By Nancy Allen
Bowing to a county budget shortfall, Mercer County Soil and Water Conservation District (SWCD) board members cut the hours of two SWCD employees and agreed to forgo a 2.4 percent cost of living raise for all employees.
The action followed a two-hour executive session held during their meeting Thursday morning to discuss employee compensation.
District administrator/education specialist Nikki Hawk's hours were cut from 80 to 56 hours per two-week pay period, and assistant technician Alvin Tebbe's hours were cut from 80 to 64 hours per two-week pay period. Board members said the reductions would be in effect until at least the end of this year, after which they would reassess the budget.
Hawk said reducing hours for the two employees and forgoing raises would save the district roughly $16,387 this year.
Hours were cut based on seniority and workload flexibility, SWCD board chairman Rick Muhlenkamp said. Board members also passed a motion to increase Hawk's salary from $14.73 an hour to $16.92 an hour, within the pay range that Dublin-based Clemans Nelson & Associates came up with as part of a revision of SWCD employees' job descriptions and pay scales.
Thursday's budget cuts were made assuming the SWCD office receives 80 percent in state matching funds this year. If the funds come up lower, more cuts could follow, Hawk said.
The Mercer soil and water conservation district receives state funds each year that are matched with any local funds the district receives. Hawk said she should know in mid June how much in state matching funds the district will receive for the year.
Mercer County Engineer Jim Wiechart spoke to board members about zoning regulations and drainage issues in the county.
Wiechart said the engineer's office and the county prosecuting attorney's office created a document on drainage requirements for lot creation. A draft of the document has been given to all 131Ú2 of the townships in the county, with the exception of the western half of Jefferson Township, which is unzoned.
"This was sent with the intent to let townships know if they wanted to enforce drainage regulations more, this is some language they could adopt in their individual zoning codes to give them more teeth and forestall drainage problems from people trying to develop lots in areas where it would be a problem," he said.
Wiechart said the most common drainage problem in the county is with housing subdivisions classified as minor subdivisions, which tap their drainage into a field tile that is not big enough to handle the increased runoff. The result is usually rainwater backing up into farm fields.
Wiechart said township officials from Union Township, which includes the village of Mendon, are considering putting the drainage language into their zoning code.
He said a better indication on how township officials feel about the language should come after a meeting with them in March.
"I'm curious how many are going to take the ball and run with it or just sit back," Wiechart said of the draft. "Many times it is based on how strict a county wants to be with its zoning."
The next SWCD meeting is March 10 at 8:30 a.m. at the SWCD office in the Central Services Building in Celina.