County Council Delays Decision On Public Defender Commission
Just four of the seven members of the Owen County Council were in attendance for Monday night’s meeting, where the board heard details of a comprehensive plan outlining costs associated with establishing an Owen County Public Defender Commission. Absent were council members Nick Robertson, Irma Jean Franklin and Angie Lawson.
Owen County Circuit Court Judge Lori Thatcher Quillen and circuit court referee Kelsey Hanlon presented the council with cost estimates, with a total known cost to the county of approximately $140,000 annually. In 2011, Owen County paid $199,873 in pauper defense expenses, with $184,775 paid in 2012. With an established commission, the county could receive up to 40-percent reimbursement for all cases a public defender is involved in, with the exception of misdemeanor cases and various child support cases. Hanlon noted that expenses associated with Child In Need of Services cases are reimbursable to the county.
The comprehensive plan laid out by board members Mark Rogers, Phyllis Tucker and Bruce Hamlin, along with Judge Thatcher Quillen and Hanlon calls for the hire of a full-time attorney to handle felony cases and administrative duties at a cost of $85,000 in annual salary and approximately $10,000 in benefits, in addition to a part-time attorney to handle juvenile cases and felony overflow at a cost of $35,000 annually. Both of those positions are 40 percent reimbursable.
A second part-time attorney with an annual salary of $35,000 would handle misdemeanor, child support and other non-reimbursable cases. This position would be fully funded by the county.
A full-time paralegal position would receive a salary of $27,793 annually, plus benefits, PERF (Public Employees Retirement Fund) and FICA (Federal Insurance Contributions Act), and is 40 percent reimbursable. A parttime clerical and investigative position with an annual salary of $15,748.64 would also be reimbursable.
The council members chose to delay any decision until all final cost estimates are compiled and the entire council is available to hear details during its upcoming meeting on March 10th.
Members from the Franklin Township Community, Owen Valley, Patricksburg Community and Coal City Community volunteer fire departments were on hand to accept checks in the amount of $2,678.55 from the county, generated by the Indiana Department of Natural Resources’ annual timber sales. Fire departments not represented included Cataract, Clay Township and Gosport.
The council received an update from Owen County Recorder Peggy Robertson, noting she is continuing online scanning with Fiddler Technologies with funds from the recorder’s perpetuation fund.
The council’s only decision of the night came on a request from Owen County Chief Probation Officer Donna McElroy. The board voted 4-0 to approve the hiring of a part-time case manager at a pay rate of $11.26 per hour for 18 hours a week. Following a May 9th graduation from Indiana University, the individual will become a full-time probation officer. Funds for the part-time position will be paid for from probation’s juvenile probation fees line.
In an update from Owen County Emergency Medical Service Director Cris Lunsford, the council was informed of a $1,500 price cut and a $1,000 trade-in credit for a recently approved defibrillator purchase.
Joined by consultant Jim Wilson, Lunsford continues to work to prepare a Federal Communications Commission licensing application to increase the power of the county’s fire repeater from 40 watts to 100 watts, with two additional tower sites on Ponderosa Road and at the Patricksburg Community VFD.
In an update from interim recycling center director John Reeves, the council was informed that Reeves will meet with representatives from Quincy Recycling on Thursday to evaluate operation practices. The recycling advisory committee will meet Monday, February 17, beginning at 3:00 p.m.
A request from Owen County Clerk Jeff Brothers to add a second part-time employee for filing and indexing work was ul- timately delayed until the council’s March 10th meeting. The new 28-hour per week position at a base rate of $8.78 per hour, including COLA (cost-of-livingadjustment), would work a total of 480 hours or 17 weeks, focusing on small claims and protective orders.
The council postponed agenda items related to wage and salary committee proposals, a local option highway user tax and wheel surtax discussion and a rainy day fund ordinance update.
Owen County Commissioner Donnie Minnick informed the board that timber is being marked on State Road 43 to be sold and will be presented at the March meeting. He also noted that the timber will be sold by sealed bids, not by public auction as previously noted. Those funds will go into the commissioners’ future building fund, not the county general fund. An appraisal is also being obtained for a county-owned property in Cunot to be presented at the commissioners’ first meeting in March.
Lastly, Owen County Auditor Mike Wood informed the council that plans to closeout a Main Source Bank account, to begin paying redevelopment commission-related expenses for the sewer extension project to State Road 43S, have changed. The county will need to keep the Main Source account open in order to pay interest payments and transfer funds from a local bank to the Main Source account to cover those expenses.
The Owen County Council will meet again on Monday, March 10, beginning at 7:00 p.m. in the Commissioners’ Room, located on the second floor of the Owen County Courthouse.
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