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Requests before council total $5.7 million

Harrison County Council members Monday night heard appeals for more than $5.7 million in riverboat revenue, including $4 million in education funds that includes money for parents who want to send their youngsters to all-day kindergarten school and $1 million to start the Corydon-New Middletown Road reconstruction this year.
Council chair Gary Davis also appointed himself and councilmen Kenneth Saulman and Carl Duley to a steering committee to work toward obtaining an unbiased second opinion on the need for a new hospital.
Davis said he and J.R. Eckart, chair of the board of commissioners, had met with hospital administrator Steve Taylor and board vice chair Fred Owen to discuss participation in such a study.
‘The meeting went rather well, I thought,’ Davis said.
He said the hospital board has reviewed the request and agreed to participate.
‘Next we need to set up a steering committee to work with the hospital to develop the scope of work’ required from a consultant, Davis said, which he then did for the council. ‘The commissioners will appoint their representative at their next meeting,’ Davis said.
Besides Taylor and Owen, both of whom agreed to serve, another individual will likely be appointed as well, Davis said.
‘We want to expedite this study.’
Hospital officials agree, but in the meantime are moving forward with an alternative resource for funding should the county decide not to participate.
There are three options, Taylor said. One, the county would share in the payment of a traditional loan, or two, a federal Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Loan could be made, or because the hospital has been declared a ‘critical access hospital,’ HUD financing could be obtained.
But Taylor said that, in most cases, would restrict the hospital’s in-patients to 25. ‘It would hinder us in the long term. That would be tenuous during a flu epidemic,’ he said, adding the hospital doesn’t want to be in a position where it has to turn people away.
‘Nobody really wants to do that if it can be avoided,’ Taylor said, referring to the HUD option.
The three public school corporation superintendents reiterated their plans before the council for the $4 million, as spelled out during the commissioners’ last meeting.
While she said she supports all-day kindergarten, Councilperson Rhonda Rhoads added: ‘I am in the education field; I think the state should fund all-day kindergarten. We live in a credit card world. That concerns me.’
As an educator, she said she is concerned that young children will be under too much pressure and she hopes the program will be ‘age appropriate.’
The superintendents said attendance will not be mandatory; it will be up to the parent or guardian to decide if all-day kindergarten is right for the child.
Responding to a question from Rhoads, Lanesville Supt. Dr. Phil Partenheimer said the movement toward all-day kindergarten has been fueled by President Bush’s ‘No Child Left Behind’ program.
By allowing a child an early start in life, the gap is closed between the haves and the have-nots,’ Partenheimer said.
He said the three superintendents’ ‘first priority’ is always the welfare of the children, and his decision to seek funds for three to four years of all-day kindergarten was not made ‘flippantly.’
He and North Harrison Supt. Monty Schneider said the request wouldn’t be made if it were only for a year, because it would be more difficult then to deny the popular program. ‘Hopefully, in three or four years, the state can fund it.’
South Harrison will use its share of the kindergarten funds to introduce full-day kindergarten in Corydon for all, which is already underway in the corporation’s other three elementary schools.
‘South Harrison has had full day kindergarten for some time. At South Harrison, as throughout the state, full-day kindergarten is not mandatory. It is age appropriate.’
Appeals were also made for funds to continue the Gerdon Alternative School, for the high school Renaissance program, and the Leadership Harrison County.
Davis said the council will act on those and other requests at its next meeting, on May 10 at 7 p.m.
The council will also act on a request for some $1 million to begin reconstruction of the Corydon-New Middletown Road. County engineer Darin Duncan said detours will be required during much of the work, but those have not yet been decided.
Bob Woosley, project engineer with Heritage Engineering, said reconstruction will require utility lines to be moved.
This phase of the project includes 5,100 feet of roadway, divided into two sections, the East and the West. Humps will be shaved and curves straightened where possible. ‘We expect to start on the East section this summer, and it should take about three or four months,’ he said. That section of road includes the site of two traffic fatalities in the last year.
‘This should greatly improve’ the safety, Woosley said.
The West side, which includes the intersection with Country Club and Smith Hill roads , will be improved next.
The total project cost is estimated at $917,600.