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Land preservation group’s in a hurry

The urgency to find a way to preserve undeveloped land in Harrison County was punctuated by the tornado warning siren that disrupted last week’s meeting of the Farm, Forest and Open Space Preservation Task Force.
‘We need to do whatever we can do to speed it up,’ task force member Jim Klinstiver urged his peers at the July 13 meeting. ‘We can take too long to do this.’
The newly-formed task force was holding its second meeting when the latest round of storms roared through the county. Several members of the group, including ex-officio members, left the Farm Bureau meeting room in Corydon to watch the approaching storm from the parking lot. As the rain came, the meeting resumed.
Three key issues were addressed during the meeting: obtaining a beginning budget from the county council, hiring a consultant, and putting together a survey.
A motion made by Fred Uhl and seconded by Donnie Wolfe to seek $8,710 passed unanimously. Jim Heitkemper, who chairs the task force, was to start the process for obtaining the money by making the request Monday night to the Harrison County Board of Commissioners.
The total included $2,560 for general operation funds (mail, meeting supplies, office supplies, etc.) and $6,150 (to pay conference fees and travel expenses for task force members to attend the Farmland Trust National Conference later this year in Lexington, Ky.).
‘It will take about six weeks to go through the pipeline,’ Heitkemper said of obtaining the funds.
(On Monday, the commissioners forwarded the request to the Harrison County Council, the governing body with the final say in granting the request.)
Harrison County Planner Eric Wise, an ex-officio member of the task force, was instructed to draft a Request for Proposal for the group to look at when it meets again. (The next meeting will be Tuesday, July 27, at 7:30 p.m. at the County Annex Building.)
A RFP will be sought from Scott Everett, regional director for the American Farmland Trust, who gave a program about farmland preservation in February in Harrison County.
‘(Scott) knows what works in other areas,’ Heitkemper said. ‘That’s why I’m leaning towards using him.
‘We need to get outside support to move this right along,’ he said.
Jane Gettelfinger made the motion to have Wise draft a Request for Proposal; Uhl seconded it. The motion passed unanimously.
Task force member Bob Schickel asked if hiring someone like Everett would give the group ‘a nudge, to get us going,’ or if the intention was for a consultant to do the work ‘from start to finish.’
‘What we need is someone to help us come up with a plan,’ Heitkemper responded.
Andrew Best, who attended last week’s meeting as a concerned Harrison Countian, said the task force needs to get property owners of 100-plus acres involved in the process.
‘Why aren’t they here tonight?’ he asked.
During the discussion of surveying county property owners, some said a random sampling would suffice; others believed that everyone should be offered the chance to give their opinion.
The possibility of a survey will be addressed again at the next meeting.
One other motion was passed, also unanimously, last week with the intention of having active members in the group.
Once an appointee to the task force misses three consecutive meetings, it will be reported to the body that made the appointment in hopes that a replacement will be named.
‘I’m just concerned that we could have problems later down the road that could have been avoided,’ said Greg Albers, who made the motion.
It was also recommended that the name of a suggested replacement be offered at that time.
Before adjourning about 9:30 p.m., Wise encouraged task force members to consider the land areas they want to focus on first for discussion at the July 27 meeting.

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