By MATT KOESTERS
For the very first time in Clark County history, a Republican now holds the mantle of the president of the county’s board of commissioners.
The commissioners unanimously selected freshman Commissioner Jack Coffman to run the meetings of the board of commissioners, with fellow freshman Republican Commissioner Rick Stephenson selected to serve as the board’s vice president.
“It feels great,” Coffman, a former county council member, said. “It’s exciting to be back in here, and especially as a commissioner, where you have more direct responsibility to the public and can help out the public. I’m looking forward to a great four years and to do a good job, and do better for Clark County.”
The tone of the meeting was different from those under former Commissioners Les Young and Ed Meyer from the get-go. After those gathered at the meeting recited the Pledge of Allegiance, Coffman asked County Auditor R. Monty Snelling to lead a prayer to start the meeting.
The commissioners also made some personnel moves, starting with the position of county attorney. The role formerly filled by Greg Fifer was given to Jake Elder, who currently serves as the Sellersburg town attorney and the attorney for the Clark County Solid Waste Management District. Elder will keep both roles, but will have to give up his position as an assistant prosecutor in the Clark County prosecutor’s office.
“I’m very excited and very honored,” Elder said. “I look forward to working for the new commissioners.”
The commissioners will retain Fifer’s services as auxiliary legal counsel, handling pending litigation initiated during the previous regime’s term. As county attorney, Fifer was paid $165 per hour. He will receive $140 for his part-time help.
“We feel confident this would be a benefit to the county,” Coffman said.
Elder, however, will only receive an hourly rate in special circumstances, Coffman said. Instead, Elder will be paid a flat annual salary of $120,000.
“We wanted to try to reduce some of our costs right off the bat, and we came up with a plan to hire an attorney at a flat yearly fee so we can budget better for that,” Coffman said. “We’ll know very closely, then, how our attorney fees are going to run. Now, special things that may come up, there’s an hourly rate worked in there for that, but we feel like we can probably save the county ... maybe $100,000 per year on attorney’s fees.”
The commissioners renewed the contract of Jill Oca, who provided accounting services to the county under the previous administration. Oca will provide assistance with budget issues, State Board of Accounts audit issues, departmental budgets, grant requests and other special accounting projects.
“I interviewed Jill and everything, and got a better feel for what she actually does for the county,” Coffman said. “Her outstanding work during the tornado was a blessing to this county, and I think she’ll be a further blessing.”
The commissioners only made two appointments at their first meeting of the year. Coffman was appointed to the Clark County Planning Commission, replacing Meyer. Wayne Carter will replace Coffman on the board of zoning appeals. Both appointments passed unanimously, with Commissioner John Perkins making both motions.
LIFESPRING SEEKING NEW BUILDING
Lifespring is in search of a new biuilding to replace one located at 425 Maple Street in Jeffersonville because the Indiana Department of Transportation will need the current location’s land for an expansion project on Interstate 65, said Jeffery Caldwell, Lifespring president.
Caldwell requested that the commissioners deed a property located at 224 Mechanic Street in Jeffersonville to Lifespring. The property did not sell in two different commissioners’ tax sales, Caldwell said.
Fifer pointed out that while a tax-sale certificate had been issued on the property for delinquent taxes, the certificate had not been redeemed and the title was still in the property owner’s name. Fifer said that he was in the process of examining county-owned properties to see if a suitable location non-essential to the county’s operation was available to deed over to Lifespring.
INDOT has informed Lifespring that it has about five months to vacate the Maple Street location, Caldwell said.