The Porter County
Council unanimously passed a resolution in support of the United
Steelworkers (USW) at its meeting last night.
Vice-president Jeremy Rivas, R-2nd, read the resolution urging U.S. Steel
and ArcelorMittal to stay at the table with USW and reach a fair agreement.
Rivas said a strike could be damaging because “the steel industry is vital
to northwest Indiana.”
Rivas noted that
the steelworkers didn’t take a raise for three years while the market was in
a downturn. “Now as the steel industry is back in an upswing, the price of
steel is up, they’re just asking for a little bit back,” he said.
Director Toni Bianchi came before the Council asking to transfer a total of
$13,212.65 from contractual services and vehicle repair and maintenance to
pay two employees for comp time owed to them from previous years.
Scott McClure said Bianchi inherited the issue of two employees who accrued
excessive comp time from the previous shelter director. The comp time owed
to the employees is for work done between four and six years ago, he said.
Bianchi took over at the shelter four years ago.
McClure said the
two employees racked up 390 and 221 hours of comp time. According to
Bianchi, the two employees are essential to the shelter, and she can’t give
them time off without paying others to replace them, defeating the purpose
of saving money from not paying out for comp time. Council member Dan
Whitten, D-At-large, said he’s seen worse comp time numbers, but he asked
McClure how the comp time was overlooked in the first place.
Vicki Urbanik said comp time often went unreported by department heads under
the County’s old payroll system. With the new timekeeping policy and system,
department heads must sign-off on all vacation or comp time earned. Bianchi
said it was Urbanik who notified her of the comp time owed to the two
employees, and she is keeping a watchful eye on comp time now to make sure
nothing slips through the cracks.
Andy Bozak, R-1st, said his biggest concern was that other departments will
later make the same request. While Whitten said that employees racking up
hundreds of hours of comp time is “glaring mismanagement” on the part of
department heads, he noted that Bianchi is rectifying the issue. “She’s
transferring money internally to fix it, which is what we’ll mandate other
departments to do anyway,” Whitten responded. “I don’t know that there’s
great answers for it other than to make the department heads find it.”
Whitten and Rivas
asked McClure if any other departments have a similar problem. McClure said
other departments have racked up hundreds of hours, but none have a
situation where the time was accrued and never dealt with years ago.
Karen Conover, R-3rd, took a moment to thank Bianchi for her work on the
issue. “I just want to say this is not about you,” Conover said.
The Council voted
6-1 to approve Bianchi’s transfers with Bozak dissenting.
The Council asked
Attorney Harold Harper if he has received any contracts following the
promise it made in June that it would review all the County’s financial
obligations that extend past the end of this year. Harper said he reviewed
two long-term leases and hasn’t yet started going through maintenance
agreements. He reported that the lease for the Health Department office in
Portage and the Soil and Water Conservation District appear to be in order.
Whitten said the
Council needs to know if maintenance agreements are going to “eat into the
general fund.” Council member Mike Jessen, R-4th, suggested that the IT
Department could weigh-in on maintenance agreements for items like copiers
and computer systems.