Posted on

Money talks

Harrison and Floyd County residents and officials gave Caesars Indiana only high marks Tuesday, Aug. 15, at two meetings in Corydon conducted for the Indiana Gaming Commission.
The Gaming Commission is required by law to conduct a full investigation of riverboat licenses every three years. The investigation includes an analysis of community impacts utilizing information gathered at these meetings and through a random phone survey.
During the first focus group meeting Tuesday afternoon, officials from local school districts, the Chamber of Commerce of Harrison County, and elected representatives testified how the $100 million Harrison, Floyd and other counties in the region have received has helped schools, libraries, roads, community centers, fire departments and law enforcement agencies.
‘We’ve been able to renovate all eight of our schools,’ South Harrison Community School Corp. Supt. Dr. Neyland Clark said. ‘We now have full-day kindergarten, a tuition reimbursement program, an alternative school program and free textbooks.
‘The money from Caesars has helped retire our debt and has paid for specialized equipment for special-needs students. We appreciate this support.’
Dr. Phil Partenheimer, superintendent of the Lanesville Community School Corp., agreed.
‘Every teacher in our school has a laptop computer now,’ he said. ‘We have a new gym, a new roof, three new school buses, band instruments, library books, smart boards, new boilers, lab equipment and computers. We ask that you continue with this funding.’
Floyd County officials were just as quick to commend Caesars.
‘We have had five capital murder cases go to court,’ Floyd County Commissioner John Reisert said. ‘Each one of those trials cost us a million dollars. We’d be in dire straights now if it weren’t for the boat money.
‘We now have a county planner, a county engineer, and we have a stormwater control system. We have new highway equipment, we’ve done a lot of paving of roads, and we’ve had an extension of animal services,’ he continued. ‘We’ve been able to share with the Town of Greenville and fund a full-time police officer for them. We bought rescue equipment for the fire department of Georgetown. We’re planning for a new youth center.
‘We’re very thankful for Caesars. If you ever move (the boat), just move it up river about 200 yards, into Floyd County.’
Caesars’ incentive payments into both Harrison and Floyd County community foundations have also had a positive impact, according to officials.
‘We started out with a $5-million contribution,’ said Steve Gilliland, director of the Harrison County Community Foundation. ‘So far, we’ve taken in about $65 million. We have awarded about $1.7 million in scholarships, over $14 million in grants. We have helped fund emergency warning sirens, computers, historical preservation, library books, the animal shelter, the new hospital, musical instruments for schools, community centers, Lifelong Learning, shelters and emergency services, and the alternative schools.’
Jerry Finn, director of the Caesars Foundation of Floyd County, said, ‘We gave over $400,000 in scholarships this year; we have kids going to college that otherwise may not have been able to. It’s been a real blessing.’
‘It’s been a positive thing for the community,’ said Virgil Carpenter of Elizabeth, a former Harrison County Community Foundation board member. ‘If the Community Foundation was the only thing we got from the boat, it would still be a great thing.
‘They have done a lot of good for a lot of people.’
At the evening meeting, only two residents and a handful of officials were there, but the resulting testimony was the same.
‘There has been only one thing negative about the boat money,’ Harrison County Commissioner Jim Heitkemper said. ‘The state saw it as a ‘cash cow’ that they would like to delve into. We got a little scare last year that they would take the tax dollars that we get from the boat.
‘Lake County and some others are exempt from the state taking their boat money, but rural counties like Harrison seem to be targets for retracting the money.
‘Harrison has spent the money wisely,’ Heitkemper said. ‘We have had a problem in the county with meth, but we couldn’t effectively fight it if we didn’t have the funds. It enables us to do what’s right.’