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Commissioners seek $270,000 to lure higher learning

As the Harrison County Board of Commissioners meeting pushed late into the night Monday, the commissioners decided to ask the council to appropriate $270,000 to fund higher education initiatives for a community or junior college.
Commissioner chair J.R. Eckart said Monday night the appropriation will help them look at the options that are available. Eckart said he would like to see proposals from colleges that show what they could do with $270,00 and choose the one that best fits the needs of Harrison County.
The motion made by Commissioner Jim Heitkemper and seconded by Eckart came after a heated debate between the commissioners and council members Gary Davis and Carl (Buck) Mathes.
‘You’re going to have to make up your mind whether or not we’re going to have higher education in this county or are we going to keep sending them up to (Indiana University Southeast, Prosser and Ivy Tech),’ Mathes told the commissioners.
Mathes said he had always supported the Lifelong Learning Center but it was intended to be a community college.
‘I think that in order for us to get higher education in our county, we need to go outside what we already have,’ he said.
Davis also told the commissioners that Harrison County needs a higher learning facility. Davis particularly showed a great deal of interest in Vincennes University.
‘In my mind that’s a no-brainer,’ Davis said. ‘Vincennes has been doing for 100 years what Ivy Tech has been doing for two or three.’
The discussion became heated when Commissioner James Goldman took offense to a comment Davis made about Lifelong Learning not having achieved anything.
Davis said he felt they hadn’t gotten as much value out of the money spent on the Lifelong Learning program as he thought they should have.
‘It really irritates me when people say we haven’t done anything,’ said Goldman, who also sits on the Lifelong Learning board.
Goldman also did not agree on asking the council to go ahead and appropriate money for a community or junior college. Goldman said the commissioners have created a committee that was supposed to come up with a funding request.
‘It doesn’t take much to get someone interested when you’re waving $270,000 at them,’ Goldman said, also noting the amount was similar to the amount that Davis and Eckart had offered in a letter to Vincennes earlier this year.
Eckart said offering a higher education program in Harrison County was something all officials were interested in, but they need to know the parameters.
Eckart said he didn’t care who comes into the county or what a community college would mean to Lifelong Learning.
He said he supports any plan that best meets Harrison County’s needs, even if that means a college incorporating the duties of the Lifelong Learning Center, working in partnership with Lifelong Learning, or standing separately.