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Issue of August 13, 2014
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Morvin's Landing proposal loses steam


Vote to take place Oct. 15


September 25, 2013 | 08:50 AM

The Harrison County Council Monday evening delayed a vote on the $100,000 additional to purchase land for the Morvin's Landing property just east of Mauckport to go along with the Bicentennial Nature Trust and Harrison County Community Foundation funding.

Council Chair Gary Davis said Councilman Gordon Pendleton, who's away on vacation, asked that the issue be tabled until the next regular meeting so Pendleton can partake in the vote and discussion.

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Davis also issued a warning to Harrison County Parks director Rand Heazlitt that he needs to see a better plan for what the land will be used for and how it will be self-sustaining.

"I don't think it'll pass unless there's a more definitive plan of what you're going to do and the cost to maintain it on an annual basis." Davis said. "I want to see that info before I vote on it."

The preliminary plan is to create an endowment with the Harrison County Community Foundation that would match any donation to the endowment dollar for dollar up to $50,000 per year.

Heazlitt said the parks board meets tonight (Wednesday) and will discuss the plan and be ready to present it at the council's next meeting, Tuesday, Oct. 15 (changed from Monday, Oct. 14, because of Columbus Day).

"I don't want the (parks) subsidy to increase," Davis said. "If it's going to, I won't support it."

Davis emphasized that the proposed plan is not, in fact, for a park, but more for a preserve.

"It's unfortunate the parks department even got involved," he said. "It's not a park."

The county's bicentennial committee, set in place in preparation for the 2016 Indiana bicentennial, wanted to apply for the nature trust grant but couldn't because it is not a 501(c)(3) organization. So, the parks department took the lead and moved forward with the proposal.

Davis, who is on the bicentennial committee, said they didn't get involved with the nature trust to create another park.

Councilmember Richard Gerdon said he's had more calls about this issue, because the plan is to pay more for the land than it appraised for, than any other issue.

Heazlitt said the asking price is $892 per acre more than it's appraisal.

"She's been offered more by others," Davis said, speaking of the owner of the property, Wilma Richards.

Before the discussion, Councilman Ralph Sherman made the motion to vote on the matter immediately. Councilman Jim Heitkemper seconded and Gerdon joined in voting in favor, but Davis, Councilman Phil Smith and Councilwoman Sherry Brown voted against.

A motion was then made to table the matter, and Heitkemper switched his vote, allowing it to pass 4-2.

The Indiana Bicentennial Nature Trust is a program created to land for conservation and recreation to leave as a perpetual gift to all Hoosiers as part of the bicentennial celebration in 2016. A trust representative expressed that the Morvin's Landing site was one of the best applications because of its history, river frontage and its plant life.

In other business Monday night, a number of Spencer Township residents visited the council to seek help regarding the impending shutdown of the LifeSpan Resources Senior Citizens Lunch Program that has been at the Frenchtown Community Center for the past six years.

Davis informed the residents that, even though the council can make a non-binding budget recommendation for all townships, it does not have any authority to change the township budget. Davis advised the residents to speak with the Dept. of Local Government Finance about the matter.

The residents objected to the lack of transparency with which the budget was presented at a public hearing in September, Sandy Dubois reported to the council in a letter. The hearing took place at the home office of township trustee Donald Satterfield.

Dubois said they could not find answers about the senior meals program in the budget for 2014.

"The senior citizens lunch program is vital to the quality of life of our senior citizens of Spencer Township who are themselves income and property taxpayers," Dubois said. "Research overwhelmingly states that the engagement in a social network prolongs life and increases quality of life ... "

The group of residents also said they objected to the proposed salaries for the trustee and clerk.

"These amounts are excessive as compared to the other 11 townships," Dubois said.

The proposed trustee salary for Spencer Township is $18,440. The average of the other 11 trustees is $8,765. The proposed clerk salary for Spencer Township is $8,550. The average of the other 11 is $2,011. Spencer Township also has the highest proposed employee benefits at $6,500 and supplies at $5,000.

"We have no authority, as much as we'd like to help you," Davis said.

The council also will need Pendleton's vote on another matter, the tracking devices on highway department vehicles. The vote to approve the funding for a pilot program for $32,000-plus did not pass (3-3 vote). Davis, Smith and Brown voted for, while Gerdon, Sherman and Heitkemper voted against.

The system, implemented by GIS company 39 Degrees North, will help find the most efficient way to operate the department and will also be used for safety reasons if a vehicle breaks down or is involved in a crash.

Twitter: @rossschulz

  1. print email
    Monroe
    September 26, 2013 | 09:12 AM

    I am in favor of a recreation area in the Mauckport area. Itwould give me a good place to take my kids and learn about nature. A new nice boat ramp into the river would be a great addition to the county also.

    David
  2. print email
    Morvin's Landing
    September 26, 2013 | 05:01 PM

    A historical note about the land.
    The 1860 Harrison County map shows
    that the land was then owned by John Timberlake. Timberlake, of course,
    was second-in-command at the Battle of Corydon. His land ownership has never been pointed out in any history that I have seen. He commandeered a canon brought up from Crawford County and had it physically drug from Mauckport to Morvins Landing where it was used to fire upon the Raiders. There was great controversy during the battle when Col. Timberlake ordered that the cannon, which was firing at the boats, be diverted to fire at the Rebels on shore in Brandenburg. I have full details on this.
    Timberlake was killed by John Lohmeyer in 1864 at the Cross Roads Church in another incident that also has been forgotten or overlooked. He is buried in Cedar Hill.
    I have also have full details on this incident.

    Larry Pfeiffer
  3. print email
    something shady is going on
    September 27, 2013 | 04:57 PM

    So the senior citizens cannot use the facility because it costs too much for electricity, but it is alright if the trustee make over twice the average salary of the other trustees. And the clerk (his wife) makes four times as the average salary of other trustee clerks. Something is wrong with the priorities in Spencer Township

  4. print email
    September 27, 2013 | 09:16 PM

    This is in response to Something Shady; here's an idea since you want the trustee & the clerk to give up their salaries, then why don't we do the same for Miss DuBois? She gets paid to do her job. Why were at it lets ask some of those same senior citizens that get paid by this township to mow abandon cemeteries to give up their pay for the good of a card game or Bingo. People you are asking the majority of the township to pay for you play time.

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