Editorial: Better late than never, council raises pay

For plenty of Bartholomew County employees, the pay raise taking effect July 1 that county council passed this week was a day late and a dollar short. That’s because of 400 county employees, 35 of them quit in the first five months of the year. That’s a much higher rate than normal, county officials said.

Perhaps they were put off by the council’s long-delayed promise to raise workers’ pay to the mid-point of comparable county employees elsewhere in Indiana. After quibbling about it and stalemating for months, county council finally this week voted 6-1 to raise salaries for 169 employees, in line with a salary study that showed our local county workers were underpaid.

The lone “no” vote came from Council President Greg Duke, who suggested he was doing “the taxpayer” a service by refusing to raise the pay of dedicated civil servants. Apparently Duke is OK with losing nearly 10 percent of county staff while inflation is soaring and the county’s cash surplus is at a record high. He must not realize that there are significant costs associated with having to recruit, hire, train, and most significantly, retain a valuable work force. “The taxpayer” pays those costs, too, to keep the county running.

Duke wailed against the rising tide of the council that was persuaded, or maybe shamed, into finally doing the right thing by its work force and raising their pay. It was poor theatrics even by county government meeting standards.

“What are you going to do for taxpayers?” Duke interrupted a fellow council member, as The Republic’s Andy East reported. “What’s your plan on that?”

Then Duke turned to Councilman Jorge Morales and asked: “Do you got an answer for that question?”

“I think that the taxpayer has spoken on election day,” Morales zinged Duke in reply, not so subtly referencing Duke’s defeat in his primary re-election bid. Ouch. Well, someone needed to say it.

We’re glad county employees are finally getting the raise they were promised. It’s more than past due.

City correctly rejected rezoning bid

Development is not always in the best interests of the community, particularly when it’s proposed in areas that are prone to flooding.

A proposed rezoning that could have allowed commercial development on land along U.S. 31 north of Washington Street was a case in point. Columbus City Council last week correctly turned down a request to rezone 12 acres of land from agricultural use to a commercial zoning classification.

Residents and city officials voiced concerns about flooding due to the land’s close proximity to the Flatrock River and the fact that the land was in the floodway fringe. Any future development on the property almost certainly would have required a large amount of fill on the land. That’s not a good solution because it merely would have pushed floodwater to nearby properties.

Officials made the best decision for the city by rejecting a rezoning that could have produced headaches as well as development.

Solar rules moving forward, and it’s time

About 50 people turned out last week to hear the Bartholomew County Plan Commission open discussion on proposed zoning regulations for large-scale solar energy systems. It’s time for the community to adopt rules that apply to all, with review of each proposed system on a case-by-case basis.

Two US-based companies, Tenaska and Arevon, have leased land in northeastern Bartholomew County with plans to develop a 200-megawatt solar field by next year that the companies say could supply electricity for some 30,000 homes.

At a meeting on July 13, members of the public will have input on the proposed regulations. As we see it, we are going to need all the energy sources we can get going forward. Just this week, multiple utilities in our area raised the possibility of rolling blackouts due to peak energy use as heat indexes reached dangerous highs.

Clean energy will be crucial in the future. If people in our county wish to use their land for that purpose, we see no harm as long as everyone is following the same clear local rules and regulations.

Bartholomew County needs to make that happen.