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 State Says K-town Owes $18k

April 22, 2009 - The town of Knightstown has its legal counsel reviewing a state agency's claim that the town owes $18,000 for work that may have been done more than a decade ago.

According to Knightstown Clerk-Treasurer Judy Haines, the Indiana Department of Transportation contacted her office in March, claiming the town owes $18,000 related to work done in the late 1990s as part of the Knightstown Improvement Project. With INDOT unable to provide her with documentation of what it said the town owes, she has asked the town's attorney, Gregg Morelock, to look into the matter.

At the Knightstown Town Council's April 16 regular monthly meeting, Morelock briefly updated council members on the controversy. In an effort to get himself up to speed, he said he had spoken with the town's former legal counsel, New Castle attorney Greg Crider, and had gotten Crider's file on the project earlier in the week.

"To say it's a bit confusing would be an understatement," Morelock said. Admitting he had not been through the entire file yet, he said that endeavor could take a half day or more.

According to Morelock, the project, which included improvements to town sidewalks and new street lights, was supposed to get 80 percent of its funding through a $45,000 Indiana State Transportation Enhancement Activity grant. The remaining 20 percent, he said, was to be a local match that was to come from the Henry County Food and Beverage Fund.

Morelock told the council he thought all parties involved in the project and its funding need to get together and have their respective records reviewed. The goal, he said, will be to determine how much money was allocated from various sources and where it went.

With respect to the 20 percent local match that was to come from the county's Food and Beverage Fund, Morelock said he had already contacted Henry County Auditor Linda Ratliff. He said Ratliff is reviewing county records to see what, if anything, the county paid.

"I'm not sure the state hasn't been paid," Morelock said. "They may not know it. But, I can't say they have been paid either."

Morelock said the original contract for the Knightstown Improvement Project was executed in 1995, but was amended two or three times after that due to changes in the project and funding. He said documents in the file he got from Crider show that INDOT, as early as 2000, had said they didn't think they'd been fully paid for work they did.

INDOT, Morelock said, has not yet sued the town over the $18,000 it says it is owed, but has simply sent a written notice seeking payment. Calling the agency "a real tough entity," he said if they are owed money, nonpayment could result in problems with the town getting future disbursements of federal and state funds.

In other business at last week's meeting, Council Vice President Terry Guerin asked Morelock to review a state statute that requires town courts like Knightstown's to file financial reports with the town's clerk-treasurer on a weekly basis. According to the statute, the court clerk is supposed to make and deliver "a written report of all cases in which the clerk has received or collected any fines or forfeitures due" to the town.

Morelock asked whether the State Board of Accounts had taken issue with the court's failure to do the weekly reports. Haines said the SBA had said nothing of the court's practice of providing her with monthly, rather than weekly, reports.

Telling the council it seemed the SBA didn't have a problem with the lack of compliance with the statute, Morelock said, "The real question is, What do you want to do about it, if anything?"

"Well," said Guerin, "if the statute says weekly, I think it should be done weekly." He said he would notify Judge Hayden Butler that the council expects his court to comply with the statute's reporting requirements.

The council also voted last week to approve a new contract for legal services with Morelock, and his Greenfield law firm, Brand Davis & Morelock. Under the terms of the agreement, Morelock's hourly fee will rise from $135 to $150.

Two bids for nine possible paving projects the town might do this summer if funding is available were received and taken under advisement at last week's meeting. Mel Matlock, the town's works manager, will review the bids from Floyd Crim & Sons Paving and Milestone, and is expected to make a recommendation at the council's May meeting.

At the request of Chief of Police Danny Baker, the council voted last week to have a resolution drafted honoring Derek Hall, an officer with the Knightstown Police Department. Baker commended Hall for recently organizing an extensive cleanup of the town's Sunset Park and for successfully lobbying the Wayne Township Trustee for a donation of new basketball goals for the park. He also said Hall had been nominated for recognition for an act of heroism, something that earned the officer a spot riding in this year's Indianapolis 500 Parade.

"Officer Hall is a good officer and I think he needs to be recognized for that," Baker told the council.

In a related piece of business, Council President Valerie Trump announced that she was appointing Hall to the Knightstown Park Board. He will fill the vacancy left when former KPD officer Dan Denny resigned earlier this year.


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