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Commissioners, council to discuss property tax relief for ’08

Riverboat money became a theme throughout the Harrison County Board of Commissioners meeting Monday morning. Carl (Buck) Mathes and Gordon Pendleton represented the Harrison County Council at the meeting.
‘We’re just here to report what we’ve done,’ said Councilman Carl (Buck) Mathes, who attended the meeting at the council’s request. He was accompanied by fellow Councilman Gordon Pendleton.
The discussion centered around riverboat money for property tax relief next year. Last month, the council discussed possibly using $3 million in 2008 for property tax relief.
‘I suppose it will be a favorable vote in our meeting,’ said Mathes.
‘It was the plan to reduce it to $2 million,’ said Commissioner J.R. Eckart.
Councilman Chris Timberlake recommended the $3 million figure at the Oct. 22 council meeting. The dollar amount will be discussed at the council’s next meeting, Tuesday, Nov. 13. That meeting begins at 7:30 p.m. in the Commissioners/Council Room of the Harrison County Court House.
‘First of all, we need to have a discussion with the council before we make a motion,’ said Commissioner James Goldman. ‘We’ll decide if $3 million is right, or $2 million, or any at all.’
Mathes replies, ‘I’m looking forward to hearing from the commissioners.’
Pendleton said he has asked Dr. Phil Partenheimer, superintendent of the North Harrison Community School Corp., and his counterpart at South Harrison Community School Corp., Dr. Neyland Clark, how the relief money would affect them.
‘We’re doing something that nobody knows the effect,’ said Pendleton.
The commissioners and council members have heard complaints about the riverboat money and how it has not helped the property tax situation. The riverboat paid for 32 percent of the total money spent for Harrison County in 2006, just six percent more than the county general fund. Another $2.2 million came from riverboat funds to balance the county general fund.
‘Everything that has come up today would either not be done or it would come out of county general (fund) without the riverboat money,’ Eckart said.
‘I really think at some point in time, the council and commissioners should look at life after the riverboat money,’ said Goldman. ‘We’re becoming more and more dependent on the riverboat.’
Mathes said things were different before the riverboat money. ‘We turned down a lot of things,’ he said.
The council chairman should know; he was serving on the council two years before the riverboat came to Harrison County.
‘We’re so used to the money,’ Mathes said. ‘We’ll have it until it’s gone, then we’ll deal with it.
‘(Riverboat money) won’t go away all at once,’ he predicted. ‘It will dwindle away gradually.’
In other business Monday:
‘ Darin Duncan, director of engineering for bridge materials wholesaler CPI Supply Inc., met with the commissioners to discuss the progress on Lickford Bridge No. 55, which has been closed to traffic.
Duncan, the former Harrison County Engineer, has started with preliminary phases to verify the abutments under the closed bridge.
‘I’m fairly confident we’ll have favorable results on that,’ he said.
If the abutments are approved, it will save the county time and money in constructing the new bridge. Construction will begin shortly after the abutments are approved. Duncan said he realizes the construction will be done at the worst time of year, but he says it is ‘doable.’
Duncan expressed concern about residents in the area being able to walk cross the bridge during construction.
‘There will be a time when residents can’t cross even on foot,’ Duncan said. ‘There needs to be a temporary foot crossing.’
‘ Developer Donald Thieneman asked the commissioners for help regarding a dispute over a railroad crossing leading to Summit Estates subdivision. The crossing is at Sky Park Road and S.R. 135 just north of Interstate 64. The railroad is now owned by Lucas Oil. Thieneman said he was blind-sided by a commitment change from an asphalt-based surface to a nearly $15,000 upgrade for a concrete crossing.
‘I’m still committed to finish it,’ said Thieneman. ‘When you change the game, it’s not fair. They (Lucas Oil) changed the game.’
Eckart said he does not think it’s the county’s job step in. ‘I honestly don’t see how the county has a dog in the fight,’ he said. ‘To pay cash money for a private project, with taxpayer money, I don’t feel comfortable.’
However, Eckart did say the county would pay for the heavier density rock, about 2 inches, which was requested by the county. He also said Thieneman could use the county’s resources for bids.
‘That won’t be a drop in the bucket,’ said Thieneman.
Thieneman said he was not asking for money but ‘credit.’ He wants the commissioners to see that he really got ‘stung’ but he kept his commitment.
‘I’m not asking you to write the check. I got $14,600 more (in expenses) than I expected,’ said Thieneman. ‘Times are tough. You speak up when times are tough.’
In response to Commissioner Terry Miller’s suggestion that the board of commissioners contact Lucas Oil to let them know of their displeasure regarding the change, the commissioners asked their legal counsel John E. Colin to write a letter to Lucas Oil.
‘ Anna Morris, director of the county’s solid waste district, brought the recycling plan to the commissioners as advised by the council. ‘We’re trying to step down the number of bins,’ said Morris.
Morris also suggested that she could cut her request from $106,985 to $50,000, to go along with the $50,000 from IDEM and ‘buy what we can.’
‘It’s a very good basic step for public education,’ said Eckart.
The commissioners sent the $106,985 request the council.
‘ Deana Decker, dispatch supervisor for the Harrison County Sheriff’s Dept., explained to the commissioners the need for a new dispatch system. She said the current system is outdated and parts cannot be bought for the consoles anymore.
The sheriff’s department will operate under the emergency medical dispatch (EMD) in 2008.
‘It’s going to take a three-person console ‘ 24 hours,’ said Harrison County Police Chief Gary Gilley.
‘We’re on board; we’re ready for it,’ said Decker, who has been a dispatcher for more than seven years.
To date this year, the sheriff’s department has dispatched more than 17,000 ambulance runs and 22,000 runs for the nine fire departments, according to Decker.
‘It’s a lot for two people to handle in there, it really is,’ she said.
Miller, who was a county commissioner when the Harrison County Justice Center was built in 1996, said the equipment was state-of-the-art when the facility opened in 1997. The dispatch center is located there.
‘I don’t want it to look like we bought out-dated equipment,’ he said.
The commissioners took the new dispatch system under advisement.
‘ Blue River Services Inc. will take three weekend trips to Green Tree Mall. ‘We’re trying to get as many people to recognize this transportation is for them,’ reported transportation director Roland Lemus.
A $5 flat fee will be charged per person for each trip to Clarksville.

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