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Council votes 4-3 to limit courthouse access

Members of the LaGrange County Council voted 4-3 in favor of limiting access to the county courthouse and county office building at Monday’s budget adopting session. The effort was led by incoming councilmen George Bachman and Harold Gingerich. Councilmen Charles Ashcraft and Michael Strawser agreed.

    The Nay votes came from Steve McKowen, Ben Taylor and Peter Cook. Last year the vote was 7-0 to deny funding for the proposal to limit traffic to one way into and one way out of the buildings.

    Sheriff Jeff Campos had included funding for three additional jail officers in his budget for 2016. The motion to allow the funding for these three additional employees set in motion the effort to limit access. Estimated cost for the three officers is $114,000 per year plus benefits of some $8,000 each per year.

    Other budget items included a general fund cut of some $375,000 to move the sheriff’s merit retirement premium to the County Adjusted Gross Income Tax (CAGIT) fund. This major budget item was $356,000 in 2015 and benefits only those sheriff’s officers under the merit board’s jurisdiction.

    A considerable amount of time was spent grilling Human Resources Director LuAnn McConnehey on the employee evaluation system put into place in 2014 by the county council. She told council that all departments, save one, had turned in the evaluations in 2014 and that efforts are being made “right now” to secure evaluations for 2015. McConnehey also said that to her knowledge most departments had granted each employee the full allotted raise allowed last year (3 percent) for this year.

    Council members noted again that raises are at department head discretion and are to be thought of as an “up to” amount, not an automatic entitlement. No decision on a wage increase for 2016 was made Monday morning.