Party affiliation at issue in park board appointment

Debate ensued Jan. 17 concerning the newly-reorganized Culver town council’s appointment to the Culver parks and recreation board, to which the council ultimately re-appointed current board member Patty Stallings, rather than applicant Rhonda Reinhold.

With Ed Pinder replacing Ginny Munroe as council president, and newest member Bill Githens on hand for his first meeting, members discussed the status of Stallings, a Republican who agreed to change party affiliation to fill a vacancy on the politically balanced board. Reinhold is a lifelong Democrat.

During discussion, audience member Russ Mason objected to Stallings’ staying on the board.

“She was very active in the Republican election,” he said. “She voted Republican.”

Munroe asked how Mason could know how a citizen voted. Githens suggested Stallings be allowed to stay on, with council member Sally Ricciardi adding that Stallings had “stepped up last year when nobody would.”

Pinder countered that Stallings voted in last year’s Republican caucus.

“I was in the Republican caucus,” Ricciardi retorted. “I saw about seven Democrats there.”

Audience member and Republican precinct chair Bill Cleavenger challenged Stallings’ party registration.

In the end, majority votes by Githens, Ricciardi, and Munroe kept Stallings on the park board.

Acknowledging she has “a vested interest” (presumably a reference to Reinhold being her granddaughter), audience member Bobbie Ruhnow protested the council’s decision.

“I think it’s incorrect to appoint somebody to a politically balanced board when it’s very obvious where their party affiliation lies. You can find out how they vote, through a primary. You have unbalanced your park board. A cow is a cow. Just because they stand up and say, ‘I’m a pig,’ doesn’t make it so. I think that was an incorrect decision.”

Other appointments included Ron Cole to replace outgoing Wayne Bean on the plan commission; Pete Peterson filling the employee requirement on the plan commission; and Ralph Winters filling a Democrat vacancy on the same board. Brandon Cooper and Bobbie Ruhnow will remain as plan commission members.

Pinder reappointed Dan Adams to the board of zoning appeals, and appointed Brandon Cooper as the plan commission representative to the BZA.

With no members of the Culver Redevelopment Committee wishing to stay on, the council agreed to wait for letters of interest in the positions.

At Munroe’s suggestion, the council agreed to advertise for a new wastewater plant operator. Former plant operator Joe Sheppard had resigned at an executive session of the council earlier that evening.
After Pinder pressed for the need to hire a new town manager for Culver, the council agreed to a work session just prior to its next meeting.

He reviewed the lengthy search process which began last April following the departure of town manager Michael Doss, noting the council had narrowed its choices to three during the first round of resume-gathering, none of whom worked out in the end. Pinder explained he still has six resumes set aside from 36 received when the position was re-advertised last fall, suggesting those six should be contacted and the position advertised once again should none of them work out.

In other discussion, council member Lynn Overmyer, while reiterating her disappointment in the controversies surrounding last November’s town clerk election, emphasized the need to support the new clerk.
“I was disappointed and very vocal,” she said, “but we are elected to serve for the betterment of Culver. I feel we need to move forward, put the past behind us, and work together, and I hope the public will do same. I don’t think (the election) will be forgotten, ever, but we need to move on.”

An “Amen” resounded from the audience.

During her clerk’s report, new town clerk Karen Heim told council she’d discovered town employees were being paid ahead of time, rather than after their allotted hours had been worked. Heim noted this was not the case with department heads, town clerk, or council members. She said that according to the State Board of Accounts, employees may not be paid in advance.

“We have a year to figure that out and correct that,” she said. “We could wait until tax time to adjust things for people who are counting on that money.”

The council also approved filing Heim’s bond with the county recorder’s office, as required by law.

During the citizen input portion of the meeting, Bobbie Ruhnow commended outgoing plan commission members Wayne Bean and Chuck Dilts for their years of service, with Sally Ricciardi concurring.

Ruhnow also commended Cooper as “an excellent addition to the plan commission,” as well as Pete Peterson for his willingness, as an employee, to serve on a board.

In light of Ruhnow’s comments, Muroe suggested that council consider a stipend be paid to those serving on boards in the community, in light of struggles to fill various vacancies and meet quorums. Audience member Bill Cleavenger also noted alternates could be appointed to serve if a primary appointee were absent.

Mark Sullivan of Commonwealth Engineers detailed the final steps needed to fund the nearly completed renovations of Culver’s wastewater treatment plant. Council approved an engineering invoice for the project, at $11,769.23, as well as a change order for several modifications in the design.

Sullivan projected the project could be complete as early as Jan. 23.
Council also approved signing a new electric service contract for various town-owned facilities, due to increases in electric rates, which were not spelled out in the contract itself.

Culver fire chief Mike Grover reported several firemen will journey to Terre Haute Jan. 28 to pick up a new hovercraft purchased for ice rescues and the like, on the lake.

Closing out the meeting, Pinder thanked outgoing council president Ginny Munroe “for her hard work” as president, noting the position was particularly difficult in light of the absence of a town manager here.

Editing assistance/Rachel Meade.