Corridor, additional resource officer on city’s radar


JASPER — The Jasper Common Council held its second 2019 budget meeting Wednesday morning, and though the budget is still not official — and won’t be until this winter  — council members agreed on the addition of a couple  newsworthy line items to the budget proposal.

These included the addition of a second school resource officer within the Greater Jasper Consolidated School Corporation, and across-the-board wage increases for all city employees. The tentative supplying of funds to the Midstate Corridor project was also discussed.

City Financial Coordinator Sharon Sander said the budget is closer to a break-even point than it was at last week’s hearings (during which it had a $100,000 cushion), but it is still in the clear.

Greater Jasper Schools received a matching school safety grant from the Department of Homeland Security worth $41,247.50 in July, and the school district will cover approximately 70 percent of the cost of the second officer. The city will be responsible for the other 30 percent. Mayor Terry Seitz did not know when the officer would begin working in the schools. When school is out of session, the new resource officer would operate as a regular department officer, just like Jasper Police Department Officer Jason Knies, who is currently the school district’s only school resource officer.

The council also discussed its potential involvement with the Regional Development Authority working to bring the Midstate Corridor through the area. The corridor is a proposed four-lane, limited-access highway that would run north from Owensboro, Kentucky, go around Huntingburg and Jasper, and continue north to connect to I-69, but that route could change after the Indiana Department of Transportation conducts a study on the proposed project.

Seitz said the first phase of the project will be supported by local funds from public and private entities. That initial phase includes a full environmental impact study from U.S. 231 in Dale northward, and should be completed about three years after it begins.

The RDA aims to secure $7 million in public and private funds for that tier one phase, Seitz said. At the budget meeting, the council favorably discussed — but did not approve — a resolution of support that would confirm the council will fund a portion of that tier one public funding.

If approved, Jasper’s council would be tasked with contributing an estimated $1.4 million over a multi-year span to that phase of the project. The council will vote on a resolution of support at its next meeting at 7 p.m. Sept. 19, in the council chambers at City Hall, 610 Main St.

Already, $3.8 million has been committed by private donors. Though the funding avenue for the project was not approved, Seitz said the city’s money could come from the city’s rainy day fund or from funding alternatives that would be discussed at a later date.

The council had previously discussed the across-the-board wage increases for city employees at its initial budget hearings and agreed to keep that addition in the budget Those increases included a raise of 3 percent for full-time employees, $1 per hour for permanent part-time employees and 30 cents an hour for seasonal, part-time employees. The bumping up of several salary ranges, such as the visual arts coordinator and a few park department employees, was also tentatively approved. The salary ordinance those wages are a part of will be voted on at the October council meeting.

After the modifications from the original proposed budget — which totaled $20,427,607 — the new amount sits closer to $20.5 million.

“It didn’t change much,” Sander said in a phone interview today.

The budget is formed after the departments submit their requests and Sander compiles them. She explained that what the city can fund is determined by estimated revenue for the remaining current year and next year, tax revenue and leftover dollars from previous years.

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