MOUNT VERNON — The director of the Knox Soil & Water Conservation District outlined the 2020 budget for Knox County Commissioners Tuesday, with its total of $434,916 being $45,354 more than last year.
Part of that is because the equipment line item went from $3,000 in 2019 to $28,500 next year due to the need to replace a half-ton pickup truck, said KSWCD Director Rob Clendening. The district will temporarily decrease from five to four full-time employees with the resignation of Jake Peer, district technician and wildlife specialist, who will be going into private consulting in the area of forestry. KCSWCD’s salaries for 2020 total $260,821, with $36,515 set aside for state retirement costs.
One advantage the district has with its staff is that Darrel Severns, an urban conservation specialist who has handled 166 lot splits this year and also handles stormwater system reviews, is the secretary to the Regional Planning Commission, Clendening said. As such, RPC reimburses KSWCD for some of his executive secretary functions.
Commissioners Teresa Bemiller and Bill Pursel praised Clendening and his staff for performing several essential functions involving soil and water conservation. One involves providing expertise on soil testing and nutrient management plans for area farms. Clendening said one such nutrient plan was provided for the Hathaways hog farm in Middlebury Township, saving the farm thousands of dollars.
Clendening said KSWCD continues to provide a wetlands treatment system for the former county landfill on Thayer Road, 17 years after closure. Contaminated wastewater from the landfill is treated as part of a wetlands system where the effluent is spread over the ground to degrade naturally. County Administrator Jason Booth said a series of wells that are tested twice yearly around the former landfill cost the county $125,000 per year to do so. KSWCD also provides expertise to farmers who build ditches to handle large amounts of runoff.
Clendening said there is good news concerning the state match for every dollar that the soil and water district appropriates. Last year, that state match was just 61 cents for every dollar the district spent.
For 2020, the state match is estimated to be at least 90 percent, for a total estimated state amount of $176,000. KSWCD also receives a state Division of Wildlife grant of $17,500 to help control damage from deer.
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