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Council OKs millions in spending

The Harrison County Council, at its regular Monday night session, approved more than $7 million in riverboat revenue spending for a multitude of purposes, including revenue sharing, building renovations, education, roads, highway equipment, studies on wastewater and stormwater treatment and an Interstate 64 interchange, and mosquito control.
The council also approved $300,000 in riverboat revenue for the construction of an animal control facility (see related story, this page).
The riverboat account still has a balance of $12 million, but no additional funds are expected until after the end of the fiscal year, June 30, because Harrison County’s income is currently capped at $24 million annually by the Indiana Legislature.
The seven council members also heard an apology from Jeff Metcalf, business development leader for Siemens Building Technologies Inc., the company that in 1997 introduced the possibilities of renovations through a performance based contract that would include guaranteed energy savings to go along with renovating the courthouse and old jail.
Metcalf apologized for any misunderstandings a letter may have created that was sent by him to council members. That letter was intended to provide additional information to the council after Siemens placed second in the commissioners’ selection of firms to oversee the renovation project.
He stressed that nothing in the letter was intended to imply wrongdoing on the part of any county official. ‘We feel they acted with the knowledge they had to the best of their ability,’ Metcalf said.
After much discussion and a brief review of the history behind the courthouse and the old jail by historian Frederick Griffin, council chair Gary Davis said it is not the council’s responsibility, but the commissioners, to select a contractor.
Issues for the council to consider included where the funds for the project should come from, either money already on hand or through financing, and how much money should be spent.
A total of $4.7 million had been proposed for the renovation of the courthouse and the old jail.
Davis said two funding sources were available other than riverboat revenue. Those include the cumulative capital development account and the cumulative capital courthouse fund. He suggested that $1.9 and $1.4 be used from those funds.
After a motion to approve the full $4.7 million failed to get a second, Councilman Carl Duley said: ‘I’m going to stick my neck out and do something … ‘
His motion to approve $4 million in the aforementioned funds plus riverboat revenue drew an immediate second from Ralph Sherman and passed 4 to 2, with Alvin Brown and Kenneth Saulman voting in opposition.
No comment was made at the time, but Brown has said several times he opposes putting money into a complete renovation of the buildings, especially the jail. Saulman had asked that the full $4.7 million be approved.
Duley said the lesser amount does not mean the council doesn’t want the jail to be retained and renovated. ‘The $4.7 million did’t fly; that’s why I made it $4 million,’ he said.
‘I think we should keep the jail and this courthouse; for goodness sakes, everybody knows it needs a lot of work.’
J.R. Eckart, chair of the commissioners, was unable to attend Monday night’s meeting, but he said yesterday the council’s approval of $4 million is good news and may well be enough to handle both buildings.
‘I can’t imagine we won’t make some pretty good gains with that,’ he said. ‘We haven’t negotiated the final contract; we may have to cut back on some of the quality issues, but I’m sure that’s a workable amount.’
Numerous other financial matters came before the council Monday night, including the usual riverboat revenue sharing and infrastructure funds for Harrison County’s 10 incorporated towns.
In addition, the following appropriations were made:
‘ Blacktop for county roads, $600,000 in each of the three districts ($1 million in each was sought); also, $133,333 for contractual services in each district;
‘ Highway equipment, $500,000 ($810,000 requested);
‘ Education: Harrison County Public Library, $500,000 to renovate balance of bank building; Lanesville Community School Corp., $200,000; North Harrison Community School Corp., $760,000; South Harrison Community School Corp., $1 million;
‘ Transportation study for new interchange along Interstate 64;
‘ Mosquito control, $6,000;
‘ Blue River Services Inc., $100,000 in matching funds for federal rural transportation program;
‘ Plat numbering system update, $54,000;
‘ Wastewater/stormwater study, $51,270; and
‘ Fuel for county vehicles, $100,000.