On Oct. 14, Batesville City Council members agreed to pay $20,114 to include Mayor Rick Fledderman in the Indiana Public Retirement System’s Public Employees’ Retirement Fund retroactive to 2004. The vote was 3-1, with Gene Lambert, Beth Meyers and Bob “Tuba” Narwold approving and Kevin Chaffee opposing. Darrick Cox was absent.
On Feb. 10, the topic was on the agenda again.
Clerk-treasurer Ron Weigel said, “We questioned PERF (officials) when the original letter was sent out because we thought the amount seemed a little bit low, but we were told it was correct .... After the decision to move forward, we received an invoice from PERF ... but we thought there was an error in the amount.” It was $30,000 more than the original amount.
”After checking, we learned there was a typographical error on the original letter (dated Sept. 26, 2013). The correct amount was $50,114 .... PERF (representatives) did say it was their fault.”
Weigel stressed, “The employer portion is what we’re talking about, and it goes into the general fund .... The other portion is the annuity part” to which the mayor can contribute up to 10 percent of his salary going forward. Fledderman cannot retroactively add money to the annuity part.
Former utilities manager Mike Vonderheide said he recalled, “When Rick first took office, PERF was not to be considered for the mayor’s position.”
Lambert pointed out, “I led the salary review during the first term .... (and) there was no such discussion about denying the mayor PERF benefits .... I believe the mayor’s position deserves it, and I believe all city employees deserve that benefit. I will stay with my position.”
Narwold noted, “I think a mayor of a town this size should be in it. I’m not going to change my mind.”
Chaffee pointed out, “I’m still opposed to the retroactive payment of retirement benefits.”
The vote was 4-1 with Chaffee opposing.
The money will come from the Rainy Day Fund. This “is a nonreverting fund that is not part of the general operating budgets,” Weigel reported. “The Rainy Day Fund carries over from year to year if not spent.” The current balance is $537,076.
”When I contacted the State Board of Accounts about the PERF issues, Charlie Pride said that this fund was an appropriate one to allocate this money from,” he added.
In other news, members once again discussed a proposed ordinance to prohibit smoking in certain areas of city parks. “Last month, a lot of the discussion was around enforcement,” Fledderman recalled.
City attorney Lynn Fledderman looked at the proposed document and made some revisions. “Instead of making it an ordinance that had penalties, it designates smoking and nonsmoking areas .... so it’s more of a deterrent.”
Narwold stressed, “I still think we’re going a little overboard. It’s open air .... (but) I wouldn’t be opposed to putting signs up.”
Chaffee agreed, “I walk through the park every day and very seldom is anyone smoking there, and when they do, they’re in open areas.”
Lambert commented, “As a nonsmoker, I would love to see it nonsmoking .... My biggest concern is where is the line for government and the private sector? .... I think a bigger reason for doing this is that people throw their cigarette butts on the ground. Why should Mike (Baumer, parks commissioner) have to clean them up? Why can’t they be more respectful? .... I would recommend we put up signs and remind them to put their butts away.”
Cox pointed out, “It sounds like it’s more of a littering problem than a smoking problem .... I don’t know if putting legislation there is the answer.”
Baumer responded, “We’ve tried the signs, so I would rather not waste any more of the parks’ money putting more up .... We’re not asking the police to be out there watching the park 24 hours a day. We just want something in place so if there’s a problem, we can do something about it.”
Members agreed to abandon the ordinance.
Kathy Newell, Margaret Mary Health respiratory therapist, asked the group to reconsider the motion. “Indiana still rates as one of the top smoking areas .... As a society and as a culture, we need to take steps to change the culture for our children so they don’t pick up the habit.”
Diane Raver can be contacted at email@example.com or 812-934-4343, Ext. 114.
Other news • Members supported Resolution 2-2014 for a Dog Park Fund. After a trial-based dog park went over well last year, "now our goal is to put a permanent one in" at Liberty Park, Baumer reported. "This resolution says any money raised for this fund is strictly for the maintenance and upkeep of the dog park." • Batesville was recently selected as a site to host an Active Living Workshop, which is designed to help communities throughout the state become healthier, more active and accessible for all ages and abilities. Funding for the workshop will be provided by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Sarah Lamping, community development director, said, "We must provide a venue and lunch and refreshments for about 50 individuals." She requested $1,000 from Belterra riverboat revenue-sharing funds to help pay for this. It was approved. • Batesville Board of Works members gave a nod to take $198,700 from the Cumulative Fire Fund to repair the department's building, which has moisture causing some exterior blocks to shatter. • They also approved the $1.77 million 2014 sewer budget.