Council denies request to change retirement benefits

Wanda English Burnett

A great portion of the Ripley County Council’s meeting Monday night was taken up with discussion on changing the years a merit employee is vested at the Ripley County Sheriff’s Department.

Sheriff Tom Grills proposed that employees have to be employed with the sheriff’s office for 10 years instead of the present 8 years, to be vested and be eligible for retirement benefits at the age of 50.
He said it wouldn’t be fair to the present employees if someone off the street runs for sheriff, works eight years and then is eligible for retirement benefits.

Elaine Beaty, vice president of McCready and Keene, Inc., actuaries and employee benefit consultants from Indianapolis, was present at the meeting to discuss the pros and cons of changing to the 10-year proposal.

Council President Dephane Smith had concerns that if someone comes in as sheriff and then isn’t retained after the eight years, they wouldn’t have the chance to work the proposed ten years to gain retirement benefits.

Council member Ed Armbrecht said he also had concerns that a qualified candidate might not run for sheriff knowing they could potentially never get enough years in to draw retirement. He asked Beaty for the financial breakdown of how it would benefit the county by making the change.

Beaty explained the change, if approved, would only affect new hires, not the present employees at the sheriff’s department. She said the 10-year proposal would prevent payouts after only working for eight years. She said it would be a savings to the county.

Armbrecht said he had done some research before the meeting and employees of several area businesses are vested after only five years. He wanted to table the matter for further discussion and to look at a broader picture in regards to benefits and pay at the sheriff’s department.

In the end, Juanita Kaiser made a motion to accept the 10-year proposal with Bill Warren giving the second. The vote was three for, four against, with Bill Dramann, Ed Armbrecht, David Simon and Donald Dunbar voting against the motion.

The sheriff’s requests were not entirely in vain as he was given a unanimous vote on the DROP program.

This program would allow employees of the sheriff’s department to ‘retire’ for pension purposes only. This means they could continue to work and have their retirement go into a fund. Beaty explained this would be done without expense to the county and was an incentive to keep people beyond age 50. She said it provides a nice “nest egg” and can be for a period of up to five years.

Beaty explained that once an officer signs up for the program, he or she can’t change their mind. “It’s a done deal,” she noted. The sheriff said the officers and merit board were in favor of this, as they had been for the 10-year proposal, which he said he was disappointed in not getting passed.

Melvin Meisberger presented a storm sewer project proposal to the council with George Bultman, park board member, showing the drawings of how it would work.

Meisberger, who is president of the Ripley County Department of Parks and Recreation, said the park board would work with the Town of Osgood to put in a storm sewer drain along Fairground Avenue.
In a prepared statement he noted, “This would provide drainage for Fairground Road and particularly the park’s track area. To do this would require taking Building 13 down, which is the old red horse barn.”

Dephane Smith said she had toured the area in question and indeed saw “a large amount of water.”
Robert Reiners, president of the county commissioners, said the commissioners were in support of the project, pledging the county’s labor help with the project.

In committee reports it was noted that Aaron Bell has been hired to take the position of Tom Perotti who recently retired as executive director of the Southeastern Indiana Solid Waste Department.
The sheriff reported he got the COPS grant submitted and is working on a grant to enhance jail software.

Reiners said a grant was being submitted to the Rising Sun Regional Foundation to help with the Intregrator System and make needed repairs at the jail.

Additional appropriations included:

• $9,314.51 appropriated for road signs for the Ripley County Highway Department.

• $5,000 appropriated for the lighting project at the Ripley County Fairgrounds Park.

• $18,647.67 was appropriated for Ripley County LCC, Drug Free Community Fund. Paula Goodpaster, representing the Ripley County Local Coordinating Council gave a breakdown of the funds requested. She explained that the organization has four tiers- treatment, law enforcement, prevention, and administration, with each having a budget of $10,000.

Under treatment they were asking for $5,000 for One Community, One Family for training; law enforcement, the request was for $3,500 for the Prosecutor’s Office and $1,170.68 for Batesville Police, again for training; Prevention was broken down into four requests: $250 for SIEOC Child Care R&R, $1,200 for Big Brothers/Big Sisters, $2,500 for Choices Program at the Batesville schools, and $2,145 for Milan SADD; $2,980.99 was requested for administration.

Transfers were:

• $50,000 from the Gas, Oil & Lubricants fund to Machinery and Equipment for the purchase of two new tractors for the county highway.

The next regular meeting of the Ripley County Council will be May 18 at 7 p.m. at the commissioners’ room in the Ripley County Courthouse annex in Versailles.

George Bultman, right, showed the plans for the proposed storm sewer project on Fairground Ave. in Osgood to members of the Ripley County Council at their regular meeting Monday, April 20. All members were in attendance, pictured from left: Bill Dramann, Ed Armbrecht, David Simon, Donald Dunbar, Dephane Smith, Bill Warren, and Juanita Kaiser.