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By KEVIN KOELLING
TELL CITY – Work continues to progress on the Hoosier Southern Railroad and is closing in on a goal officials there and with the Perry County Port Authority have been pursuing for some time – 286,000-pound capacity. The weight refers to a single rail car and the effort is routinely referred to as the 286 project.
“We expect to wrap this up by mid-January, the EDA project itself,” Kevin Teague said at a Dec. 11 meeting of the port authority’s board of directors. The port-rail agency’s operations manager and trainmaster was referring to work funded by a federal Economic Development Administration grant, for which an end-of-April deadline was set.
Six barges of pig iron were en route from a new customer, Teague told the board. Member Bill Goffinet asked whether they were being pulled along the Mississippi river, a joking reference to low-water conditions. The Associated Press reported Thursday the river channel at St. Louis was still “dangerously low” but was up about a foot-and-a-half to 12 feet deep since the previous Monday. The recent snowstorm would improve conditions, the report also said.
“We have had several inquiries from potential customers looking for short-term answers to the low water levels,” Teague said. “Some of them we can’t (help). We’re just simply not equipped or they’re not realistic in what they expect. Some of them we can, and we’ve also worked to try to point them in other directions if we can.” That might facilitate possible future business relationships, he said.
The board approved a salary administration plan Teague recommended that includes a 3-percent pay increase for the port-rail agency’s employees. It matches raises for county employees, but Goffinet noted there’s no connection.
“I would feel we based our decision … on what we think our employees should receive and what we can afford,” he said.
Teague called 2011, when they got a 25-cent raise, “not as good a year … 2012 was much better than we actually expected and there was a lot of effort put in.”
Board member Tom Holm noted that industrial averages across the country ranged from 1.5 to “maybe 3 percent” with the higher raises “pretty rare.”
“In the business that I’m in,” said Goffinet, who works as a field-services manager for the Indiana Association of Cities and Towns, “since they’re settling in on this property-tax cap … most of the cities are trying to give somewhere around 2 to 2.5 percent … most people did not get much of a raise, if any, so I think that’s very reasonable.”
He offered a motion to approve the plan, whose approval was unanimous.
The board also approved an operating budget after agreeing with Holm to add 2 percent “to the payroll-tax side of things” because “we don’t know what’s gong to happen next year income-tax-wise.”
“We always want to be conservative,” he suggested. “If we don’t have to pay it, great.”
Teague said he had two goals in mind in suggesting a change in commercial and liability insurance: save money and try to go local.
“We have a good insurance agent who gave us a quote that was better than what we saw from our old insurance provider,” he said before recommending a change to Franzman Insurance of Tell City.
Holm called fulfillment of both goals at once “a no-brainer” before offering a motion to accept the change to Liberty Mutual through Franzman. It, too, was approved by all members.
An annual reorganization resulted in the current slate of officers keeping their jobs for next year. That means Alvin Evans will continue to serve as chairman, Goffinet will retain the vice chairman’s role and Danny Thomas remains the board secretary.
Teague said he’d submitted an application for an Industrial Rail Service Fund grant that would allow the resurfacing of five miles of track and replacement of 2,000 ties. Completion of that work and some in progress “would essentially make us 286-capable,” he said.