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Markle TC accepts salary ordinance

Those present at the Wednesday, Dec. 15, Markle Town Council meeting received a little lesson in inflation and deflation, courtesy of Council President Matthew Doss, as one of the tasks for the evening was to approve the 2022 Salary Ordinance for the town’s employees.

Each year, a salary ordinance is drawn up to reflect what the next coming year’s salary should be. Doss pointed out that there was a 5 percent increase to the salaries for town employees and for the police department and went on to explain the reasoning behind the increase.

“(It) is a bit bigger than in the past – normally it was about two percent – that was because it was based off inflation and inflation was generally running 1.5 to 2 or 2.5 percent,” Doss said. “Inflation is approaching, if not exceeded, 6 percent. And that’s alarming. So as much as that 5 percent looks like sticker shock, we have to understand that everything is more expensive and the employees need to pay for things. In reality, it sets them a little bit behind the inflation curve.”

Doss then acknowledged that some may be concerned about the fact that the salaries are being raised due to inflation even though inflation “might go down” but he explained why it would not happen.

“Here is how inflation works – things are going to continue to get more expensive. There is only one time in the past, since 1954… that we have had deflation. And that was in 2009,” Doss said. “It’s not going to happen. It’s just going to increase more.”

Wages also went up for council members, for the first time since the early 2000s. Doss prefaced this part of the meeting with describing what was going on in the world the last time that council members had received any sort of raise.

“It’s been a long time since that (amount) has been adjusted and I actually looked in the minutes,” Doss said. “The last time that it was adjusted was before any Pirates of the Caribbean movie was ever made, before Finding Nemo… Mr. Rogers and Bob Hope were still alive back then. The people serving in the military now weren’t even born then. That’s how long ago it was – 2002.”

According to Doss, the increase doesn’t even meet the threshold to adjust for inflation. Council members would be making $4,400 and council president would be making $5,500, meaning the increase is about $500 “across the board.”

A motion was made to accept the ordinance. The motion carried.

In unrelated business, Mark Wickersham, representing Huntington County United Economic Development (HCED), gave council a yearly overview and also requested the renewal of a contract between Markle and HCED. He began by thanking the council members and town representatives for being an enjoyable community to work with, and then got to business.

“In my 10 years with Huntington County now, we have been able to facilitate 57 total projects – totaling just short of a half billion dollars of investments for our county,” Wickersham said. “Our pipeline of potential projects include two more major opportunities, and a third that just came in today… January is going to be a really good kick off to 2022.”

Of the 57 Huntington County projects in Wickersham’s time with HCED, eight have taken place this year, with two of those eight taking place in Markle itself.

After presenting council with information regarding project stats and plans for the upcoming year, Wickersham presented the 2022 contract and explained that little had changed from previous contracts. The contract amount of $4,000 had stayed the same, but rather than billing weekly or monthly, HCED offered an invoice twice a year to “make it more convenient” to pay for. Other changes included some language change within the contract, but the changes made had no affect on any sort of request for funding.

A motion was made to approve the 2022 contract with HCED. The motion carried.

Mike Grant gave his monthly report, which included information regarding a change order for a Community Crossings Matching Grant (CCMG).
“We had some quantities that we did not utilize that were estimated during the construction process with the CCMG, so what we have to do is issue a change order and adjust those quantities,” Grant explained.

If changed quantities were for ‘participating’ items, meaning the Indiana Department of Transportation (INDOT) funded it, the items were returned. If changed quantities were for ‘non-participating items’ then that money goes back to Markle. Grant stated that, in total, $96,000 was saved on the project. A total of $74,000 is money that the town gets to keep.

Because council had already voted on and approved a contract for the project, they had no need to take action during the meeting.

Grant also provided updates on the new housing addition being built in Markle. According to Grant, all infrastructure is complete, the street is done and the curb is complete – meaning that lots are ready to be sold. However, the matter of a maintenance bond has come up.

“Historically, we have never taken any kind of a maintenance bond,” Grant said. “But that was (with) a different developer that actually held onto the project for a few years – they put everything in the ground, put the asphalt in but didn’t put a surface on it and it sat for a few years until they sold off some lots and in that time frame, we knew the pipe in the ground was good and the base was good.”

Grant also shared that, in 2012, Markle adopted an ordinance that “basically mirrors” the county’s ordinance on housing additions. The ordinance includes language regarding maintenance bonds, but does not specify a percentage to request or the amount of time for the bond, meaning it was left up to the council to decide.

Surrounding areas, such as Bluffton and Ossian, do a 25 percent bond for 18 months. The City of Huntington, however, does a 10 percent bond for 36 months.

“No matter what, I would suggest it would be at minimum a length of 18 months,” Grant said. “In talking with Wells County, they kind of indicated that the 18 months is pretty much a minimum requirement.”

A bond of 25 percent for 24 months was recommended.

To end the meeting, Clerk-Treasurer Stephenie Hensley recognized several town employees for their years served with the town. Gift cards were passed out to those who had reached certain milestones in their careers with the town, ranging from time spans of five years to multiple decades.