Bernie Murphy, interim director of Economic Development Partners, gave his first quarterly report to the Jefferson County Council on Tuesday, highlighting potential job opportunities and expressing an interest in better communication practices.

Since taking over the position in October, Murphy said he has been meeting with several local businesses. He also reported that the organization has reviewed 10 new businesses, two of which it is "aggressively pursuing." Each business would bring in about 50 new jobs to the area.

Council President Bill Hensler, who serves on the EPD board, said he already has seen improvements with Murphy at the helm.

"Since September, Bernie has accomplished more than the first two years I sat on that board," he said.

"I think it's important to have the right person," he added.

Larry Wynn asked how a majority of the city and county contributions are being spent at EPD. Murphy said much of the funding goes toward salary expenses.

Wynn also asked Murphy what he thought the biggest shortfall is for potential companies. Murphy said that businesses immediately note the lack of an interstate presence in the area.

"It's the single biggest thing that has worked against us," he said.

Later in the meeting, Hanover resident Warren Auxier said Murphy was an improvement for EDP, but he added that he still had concerns with the operations of the organization.

The Board of Commissioners is responsible for the contract with EDP, while the County Council appropriates the funds. The annual contract is for $80,000 or 10 percent of the gaming fund - a revenue sharing agreement with Belterra Casino and Switzerland County - whichever is less.

Auxier presented two examples of recent invoices that he said showed identical billing information for both the city and the county.

In one case, the invoices showed an identical billing breakdown for the county for the months of July, August and September and then April, May and June for the city of Madison. He said it appeared that the bill was copied in order to reach the maximum quarterly billing of $20,000.

Murphy said there was "certainly a clerical error" on his part and a misunderstanding on how the billing process works.

"I thought we had to submit an invoice for $20,000, and then whatever was available, we got paid," Murphy said, referring to the gaming fund revenue used for EPD.

Murphy said that he felt a quarterly payment, without hourly billing, would be easier, considering he often works in capacity for both the city and county.

Auxier, who supports the hourly billing, said historically a great deal of the EDP director's time has been spent with the TIF board, which is a city agency. He also said the hourly billing process was set up to avoid an audit from the Indiana State Board of Accounts.  

Also at the meeting, Clerk Karen Mannix announced that the clerk's office will begin collecting administration fees for processing cash bonds.

The order, which was recently signed by the county judges, will go into effect Jan. 1. The administration fees will be 10 percent of all cash bonds up to $50.

In 2011, if the clerk's office had collected the cash bond fees, it would have earned more than $20,000, Mannix said. The revenue will be put into the general fund.

"This is going to be a great help to the county once it gets implemented," she said.   

In other business:

• Board member Jake Kloepfer was honored following the meeting for his service on the board. Kloepfer, 68, started on the board nearly 28 years ago. Hensler presented him with a plaque for his service.

"The only thing I can say is that the county is in good hands," Kloepfer said.  

• Sheriff John Wallace said that several inmates are still being housed in the Switzerland County Jail. The inmates were transported to the jail in late November.

He also said the new video visitation program, which was approved by the Board of Commissioners on Friday, will allow extended visitation time and cut down on security issues.

• The council will hold its final meeting of the year at 5 p.m. on Dec. 27.