Lake County Councilman Charlie Brown (D-Gary) recently challenged the need for a $25,000 overtime funding request from the Lake County Public Works Department in light of the mild winter.
“Something doesn’t smell right,” Brown said during a meeting of the council.
The Public Works Department falls under the Lake County Highway Department, and Superintendent Jan Smoljan said the request was made now in order to avoid returning to the council later in the year to seek additional funding.
During the meeting, Brown said he did not recall so large an overtime request coming to the council previously from the department during his two years serving on the council.
The Public Works Department is already over budget by approximately $5,000 for the year, Smoljan said. He predicted the overtime funding would be needed with summer coming and through to snowy conditions at the end of the year.
During snowy weather, plow drivers gain significant overtime pay as they work continuously through stormy weather.
Lake County Finance Director Scott Schmal said the department spent approximately $18,000 on overtime during the whole of 2019.
In his discussion of the need for the overtime budget, Smoljan pointed out the recent hiring of two additional employees. He said having the two additional employees would likely also create a need for more overtime pay.
Brown did not change his position, and said he felt a high request for overtime seemed miss-timed.
Councilmen Dan Dernulc (R-Highland) and Christian Jorgensen (R-St. John) offered support for the overtime request and the department.
“I understand what you’re trying to do, so you don’t have to come back before us,” Dernulc said.
Jorgensen said the departments usually “run pretty lean,” and noted the staff decreases for both the Public Works Department and the Highway Department over the years.