• Bill Raines

Opinion Would Donald Trump tell Lawrence County They Are Losers?

LAWRENCE COUNTY - SEPTEMBER 19, 2022 - The former President Donald Trump did not menace any words when he calls out people and tell them they are losers on both sides of the political aisle.



If Donald Trump was giving his political speech to fellow Republicans in Lawrence County, Indiana it would be surprising if he was telling our elected leaders we were headed in the right direction. Of course, the school board is non-partisan, but it would not matter when calling out bad decisions by the political class.


Lawrence County Zephyr will look four issues on why Donald Trump would call Lawrence County a bunch of losers. This would include the $46 Million Proposed Correction Facility, NLCS Consolidation, Pay Increases for Lawrence County Elected leaders, and St. Vincent Dunn Hospital closure.


Taxpayers are always left with the aftermath of votes from our elected leadership. Locally, we elect those who impact our county for years to come. The financial impact can be both immediate and long-term.


Just last week, Lawrence County Sheriff, Mike Branham chastised the Lawrence County Council for not listening to the experts and heeding the advice of the recent salary study in 2020. That salary study has not been released to the public at this time.


Sheriff Mike Branham supported the Local Income Tax which mostly funded the Lawrence County Jail.


At 58 minutes into this video Sheriff Mike Branham tells the council they do not heed to the 2020 salary study by the Lawrence County Council


Lawrence County has not heeded to two jail studies calling for the renovation or building of a new correctional facility either. The first study was conducted under former Sheriff Samuel Craig, and by Sheriff Mike Branham, who hired for a study by RQAW engineering is calling for the construction of a new facility on Beech Street in Bedford. The cost of the new facility is estimated at $46 Million. The new study did not look for a new renovation of the existing correctional facility.


But, in his last year office has Sheriff Mike Branham requested and pushed for a new correctional facility. He never sounded the alarm for many of the issues or requested repairs to the existing facility until now.


In a lengthy list by Maintenance director Dan Bush, told the committee of several needs for the correctional facility.


Repairs needed include

  • - motors for sliding doors -

  • - camera system is out of license contract are still analog

  • - two mortise licks on the 2nd floor do not work, three locks on the first floor do not work

  • - Four of the cast iron, drainpipes about the ceiling have been cracking causing an excessive amount of damage over large portions of the building (flooded ceilings near elevator)

  • Large amounts of water have sat on the roof over the kitchen due to clogged pipes

  • The existing roof has not been touched in 12 years

  • Circulation pump alarms do not work

  • Hot water tank in boiler has aged - holding tank is leaking

  • Intercoms are outdated and need modernized

  • There is no water control system for inmates' toilets

  • Elevator just upgraded for cost of $110,000

  • Cooling tower replaced in 2015

  • Heat pumps replaced

  • Water softener broken

  • Thermostats are outdated and need modernized

  • Replacing shower parts is becoming costly ( all shower heads need replaced)

  • The Kitchen and Laundry area were constructed for only 88 inmates - Stoves just recently replaced, sinks need replaced with hot plates)

  • Note the Sheriff has requested a firm to take over meal preparations for a cost of $278,000 This includes two hot meals and one cold meal a day.

  • Ice Maker is getting old.

  • Exit signs need replaced

  • Jail cell bars and railings are a hazard

  • There have been four hangings and 2 attempts since the report was taken on August 17, 2021

  • Note the front ramp of the jail and administration has had issues since it was built -

  • There is issues with storage in every department in the facility.

  • There is a lack of interview rooms

  • No use of outside recreation area - the lack of recreation areas has identified the need for recreation area after they were using it for inmates

  • A new dryer was just ordered for the department

Under two sheriff's administrations the issues are just not being identified when RQAW study is calling for a new facility.


Who is responsible for the upkeep of the jail facilities and why the public was not informed long before now?


Both Sheriff's administrations overseen a budget of $6 Million with a special Local Income Tax that taxpayers opposed, with the majority of the revenue going to the jail.


Sheriff Branham was both an employee and county council member during the time of the original study.


Did he himself ignore the issues at the Lawrence County Jail and why was the Local Income Tax Revenue given to the jail, but former council member Branham did not bring up these issues previously listed above. Why the delay in addressing these issues?


NORTH LAWRENCE COMMUNITY SCHOOLS


Springville Elementary School was closed in January 2020 by North Lawrence Community Schools


The economic impact of closing schools in rural communities is devasting. But after many studies telling the community they could not afford the schools and needed to combine them went unheeded. NLCS went ahead and decided to go ahead and construct two new schools and add on to the additional space unto some schools.


However, in a cost saving move due to low enrollment and expenditures for operations the school corporation. The school board took a knife to the rural Lawrence County communities and decided to close four elementary schools and middle schools.


In addition, the corporation also took a knife to Joint Services for special needs children and their programing. Dr. Ty Mungle told the board they were taken on two much of the expenditures for the program, despite other counties using the service.


The corporation's rationale for the closure was for better pay NLCS teachers and reduce operational spending. The NLCS school teachers are in negotiations for better pay and conditions. The Education Budget for NLCS has been reduced by $4 Million.


The question remains prior to the consolidation why taxpayers was paying over $4 Million to begin with if this amount of revenue is no longer needed?


The savings as well as, more pay for the schoolteachers have yet to be realized in the second year of consolidating the western rural communities of Lawrence County.


LAWRENCE COUNTY POLITICAL CLASS GOT PAY RAISES AT ALMOST 20 PERCENT WHILE THOSE WHO ACTUALLY WORK 8 PERCENT



Lawrence County Council works to find ways to cut $ 1 Million after Auditor Jessica Staggs alerts to overspending of $ 2 Million a year in the county's General Fund

Lawrence County Commissioners refused a pay increase in the 2023 Budget Cycle



In an election year, In the 2022 budget cycle Republican office holders demanded and received a pay increase telling the Lawrenc County Council members they were underpaid. In justifying the raises, Lawrence County Auditor Jessica Staggs told the council members there were more than enough revenues for the increase in wages. Stagg's salary went from $43,000 to proposed $60,000 a year in 2023.


Staggs told the council members earlier in the budget cycle, this year; that the council is overspending and needed to keep a close eye on their spending.


Lawrence County Council woman Janie " Craig" Chenault told those in attendance in October 2022, that many elected leaders their own money to campaign with and deserve a raise.


Lawrence County Sheriff salary will increase to $118,000 this year, which is a $13,000 increase by for Sheriff Greg Day. Branham entered into a contract with the county on his salary.



Pay Increases for County Elected Leaders:



  • Lawrence County Clerk - Salary 2020 - $43,444 / 2022- $52,000 / Proposed 2023 $54,648 Total pay increase since 2020 is $11,204

  • Lawrence County Auditor - Salary 2020 - $44,530 /2022 - $53,625 /Proposed 2023 $56,307 - County auditor also receives compensation as Secretary for both the county commissioners and county council - Receives $3,900 as council secretary, and $3,900 as commissioner secretary. Total proposed salary in 2023 is $64,107 this is a $19,577 increase since 2020.

  • Lawrence County Recorder - Salary 2020 - $43,200 - / Salary 2020 - $49,817 / Proposed 2023 - $52,308 Total pay increase since 2020 - $9,108

  • Lawrence County Sheriff - Salary has not changed since 2020 at $105,000 / Proposed budget increase 2023 $118,000 - The proposed budget will have an increase of $13,000 since 2020

  • Lawrence County Surveyor - Salary 2020 - $31,580 / Salary 2022 - $34,107 / Proposed 2023 - $34,107 - Pay increase since 2020 - 2020 $2,527

  • Coroner Salary - Salary 2020 - $19,706 - / Salary 2022 - $20,899 - Proposed 2023 - $21,934 - Total pay increase since 2020 - $2,228 Note: Chief Deputy pay increase with proposed 2023 will be a $5,856 increase

  • Prosecutor - The Prosecutor salary is set by state statue

  • Lawrence County Judges - The Judges salary is set by state statue

  • Lawrence County Assessor - Salary 2020 - $44,530 / salary 2022 - $52,251/ Proposed 2023 - $54,864 - Total pay increase since 2020 - $10,334

  • Lawrence County Commissioners - Divide the numbers by three - 2020 -$66,117/ 2022 - $70,085 - The commissioners did not seek a pay raise this year. Total pay increase since 2020 - $3,968 divide this number by 3

  • Lawrence County Council - Divide the numbers by seven - Salary 2020 - $49,343 / Salary 2022 - $56,048 - Total pay increase since 2020 - $9,508 divide this number by 7

The Lawrence County Council will decide on the budget on Tuesday night at 7:00 p.m. expecting to make some cuts. The Lawrence County Commissioners have proposed $340,000 in cuts from their budget; however, no documentation of those cuts have not been provided.


The proposed increase in salaries is at 5%, and without any raises all county employees will receive an incremental raise. The county employee's health insurance premium increase of 11.7 percent was absorbed by the county; after Lawrence County Commissioners agreed to let the county pay for them.


The question remains where is the county overspending the money from the General Fund? Why has it taken four years, to find out where the county is bleeding red in revenue?



ST. VINCENT DUNN HOSPTIAL CLOSURE


Exactly, 14 years this last week, Lawrence County officials and both Clarian Health Partners and Dunn Memorial Hospital board met to decide whether they were going to consolidate into one big hospital for the county.


In a 5-2 vote by the Lawrence County Council the plans for consolidating the two hospitals ended.


Political votes do have consequences, and as many warned two hospitals could not survive in a county of 45,000 and Bedford population of less than 13,000. The population of the county has been declining affecting the business climate, school corporations, and now a local hospital being the latest's casualty.


The vote caused five board members to exit, and a strong warning by a former and late Lawrence County Council member Robert Adamson that Dunn Hospital would not survive.


I can hear Donald Trump telling Lawrence County Republicans, you are not winning but you are losing. And we are going have to fix this, by electing local leaders who can change the tide and bring back a thriving community.


This does not address the closure of Manchester Tank who were given tax-abatements to keep them in our community prior to deciding to leave.


Is Lawrence County moving in the right direction?


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