After approving bonuses for the prosecutor's office earlier this year, the Jefferson County Council on Tuesday night denied a similar request from the clerk's office.

None of the council members initiated a motion on County Clerk Karen Mannix's request to pay bonuses to seven staffers who have been working short-handed. Council member Joe Craig was absent.

Mannix said she had about $8,000 in unpaid payroll this year to help cover the bonuses. She said her staff lost a part-time worker and has been making up the difference by extending hours and skipping lunches.

"My staff has stepped up to the plate," she said.

"They know our job is to get the paperwork from our desk to the judge within 24 hours, and they do it."

Earlier this year, the council voted 5-2 - Judy Smith and Larry Wynn were the dissenting votes - to allow bonuses for four workers in the prosecutor's office. At the time, County Prosecutor Chad Lewis reported to the council that the bonuses were compensation for increased workload after the loss of a deputy prosecutor. 

"If it's given to one, it needs to be given to all," Mannix said.

Though the council was divided on the vote for the prosecutor's office, they were not on Tuesday.

Wynn said continuing to grant bonuses would defeat the purpose of creating a budget.

"This is a Pandora's box, as I said before," he said.

The county typically does not offer bonuses; rather it offers compensatory time off.

Wynn said he had no doubt Mannix's staff works hard. However, he added that employees know in advance of accepting a job that they might be faced with an additional workload, working through lunches, etc.

Council member Laura Boldery agreed.

"They come in at a certain salary, and they know what the job is, and they're expected to do their job," she said.

Also at the meeting, the County Council voted to move forward with a housing project that will renovate 18 homes in the county and city.

The county is working with Patty Jackson, special projects manager at the Southeastern Indiana Regional Planning Commission, and the city of Madison to push through the plan.

Jackson reported that the county and city have a chance to receive up to $400,000 from the Indiana Housing and Community Development Authority, which would require a 10 percent match from participating municipalities.

She said there are 20 families on a waiting list for the project.

The city and county recently were approved for a federal housing preservation matching grant of about $22,000 to offset the cost of the grant match requirement. To participate, the county voted Tuesday to contribute $5,668 for the project as part of its matching funding. The city will be asked to contribute about $7,100.

The money from the county will be taken from the historic preservation fund because Jackson said some of homes on the waiting list are located in the historic district.

In other business:

• Madison resident Wayne Engle informed the council that its pay for election poll workers is lower than surrounding counties. Engle, who worked at a poll for the General Election, said while Jefferson County pays poll judges and clerks $85 on Election Day, most counties pay $100 or more.

Wynn said the information will be useful when budget time rolls around next year.

• Treasurer Linda Greene told the council that dropping provider Harris Computer Systems was unnecessary. Auditor Celeste Reed said the county entered into a three-year contract with a new computer provider because Harris is not compatible with Gateway, a system used by the Indiana Department of Local Government Finance.

Greene said she spoke with a representative from the state department who told her Harris is compatible. She also said Harris has had exemplary customer service and suggested that additional training could have helped the county avoid the switch.

The county pays about $2,400 per month to Harris. The first-year with Low Associates would cost $50,000, which includes start-up fees. While the money has been approved, there is no contract in place or time table for implementing the proposed change, according to the auditor's office.

Reed said the customer service from Harris is not in question, and she insisted that the product cannot be used with the state's new software. At a recent conference, Reed said, numerous state auditors and Department of Government Local Finance representatives came to a similar conclusion.