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Let building bug bite ‘slowly, cautiously’

Everyone in Harrison County, it seems, is afflicted with the building bug these days. Nearly every meeting, from one board to another, concerns a new study or grant application, usually in reference to a multi-million dollar improvement project of some sort for Harrison County. It’s almost like spring, with building projects mushrooming like morels, and the entertainment is sometimes more interesting than network TV.
These building proposals include all types of expensive projects, from sidewalks to major road improvements designed to crisscross the county – north and south – east and west – and back again.
The possibilities include turning a bank and an old jail into a courthouse annex, revamping the Corydon school campus, and adding another neighborhood elementary school in the South Harrison Community School Corp. district, who knows where, south of Interstate 64 and west of S.R. 135.
Other proposed projects include rebuilding sewers and water lines, relocating the hospital, building a YMCA and erecting what some say is to be a luxury pet hotel for abandoned animals, just to mention a few. For the record, we don’t agree with the “luxury pet hotel” description, but that’s what some folks are saying, and at this stage of the long – too-long debate – who cares what it’s called, as long as a solution is found soon.
Most recently, Palmyra announced it is in the process of applying for a grant for some $30,000 to do a study of its storm water drains.
The list goes on and on. Harrison County is definitely construction-company friendly and loves construction studies. It sometimes seems like we have more architects and engineers coming and going through Corydon than Tyson chicken trucks.
In the last two years beaucoup bucks have been spent on those studies and proposals. Plus, there have been numerous expenditures made to improve the quality of life for most Harrison Countians, from paved roads to firefighting equipment and increased police protection, to name a few.
Just last week, during a special Harrison County Commissioners’ meeting to unveil 10 road improvement projects costing more than $100 million, Commissioner Terry L. Miller said, “The county is fortunate to have the income now that allows us to be able to conduct studies like this without dipping into our road construction funds.”
Fortunate indeed. Or we’d have no money left to do the real work.
Don’t get the wrong idea. We think building feasibility studies are fun. These studies allow us an unusual chance to look at all kinds of interesting and very cool aerial photographs, drawings of new buildings with stylized people, cars and trees, floor plans and maps. Wonderful maps with circles and arrows and a paragraph attached, to explain the engineer’s concept. Studies let us speculate and dream about what could be.
Studies also give us a chance to talk to engineers and architects and give them our informed and educated opinions.
Best of all, studies give us a reason to have crowded public meetings, for the purpose of obtaining public comments, in rooms where both the sound system and the air conditioning usually need to be turned up.
While we have all these building studies and proposals floating around, it’s really nothing new. Harrison County has had a building boom of sorts since approval of a gaming license was announced in May 1996. Certainly, South Harrison school buildings have been sprouting like those proverbial mushrooms for some time now, beginning with the updated New Middletown Elementary a few years ago. While that may have nothing to do with income we’re now receiving from Caesars Indiana, it may have everything to do with keeping our children in a quality learning environment.
And money spent by officials to lower capital projects funds should help keep school taxes at a somewhat affordable level.
Action on the latest proposals may seem slow in coming. It’s true that the wheels of government do turn slowly, but there are reasons. Number one, all those studies and engineering reports are usually required before federal dollars can be received to help pay the bills. And secondly, we do want to be sure we’re on the right track before spending all that money, don’t we? It’s a little like the debates in Congress, which are slow and deliberate to avoid rash, un-thought-out decisions.
But it is true that the end result of a study often hinges on what we want (and are willing to pay for) in the first place. For instance, if we wanted an environmental study to support our belief that a new I-64 exchange is not needed, then our consultants would more than likely come up with the reasons not to build.
Most of the projects being considered in Harrison County right now are mind-boggling in many ways. Plans are being laid for improvements no one would have thought possible a few years ago, at least not for many years. The difference now is that we have resources – lots of money to make many dreams come true. The next few years promise to be at least as exciting as the last few.
But let’s proceed with caution, and take into account that the money we now receive from Caesars could be curtailed at any time. We’re not saying Caesars is going to pull up anchor and sail down river, but you never know when a catastrophe might strike.
Perhaps “slowly, cautiously” should be the catch-phrase of the day when referring to projects that would be financed mainly through riverboat dollars.
-DAVID WHIPPLE AND JACKIE CARPENTER

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