(WTWO/WAWV)– During Tuesday’s Vigo County Council meeting, the council addressed two of the biggest projects they will grapple with during 2023: The county’s plan to spend millions of dollars in federal funding, and an ongoing study relating to the salaries of Vigo employees.
County commissioner Chris Switzer started the meeting taking questions detailing the county’s plan to spend around $15 million in American Rescue Plan act funding for projects like housing, infrastructure and much more. Switzer said they will work with Thrive to develop housing projects, and hope to create an application process that will be used to consider some projects.
Vigo County Council President Todd Thacker said they didn’t vote on the plan officially tonight due to a miscommunication, but he thought the Q&A session was informative. He said the council still felt they needed more information before taking the next official steps.
“We had a lot of questions, and I don’t believe even if we had had [voted tonight,] I don’t believe the members of the council felt like they had enough information to go along with over $14 million dollars,” he said.
Thacker said he hoped to see public meetings held on the issue– to help provide transparency on why they made decisions, and provide more in-depth information on certain projects.
“We have a once in a lifetime opportunity here to make some impacts. I think the council and the commissioners are just trying to get it right, and do the READI grants and the ARPA funds together to make that impact,” Thacker said.
After that, the county council heard from multiple department heads who said they needed pay raises or more positions to compensate for a lack of adequate staffing. The offices of the county clerk, prosecutor, the jail, the juvenile center and CASA all came before council with different needs in terms of staffing.
The county tabled most of these votes until next meeting. Thacker said they were awaiting the results of a compensation study done by consulting firm Baker Tilly that will address the biggest needs in the county. He said that study is finalized, they will make the final decisions.
“Baker Tilly is a comprehensive study that looks at the marketplace. It compared, I think it was 14 different like-markets,” he said.
Thacker said he was told over the phone some preliminary numbers– mainly, that around 80 positions in the county were currently severely underpaid, and they would need to spend over $200,000 just to get those positions to the low end of the market.
“Right now, from just what we’ve got over a conversation on the telephone, we have 81 people, and it would cost $218,000 just to get them to low,” he said. “If our goal is [to reach market-level salaries], it’s going to take us a while to get there, and that’s a lot of money.”
Thacker did point out they didn’t table every vote– they approved two new positions for the CASA office, and approved for 12 new positions at the new county jail. He said he felt those decisions fell outside the scope of the study.
“We did do some good tonight. The last one to present was CASA and that was emotional, we got that taken care of. We did try to satisfy the federal judge and get taken care of the jailors,” he said. “We are making some strides, and we felt those were circumstances beyond Baker Tilly. But we want to be fair to everybody. And if a comprehensive study done by somebody, we’re not experts on what the market is, so we employ somebody to give us that information.”
Thacker anticipates the study will come back sometime in the next week of two. When it does, he wants to host a public meeting with a subcommittee that will help determine what the next steps will be.
“I hope to get it and to share it with the council, and then to have subcommittee meet in a public meeting to decide what we want and to start hammering what is it we want to do with this study,” he said.