By DAVE KITCHELL

Pharos-Tribune staff writer

Last month, Logansport police where called to the council chambers when a constituent uttered profanity.

Monday night, the profanity was plentiful when city officials who defended the ability to police the Logansport Municipal Utilities salary structure.

When asked about proposed salary range changes for the Logansport Municipal Utilities, Utilities Manager Paul Hartman and Utility Service Board member Tom Slusser both said words that would not air on network television or local radio broadcasts. Hartman said the minimums and maximums he set in the ordinance will not take effect until next year, and the ranges realistically represent what LMU may have to pay to replace some key personnel. When questioned about the salary schedule, Hartman said a $12,000 increase in the minimum does not represent a $12,000 salary increase for any employee, but employees were being paid more than the minimum. His salary estimates, which received applause from some LMU employees attending, represent the way he wants to manage LMU from the bottom up in the management chain, Hartman said compared employees who know their job to those who don’t by using a phrase that included the word “shinola.”

The scrutiny of Councilmen Kerry Worthington and Scott Kraud drew Slusser’s ire.

“I’m trying to tell you, you’ve got to plan,” Slusser told the council.

“You as council members, you’re planning. When somebody says you’re basing these utilities on what you’re paying somebody per hour, or per month, or per week, or per year — that’s very, very unfair.”

“Nobody here is saying it’s unfair,” Worthington replied. “It seems like, just since I’ve been on the council, it’s so secretive. When you try to get an answer once in a while, it’s hard to get an answer. I’m not talking about me personally, I’m talking about my constituents and your customers,” he said. “We always have to pass (LMU salaries) and it looks bad toward us.”

Slusser said the salary schedule for LMU is not a secret and Controller LuAnn Davis will provide any information anyone wants. Slusser said critics never give LMU any credit for its work.

“We do a tremendous amount for this town,” he said.

Slusser said he is tired of critics who want to “raise hell” with the mayor, the council and the utilities. People need to be educated about what really is happening with LMU and not what they think is happening. Negative comments reported locally can only hurt employee morale, he said.

Slusser compared Hartman to his predecessor, Klaus Hemberger, and said of Hemberger: “He wouldn’t hardly let you in the door.”

As for Hartman, Slusser said, “He’s educated. He’s smart. He’s working. I’ll fight for him.”

After the exchange, the council amended the LMU salary ordinance to give board members a $250 raise. Their salary next year will be $6,650. Only one member, Forrest Spencer, will receive health insurance benefits.

Prior to the meeting, the most controversial item on the agenda appeared to have been approval of a Community Focus Fund $500,000 grant for streetscape improvements to Fourth Street. The council unanimously approved the application. A public hearing on the grant will be held at the Logansport Planning Commission meeting July 10. Grant funds, which require a partial local match, could be awarded this fall.

In other business:

•USB President Dick Dilling was reappointed to a four-year term on the board. The council makes two appointments to the board and the mayor makes the other three.

•As expected, the five-year city park master plan was approved on second reading, as were ordinances expanding auto impound areas into areas zoned industrial and the cottage industry ordinance that will also allow major home occupations in residential zoning districts in Logansport and the surrounding two-mile fringe jurisdiction.

•A Logansport resident and landlord, Wilbur Bingaman, urged the council to take stronger action against illegal immigrants in the city. Bingaman said reducing the number of illegals would reduce gang activity. “I just think there comes a time when you need to do something and the time is now.”

•A resolution authorizing the use of $12,000 from the Non-Reverting Equipment Fund for a new vehicle for the Code Enforcement Officer’s Office was approved 6-0. Worthington, who is employed with a local auto and truck dealership, abstained from the vote. The vehicle being replaced is a 1992 GMC truck.

Dave Kitchell may be contacted at 722-5000, Ext. 5150, or via e-mail at david.kitchell@pharostribune.com

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