Newton County Courthouse in Kentland

Newton County Courthouse in Kentland.

KENTLAND — In what was scheduled as merely an organizational meeting, the new year got off to a bang with the Newton County Council.

By a 5-1 vote, the council reversed its decision on giving a raise for the Public Health Nurse position.

Back in October, Ray Chambers, as President of the Health Board, came before the county council with a request to increase the salary of the Public Health Nurse by $13,000. At the council’s previous meeting, Chambers informed the council that Public Health Nurse Kim Durham was offered a position that pays more and was probably going to accept it.

The $13,000 raise would have increased Durham’s salary to $58,000 a year.

The council never took action on that request but after a lengthy discussion, Councilmember Abbey Rossiter made a motion to give that position a $7,000 raise. That motion failed 4-3 with Scott Carlson, Michael Mark, Tim Lohr, and Pat Mulligan voting no. Rossiter along with councilmembers Mick Vanderwall and David Atkinson voted for the pay increase.

No other raise amount was considered by the council after that vote.

That was until Jan. 4, 2021, months after the former Public Health Nurse had moved on to a position with the South Newton School Corporation.

Chambers once again approached the council asking for a raise, however, this time for the newly hired Public Health Nurse.

“We had five applications turned in but only one showed up for the interview,” said Chambers. “She will start on the 11th.”

Chambers added that the new hire, Kayla Crews, was taking a good cut of pay accepting the position. “I am asking for her salary to be $48,000, which is just under a $3,000 raise,” added Chambers.

Without any discussion, new councilmember Matt Gibson made a motion to approve the raise, which was seconded by Michael Mark.

Mark stated that he was behind this margin of a raise instead of the higher amounts that were requested previously, and that is why he was voting for it.

Rossiter, the councilmember who led the charge on trying to get a raise for the former Public Health Nurse said that she believes that position should be paid more but couldn’t in good conscience vote for it.

“Members of this council wouldn’t even consider a raise for a vetted and valuable employee,” said Rossiter.

The Public Health Nurse raise was approved 5-1 with Rossiter as the lone no vote.

Rossiter said after the meeting, that she was disappointed in how the entire issue played out.

“We had a chance to keep a very valuable employee and there was no effort given to even consider any raise for her,” said Rossiter.

In other news, it didn’t take long for a disagreement on the powers of the county council to flare up. Surveyor Steve Snell brought in a revised job description for a vacant position in his office so that the council could approve it. Gibson argued that the council shouldn’t have any say on job descriptions and that should be up to that elected officeholder.

“Our job is to fund it,” said Gibson. “I don’t care if he wants to hire a kangaroo.”

Mark answered stating that the hiring is up to the elected officeholder, but the approval of job descriptions is the council’s responsibility.

The job description was approved 6-0 and Snell was given permission to fill the vacancy.

In other action, there were two nominations for council president this year, Scott Carlson, who was not at the meeting, and Mark. By a 4-2 vote, Mark was approved as new council president. Moments later the council approved Carlson as vice-president by a 6-0 vote.

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