Ho-hum: council hears more pleas for huge projects
In what has fast become the norm, many folks seeking riverboat tax funds to help with a variety of needs pleaded their causes before the Harrison County Council Monday night, during the seven-member group’s regular planning session.
There were pleas for a ladder fire truck, a no-interest loan to build a road, an ambulance station in the north, a water tank for Palmyra, and more.
Some are becoming quite expert at the process, which can be daunting even though those public officials might be a next-door neighbor.
Harrison Township Trustee Cecil Trobaugh, making his fifth pitch for a ladder fire truck, did so with ease, providing detailed information on what could be purchased. After all, Trobaugh began preaching his cause soon after the groundwork had been finalized for Caesars Indiana to build its gaming complex at Bridgeport and the flow of millions of dollars into Harrison County coffers began.
He told the Harrison County Board of Commissioners soon after the gaming vessel opened in November 1998 that part of the money should be used to purchase a ladder truck. The truck could be used for rooftop rescues as well as fighting fires in multi-floor structures. Monday night, more than two years later and following the influx of about $47 million in riverboat tax revenue, Trobaugh made his fifth pitch for the funding.
Now he’s asking for $400,000, the amount approved by the commissioners, instead of the original $500,000 request.
The commissioners approved the lesser funding after the proposal passed the Public Works Board, which acts as an advisory board for the commissioners and which has heard Trobaugh at least twice before taking action recently.
Essentially, if approved by the council, the lower funding will be enough to purchase a 75-foot aerial truck, which Trobaugh now refers to as a county truck, not a township truck. “We want this truck to be available to everyone in the county, not just Harrison Township,” Trobaugh said.
He added: “We can get by with the $400,000, but it won’t be equipped; the township will have to equip it.”
The township has applied for other grants, but Trobaugh said he’s not sure how successful those appeals will be.
As with other requests Monday night, council chair Gary Davis explained that requests would be considered but no action taken at least until the council’s next regular session, on Sept. 10 at 7:30 p.m.
Other requests included the Chamber of Commerce of Harrison County’s for a $254,000 no-interest loan to construct an access road past Chamber property on the south side of Interstate 64, west of the Wal-Mart Supercenter and Cracker Barrel. That issue is also one that’s been around for quite a while. The road would link S.R. 135 through the shopping and restaurant complex to Corydon-Ramsey Road on the west.
The Chamber acquired the nine acres when it purchased land in the industrial park several years ago, for which the Chamber is still paying and therefore can’t afford to front its share of the expense of a new road to improve its property’s value, said Chamber economic development director Brian Fogel.
A 49-acre, $2.1 million commercial development is expected to increase the value of the Chamber property, and the loan would be repaid as soon as the Chamber sold land for development and realized a profit, Fogel said. But he had no guess as to how much the value would increase or when repayment could be expected.
“I don’t have a crystal ball,” he said, responding to a question from Councilman Carl Duley. “We are taking a leap of faith that we are going to be able to satisfy the proceeds of the loan.”
But according to Councilman Carl (Buck) Mathes, it’s going to take more than a leap of faith for the Chamber to get the loan.
“If they expect my support, they will have to come in here with an agreement on when they will pay that back,” Mathes told Fogel, and he wants it in writing.
Fogel said the Chamber will be happy to meet any terms the council attaches to the loan. “They don’t have me up here for a bait and switch,” he said.
After a lengthy exchange, Council chair Gary Davis said, “I think it’s refreshing you don’t just come in and ask for the money. Everybody else does.”
He also said, “If push comes to shove, we could always pay the loan back with economic development money.”
(Five percent a year of riverboat funds has been targeted for economic development.)
Andrew Best of Corydon also suggested that a cost benefit analysis be prepared on the project prior to any funding decision.
The council also heard a request for $150,000 to build an ambulance station in the north, similar to that constructed in Elizabeth.
“You all wanted it; you got it,” Commissioner Terry Miller told the council. “Good,” said Councilman Alvin Brown, a resident in northern Harrison County.
Miller said the planned location at New Salisbury may require a zoning change. “Hopefully, they will look at it with an open mind,” he said.
In addition, the council is considering using riverboat tax revenue for the following:
• Continuing two-percent in funding for the 10 incorporated towns in Harrison County from infrastructure funds as well as revenue sharing.
Palmyra Town Board President Roy (Speedy) McClanahan told the council he had been assured by the commissioners that they intended to continue the funding, which expired earlier this year. The towns, McClanahan and other town officials said, are in dire need of the funds. “We’re so far behind we can’t see daylight,” McClanahan said. He and others said the money is needed for such improvements as sidewalk construction, street signs, paving, emergency repairs, and, in Milltown’s case, for matching funds for grants.
• To purchase some 35 fire hydrants for about $75,000 in the Boone, Heth and New Middletown fire department districts and a $140,000 tanker truck for the Heth Township Volunteer Fire Dept. Improving firefighting service to residents, said Mathes, is “a great idea — monumental — and we should fund it wholeheartedly.”
• A reimbursement of $22,500 to the Harrison County 4-H for improvements made in the restrooms at the fairgrounds.
A request from Palmyra for $600,000 for water system improvements has also been approved by the commissioners and is pending before the council.
A low-interest loan requested by Elizabeth to build a town hall has not been recommended by the commissioners.
Other council members not mentioned here who must consider the requests are Rhonda Rhoads, Kenneth Saulman and Ralph Sherman.