Lawsuit settled, county to get money from Belterra

Cindy DiFazio, Staff Writer

The Ripley County Council met in regular session on Thursday, March 1. All members, except Dephane Smith, were present along with Attorney Neil Comer and County Auditor Mary Ann McCoy.

Council President, Donald Dunbar, told members that the lawsuit against Belterra Casino has been settled. Ripley County had entered into the suit with Jefferson and Crawford counties to recoup shortfalls from the casino. Belterra agreed to split a maximum of $1,000,000 between the three counties - $500,000 to Jefferson, $250,000 to Crawford and $250,000 to Ripley.

If slot machines are approved for use at racetracks, casino revenues might be adversely effected which, in turn, would mean less money for the counties.

Belterra also will subtract monies it says that Ripley County was overpaid. That will occur in the first two quarters of this year, making Ripley County’s share only $13,000 for each of those quarters.
The counties and towns will have to split the cost of attorneys’ fees.

A new agreement will need to be signed by March 31.

Ripley County Clerk, Ginger Bradford, came before the council to request an additional appropriation of $3,640. Bradford told the council that she had conducted a study comparing salaries of the Ripley County clerk’s clerical workers to those employed by other Indiana counties of the same size. She noted that her clerical workers do the same work as those who are deputized, but are not paid the same. The additional appropriation would provide a .50 per hour increase. “I’m asking that this be put in the perpetuation fund to increase their salaries,” Bradford explained. She stated further, “We’ve done as much as we can do to trim the budget. I’ve had six clerical people quit to go to higher paying jobs.”

Council member, Ed Armbrecht, agreed, “It’s very costly to the county to lose employees.” However, he told Bradford, “We need to sit down and look at this, but doing it in the middle of the budget year is a slippery slope.” Mark Busching added, “I agree 100%. I think you’re doing this the right way, conducting your own studies.” “But,” he went on, “I agree with Ed about not doing this in the middle of the year.”

Bradford received assurances from the council that the matter of salary increases would be entertained at budget time.

Sheriff Tom Grills reported that shower repairs in the jail should be a priority. Grills stated that water stands in the corners and around drains. He said that industrial tile needs to be laid in five of the stalls. An estimate of $18,000 for 1,296 square feet has been obtained. Council president, Donald Dunbar, inquired, “Was this in the last report on the jail?” Grills responded that although the report on the jail was favorable, he did not believe it addressed many ongoing problems. Commissioner Lawrence Nickell, said, “We’ve got problems, nothing major, but they need to be fixed.”

In old business, Dunbar reminded the council that at the January meeting paying off the jail had been proposed. He stated that since then he had been informed by Neil Comer that leaving that until next year will actually save the county $9,000. Armbrecht concurred, “At least for this year we’ll make more in interest by not paying it off.” Dunbar noted, “We will revisit this issue next year.”

Ted Spurlock, Ripley County’s representative to the Rising Sun Regional Foundation, presented the foundation’s 2006 annual report. The foundation has operated for ten years and awarded in excess of $19.2 million in direct grants within its grantmaking region. According to the report, that $19.2 million has assisted in leveraging $230 million in government, foundation and personal contributions to 800 projects, or an equivalent of $12 in project funding for every $1 of RSRF grant funding. Commissioners president, Robert Reiners commented, “It (the RSRF) has improved the quality of life for the citizens of Ripley County and we appreciate it.”


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