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Health department housing issue lingers

The Harrison County Commissioners made the motion Monday morning to temporarily move the health department into the Rothrock house. Commissioner J.R. Eckart will represent the commissioners at the health department board meeting this morning (Wednesday) at the health department office, located in the old hospital.
Health board officials expressed their dissatisfaction with the move to the Rothrock house at the commissioners’ meeting Monday, March 17. The officials wanted to move into the doctors’ office building located on the old hospital campus, which currently is for sale along with the buildings west of Atwood Street.
‘We promised the health board we’d give them an answer,’ said Commissioner James Goldman.
‘They would have already been moved and everyone would be settled in if they took (Harrison County public health coordinator) Tony’s (Combs) recommendation to move to the Rothrock house,’ said Eckart. ‘My recommendation is we move them to the Rothrock house. I can’t see moving them into a building that’s for sale. We don’t have control over that doctors’ office building.’
The hospital campus may not be for sale much longer. The commissioners asked their legal counsel, John E. Colin, to speak with HCH CEO Steve Taylor about what it would take to get the old hospital campus out of real estate and no longer for sale. The commissioners would consider remodeling the three-story doctors’ office building for the health department and other county agencies’ use and demolish the old portion of the hospital.
‘We need to find out what the options are and see if it is feasible to convert it to office use,’ said Eckart.
‘The most prudent move is to move them into the Rothrock house,’ Goldman said. ‘It will give us a chance to look at other options. It’s a temporary home, not a permanent home. It’d be better for them.’
In other business Monday morning, Combs spoke to the commissioners about the mosquito control program.
‘I’ve had more complaints than ever, more than ever,’ said Goldman.
The Morgan Township area has serious mosquito issues, according to Combs and residents from that area who attended Monday’s meeting. Jane Dunn, a 31-year resident of East Street in Palmyra, said they have to douse their children three times a day with repellent and the mosquitos are so bad they swarm her on trips from the house to the vehicle.
‘We’ve got to move on this soon,’ said Dee Abbott, also of East Street.
A two- to three-acre area has held water since February, according Abbott.
The wet spring has caused many low-lying areas to hold standing water, which has caused the mosquito population to flourish.
The normal procedure for mosquito control in Harrison County involves students from Indiana University Southeast’s biology department gathering samples from standing water pools to determine the nesting areas. The samples are then sent to the state department of health to be tested for the West Nile virus and other possible viruses known to be carried by mosquitos. This year, Combs said they will hire an independent contractor previously associated with the IUS program because the school is not offering the program.
‘It’s no different than years past; we’re just starting a little bit earlier,’ said Combs.
Combs hopes to have nesting areas located by the end of the week and sprayed shortly thereafter.
‘Hopefully we can head it off before it gets bad again,’ said Combs. ‘We’ll continue to watch the entire county, but Morgan Township is the worst.’
The health department offers free larvicide for resident use, which can be picked up at the health department office located at the old hospital.
‘It’s just been a bad year,’ said Goldman. ‘Hopefully we’ll dry out in two to three weeks. Hopefully we can get some relief for you all.’
County engineer Kevin Russel gave a report on two bridge projects which are nearing completion.
Bridge 55 on Lickford Bridge Road has been assembled and stalled with only the finishing touches remaining before it will be open to traffic, according to Russel. The bridge was open to walk across last Friday, said Russel.
Richard Vuckson, owner of R.L. Vuckson Excavating, found a way to complete the project without the previously needed 500-ton crane. The crane would not have been available until June 1.
‘That shows what a good-ole farm boy can come up with,’ said Goldman.
‘I think that’s great,’ said Eckart.
Russel said Bridge 68 located on St. John’s Church Road south of Lanesville should also be completed by the end of this week.
The commissioners, with Russel’s recommendation, awarded eight contracts for the year’s asphalt work to Gohmann Asphalt & Construction. Gohmann was the low bidder on construction specifics totaling more than $2 million.
Eckart made the motion to send a request to the Harrison County Council to raise the county mileage rate from 40 cents to 47 cents per mile. The federal rate is 50.5 cents and the state of Indiana is 40 cents. Commissioner Terry Miller seconded the motion, which the council will hear at its meeting Monday night at 7:30 at the courthouse.