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Cantankerous council still generous with project funds

The Harrison County Council Monday night approved additional riverboat revenue to complete renovation of the vacant downtown jail, to begin improvements to Corydon-New Middletown Road and the Corydon-Ramsey-Sival Road intersection, all totaling some $938,000.
The council also approved $80,000 for a study of Harrison County Hospital’s plan to construct a new facility west of Corydon, $15,000 for the spay-neuter program, $40,000 for fire hydrants in Harrison Township, and $39,000 to install additional camera monitors in jail cells to curb vandalism.
Palmyra will get $25,000 for a storm drainage project. Lanesville will get a $146,500 loan to extend sewer service to the developing Sunrise Ridge subdivision east of Tandy Road. Lanesville is expected to pay the money back from hook-on fees of $1,000 each.
The council approved $8,710 for representatives of the new Farm, Forest and Open Land Preservation (FFOP) task force to attend training seminars and purchase office supplies.
A request for $500,000 in cumulative bridge funds was tabled after a question arose regarding the balance in that account. Apparently investments were cashed in and put to use because the account was apparently in the red, so no funds will be available until the next tax settlement is received.
Of the $500,000, $100,000 is needed for the replacement of the Milltown Bridge, a federally-funded project, and $400,000 for Rothrock Mill Bridge, a joint Harrison-Crawford County project.
The three commissioners also got $100,000 each in riverboat revenue to use for stone, gravel and aggregates in the three districts.
All of this was completed within two hours at the meeting, moderated by Council chair Gary Davis. It began at 7 p.m. And while most of those appropriations sailed through with little additional debate or comment, the evening was not entirely dull.
For instance, Councilman Alvin Brown noted that he thought $80,000 for the hospital study was too expensive, but he would vote for it anyway. Later he explained: ‘It’s like an operation that costs $3,000. You might think it’s too expensive, but you do it anyway.’
Brown also moved to table the bridge-funding request, ‘until we find out what’s going on.’
But Councilman Carl (Buck) Mathes tried to get the funding through anyway. ‘If I remember right, the council wanted you to use up your money (in cumulative bridge fund). I’m willing to give it to you.
‘My point is, in 100 years’ time, we’ve got about 100 bridges, and we’re not keeping up. The cum bridge piece of the pie is not big enough. We ought to kick some more money in.’
Davis offered: ‘The point is, you need to know how much is needed.’
‘I don’t think we know tonight,’ said Councilman Kenneth Saulman. ‘I agree with Alvin. I’ll second his motion until we figure out what we’ve got.’
The motion passed 6-0.
During discussion concerning courthouse renovations and the work yet to be done in the old jail, Davis asked Commissioner J.R. Eckart (who was at the podium), how he would know if the county had gotten $4 million worth of work on the courthouse.
Eckart said, ‘RQAW (architects on the project) monitors it daily.
Brown asked: ‘You all ever think about using anybody besides RQAW? Every time something comes up, it’s RQAW this and RQAW that.’
Eckart asked Brown if a company had completed work in the past successfully, wouldn’t he be likely to use that company on other jobs?
To which Davis added: ‘We have a 20-year plan that’s not worth the paper it was written on.’
‘I think what we need is a motion to authorize the commissioners to utilize the excess funds (about $123,000) from the courthouse renovation on the old jail.’
Saulman’s motion to that effect, seconded by Councilman Carl Duley passed 6-0, but not without some grumbling.
‘I’m not real happy,’ said Councilwoman Rhonda Rhoads. ‘I’m not real happy either, but it’s got to be done,’ said Brown.
Councilman Ralph Sherman, after a typically quiet evening, spoke up when it came time for action on the salary committee’s recommendations for next year.
Because one person, David Simon, has been hired to oversee maintenance on all county buildings, the salary committee wanted to freeze some former supervisors’ wages to allow those with less responsibilities to catch up in pay. Three-percent raises had been suggested for the county work force, if that could be done while maintaining a balanced budget.
Sherman wanted no part of the freeze, without explanation.
Duley had moved to adopt the salary committee’s recommendation, and his motion was seconded by Rhoads.
‘I want to amend the motion to read do not freeze the salaries,’ Sherman said before a vote was taken. ‘And give them a three-percent raise.’
Mathes seconded the motion and it passed 5-1, with Rhoads casting the dissenting vote. ‘Have you looked at the salaries, Ralph?’ she asked.