Bickering between the Ripley County Sheriff's Office and Ripley County Commissioners continues.
Major David Pippin and deputies Paul Wells and Bill McDonald represented the sheriff's office in place of sheriff Tom Grills at the commissioner's meeting on Monday, May 13. Grills was on a transport and unable to attend; however, he sent a letter with Pippin to present to commissioners in response to a statement made by commissioner Rob Reiners at the April 29 commissioner's meeting where he said commissioners did not approach county council to request a lower budget for the sheriff's office.
Reiner's statement came following a public statement from Grills where he accused commissioners of cutting costs to the sheriff's office. The letter was not discussed by commissioners during the meeting, but a copy was presented to Ripley Publishing Company, Inc.
In response to Reiners, Grills explained that his use of the word "cost" was not in reference to a "financial impact," but rather an "impact to the community." He went on to say that decisions made recently by commissioners "have placed the employees of the sheriff's office and citizens of this county in a poor situation" by cutting costs to "public safety." Grills explained his definition of the term "costs" can be referred to as a decrease in benefits rightfully owed to employees of his office at the time of their hire, such as "personal use of cars, potential insurance coverage and secondary employment offered at a cost to wear a uniform and complete tasks nobody else wants to do."
Grills said in the letter that "it is hard to justify your (commissioners) expenditures, especially for the new annex and courthouse remodel, and then try explaining to me you are not restricting resources for our office when we are severely understaffed, and lack the ability to pay for proper equipment and supplies to protect the public, or solve the crimes they were victim of."
He said he would like to work with commissioners and invited them to contact him to make arrangements to "sit down and discuss issues" rather than bring them up in a public meeting. It was agreed by commissioners at the previous meeting to put the sheriff's office on the agenda for 9 a.m. at all future meetings.
Grills' letter also requested the transfer of money collected from Northern Clearing for the pipeline escort detail to be moved into the sheriff's office insurance line item and garage and motors account to pay for "costs incurred during the escorts."
Jail, EMS, etc.
Wells informed commissioners the installation of lights in the jail's stairways is complete. He also presented estimates to replace/repair locks on jail doors. The estimate to rebuild the locking system is around $480 and the cost to retrofit the door on cell block 12 is around $890. Commissioners granted approval for repairs.
Wells also reported problems with the HVAC on the roof of the jail and updates discussed at a prior meeting needing resolved. Reiners told Wells this will be considered when preparing the 2014 budget.
The 911 and transport part of EMS has exceeded 500 runs this year, according to Jim Corbin, EMS director. He will update commissioners at a later date on revenue received. Also, commissioners granted Corbin's request for permission to apply to attend the National Fire Academy training in Maryland at no cost to the county.
Shawna Bushhorn complained about certified mail with consents to transfer for the Inheritance Tax Returns coming to her from the clerk's office. Bushhorn said it is a waste of taxpayer's money to use certified mail to send something that could be hand-delivered. Clerk Mary Ann McCoy was asked why this is being done. Her response was to ensure they are received, adding that other departments do the same thing between departments. Commissioners instructed auditor Wagner to contact all offices and departments informing them to hand-deliver all interoffice mail from now on when possible.
Shannon Schmaltz with the probation department requested permission to hire Town Marshall Joe Mann part-time to oversee the Saturday probation program. The request was approved. Schmaltz also said the drug program that recently started is working out well. So far,10 out of 10 participants have participated and paid fees.
Cables; health position
Ellen Beiersdorfer of Enhanced Telecommunications Company (ETC) came before commissioners to request permission to use the county right-of-way for 700-800 feet in the Holton area, just before they reach the right-of-way regulated by the state. Under advisement from county attorney John Ertel, Reiners requested an agreement from ETC holding the county harmless should damage to the cables occur as the result of necessary maintenance by the highway department, such as installing signs.
The health department will need part-time help for inspections for the upcoming building season. Tony Schneider presented a copy of a job description and requested approval to seek a candidate. The position will pay $10.84 per hour. He was advised to post the position from within first prior to seeking applications from the general public.
Representatives of Laughery Valley Co-Op discussed their oil products with the hope of gaining business from Ripley County. Commissioners agreed to allow Laughery Valley Co-Op to test the Texas Refinery drum oil currently being used by the highway department. The testing will be at no cost and Laughery Valley Co-Op assured complete backing of their product should there ever be a failure. Due to the newer trucks requiring a different type of oil, commissioners agreed to purchase the oil for them from the co-op.
Voting precinct changes
Clerk McCoy told commissioners she had submitted an application to the state to combine the following election precinct boundaries: Laughery 1-1 and 1-2 into Laughery 1-1 and Laughery 3-1 and 3-2 into Laughery 3-1. She informed commissioners that once state approval is received, commissioners would need to approve the change, adding the voting location would remain the same.
McCoy also reported problems with charging the voting machines, adding the batteries need replacing or repaired to enable a full charge. She also mentioned the possibility of seeking voting centers at a later date.
Other business conducted included:
• Shanna Joseph of the Parks Department presented commissioners a list of those selected for part-time summer positions for their approval. Commissioners unanimously approved the list.
• Jason Smith with state EMS praised first responders, EMTs, ambulance personnel and the sheriff's department on how well they worked together on a call he had assisted on in Ripley County. Commissioners thanked him for coming in.
• It was determined core samples are needed on Bridge No. 112 to determine necessary repairs. A recent inspection by USI determined some deterioration issues. The ton limit has been lowered to five from ten. The bridge was constructed in 1890.
• Commissioners granted the highway department foreman permission to contact an individual he has in mind for a vacant position to see if there is any interest.
• Recorder Ginger Bradford was given permission to investigate and apply for grants to purchase a new scanner. Bradford said prices range from $16,000 to $20,000. Once purchased, all offices would have access to it.
• Johnnie Lohrum, maintenance supervisor, presented the commissioners with quotes for $1,910 and $390 he obtained to add receptacles in the clerk's office and to repair a generator in the EMS building. Commissioners unanimously approved the repairs.
• Commissioners unanimously approved a quote presented to them by Kelly Vollet, for $497 from Boyer Technologies to move a fax line in the prosecutor's office.
• Patrick Rose with EMA presented commissioners with paperwork to sign for the Continuation of Operation for the county.
• Ordinance 2013-06 was signed establishing Ripley County as a drug-free workplace.
• A request from Glenwood Electric for additional payments of $1,957 for delays on the parking lot that kept them from completing work on the site lighting until later was rejected.
• A request from the Versailles Lions Club to use the courthouse lawn and restrooms for their annual Chicken BBQ on June 22 was presented and approved.
• Commissioners declined a request from Lori England of Sam's Club to renew memberships for county employees.