke to the importance of Powell’s position and her dedication to the well being of the 27,400 citizens she serves. He asked if the decision could be revisited by the council and submitted a graph showing her work.

Appie Thompson, health nurse for Milan schools, also spoke on Powell’s behalf. She noted that the county nurse has worked very closely with the school nurses at all the county schools with outstanding results. “Her services and expertise have been invaluable to the health of our communities,” she told council members.

Thompson cited how Powell had led the county when the H1N1 Pandemic occurred in 2009. Over 40% of Ripley County residents were vaccinated. She reported this being a higher percentage than the state and national percentages immunization rate for H1N1 vaccinations.

There were many more statistics Thompson gave the council noting that Powell is ahead of her game when making sure the residents she serves are well served.

Immunization clinics were set up in the schools where the staff also received inoculations. The Medical Reserve Corps Team was developed for future emergency situations with only 26 of Indiana’s 92 counties having this.

Thompson reported Ripley County as being one of the lowest income counties in the state where 10.4% live below poverty level. She said the residents are in great need of the county health nurse’s care and asked the council to look again at lowering the salary, meaning it would also lower the healthcare of the people they too serve.

Scott Corbin, EMT for the Sunman Life Squad also spoke on Powell’s behalf. He said, “She (Powell) goes out of her way” to make sure all of the squad members have their immunizations.

Council president Dephane Smith said they would review the situation and get back with those making the requests at a later date.

In other business:

• Dephane Smith will remain president of the council with Donald Dunbar being president pro-tem.

• Jeff Volz was appointed to the Vernon Forks Water Board; Dephane Smith to the Southeastern Indiana Regional Planning Committee; and Donald Dunbar to the Soil and Water committee.

• A request from Mary Ann McCoy to transfer monies to pay for clerical work was tabled until the next meeting.

• Ric Hertel’s request to remain a full time employee in the prosecutor’s office was unanimously approved. This is a yearly formality by state law.

• Commissioners discussed plans for the future construction of the annex building with some ideas being shown to new council member, Bill McDonald. McDonald requested to know the architectural firms involved, saying he was new to the board.

• Dee Dee (Juanita) Kaiser will replace Ben Peetz E911 Advisory Committee and Bill McDonald was appointed to the EMS Advisory Committee.

• Kelly Vollet, technology director, was praised for her excellent work in writing grants that were obtained through the Rising Sun Regional Foundation.

The short council meeting was adjourned with the council having another irregular date for the month of February due to President’s Day. They will meet on Tuesday, February 22. The regular meetings for the council is the third Monday of the month at 7:00 p.m. at the annex building. They will resume that schedule after February’s meeting.

Newcomer to the council, Bill McDonald, right, asks questions about the proposed Ripley County Annex project. Kelly Vollet, technology director, standing, holds plans for an idea for the annex with Dee Dee (Juanita) Kaiser, council member, looking on.