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Council asked to merge plan commission, SWCD jobs

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Fischer wants same pay, raises other county employees get

By Kevin Koelling, Managing Editor

TELL CITY - Darlene Fischer was one of several people appearing before the county council Thursday to draw the fiscal body's attention to special circumstances that could affect next year's budget.

She proposed the two positions she now holds, and the salaries that go with them, be combined into one.

Fischer serves as assistant in the planning and zoning commission office and coordinator for the Perry County Soil and Water Conservation District. She and representatives of both entities objected after Jody Fortwendel, a county commissioner and plan-commission member, discussed with County Council President Pete Franzman creating a new position that would merge the duties of county administrator and planning and zoning assistant. Former County Administrator Charlotte Rogier moved to a new job in the county treasurer's office in June.

In discussing that combination of positions, Fortwendel questioned whether Fischer should have been permitted to occupy two county jobs at once.

She said Friday it was illegal, and both the plan commission and Soil and Water Conservation District board agreed to combine her two jobs into one position. While they hadn't yet formally approved the new job description, she said both boards had discussed it and agreed to the concept.

"All we're requesting is that the salary for the newly created position be the same as what I'm receiving now," Fischer told the council Thursday.

Randy Rennie, chairman of the SWCD board, said at Thursday's meeting the county commissioners approached that body four years ago and suggested Fischer could add, on a trial basis, the planning-assistant duties to those she already held.

While "the learning curve was pretty steep," he said, "she picked up the ball and carried it, and she's been doing a pretty good job, from what I can see."

The county saved the cost of one health-insurance premium by not hiring another person, he added in urging that the situation be corrected instead of  being "a full-time position at half-time pay, which is what it basically was before."

In response to a question from Councilman Ron Crawford, who said the pay figures before him were different than what he'd seen previously, Fischer said her combined salary is $31,985. A first deputy in a county office earns $25,514, she said, so the difference between a person holding that one duty and her performing two is $6,471.

She also pointed out that over the past four years that she's held both jobs, the salary for the planning assistant has averaged $486. "That's a pretty good deal for the county," she said.

In addition to keeping what she's currently earning, Fischer asked that she also receive any raises afforded to other county employees.

The county council will meet beginning at 8 a.m. Sept. 15 and 16 to reconcile expenses and revenues projected for 2010. Franzman said they will have to cut more than $400,000 from the total requested.

While it could still be difficult, he said it's not as large a task as they've faced in previous years because "people didn't ask for a lot … they know they're going to have to tighten their belts."

The county highway department "is probably going to have a tougher time than anybody," he added, "because even this past year, they had to cut back on their budget because the money wasn't coming in like it was projected to. They're going to be in even tighter constraints than we are."

A drop in gas-tax revenues "is a good part of it," he said. "That has been significant."