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County considers new method of property tax relief

The Harrison County Board of Commissioners plans to continue using riverboat funds to lower property taxes, but the method to provide relief may change.
Phil Smith, a retired business analyst from Depauw, asked the board Monday morning about property tax relief for Harrison Countians amid the difficult economic period. In the past, the board used riverboat funds to relieve debt services for the county schools, which helped lower taxes. The board approved $2 million last year for tax relief. Smith asked the board if they planned to do the same this year.
‘Not at this time,’ said Goldman.
He said riverboat funds will again be used to lower the tax rate but not necessarily through the schools. Goldman said the board will decide on the option for returning revenue by the end of February or early March, when the auditor and other county officials need to begin calculating tax bills.
Smith, a Republican, unsuccessfully challenged Goldman for the District 1 seat in the General Election in November.
In other matters Monday morning, owners of land used as an illegal dumping site in the southern portion of the county along the Ohio River came before the local government to ask for help with the pollution problem, which has caught the attention of the Indiana Dept. of Environmental Management.
The commissioners held a public hearing Monday morning concerning a petition for abandonment of a public way, Narrows Road, southeast of Laconia. The petition was presented by Peter M. Racher, legal representative for Dr. Gerald R. and Ruth Yarnell of Corydon. The Yarnells own approximately 980 acres around Narrows Road.
If the board closed the public road, Racher said the Yarnells would install a gate to prevent vehicles from driving on the road which would, hopefully, stop the dumping.
Racher said the property owners have attempted to clean the area but have been unsuccessful because of the continual dumping.
District 3 Commissioner Terry Miller said the road is a high water road and residents could become stranded in a flood event if the road is no longer county controlled. Miller also said the tree-lined road will become useless and inaccessible in three or four years if it is neglected after the gate or fence is installed to impede traffic.
‘I know it’s a problem,’ Miller said. ‘I appreciate their efforts to clean it up.’
Commissioner chairman James Goldman said the site reflects poorly on Southern Indiana and is easily visible from the river.
The board suggested a fence at the location along the road to deter would-be dumpers. Racher said his clients believe the fence would just be cut and the dumping would continue. The only real option to solve the problem, according to Racher, is to close the road.
James Crosier, who lives down river from the Yarnell property, said he is against any county road closings. He agrees the bluff near Narrows Road has been a dumpsite and added that he has had a problem with people dumping on his property.
‘I pick it up and go about my business,’ he said.
Crosier is more concerned about the need for fire protection in remote areas of the county like Narrows Road.
The board tabled the issue until its next regular meeting, Tuesday, Jan. 20, at 7:30 p.m.
The commissioners moved to pass four separate additionals totaling $315,500 for Jim Miller, Division of Child Services director. The appropriation, if approved by the council, will go to 2008 cases. The state will begin paying for the service in 2009 as part of the local government reform plan implemented by Gov. Mitch Daniels.
The board passed an additional of $4,600 for a new copier to the council out of the capital outlays fund for the Circuit Clerk Sherry Brown and Recorder Barbara Best. Another additional of $8,000, out of the riverboat contingency fund, was passed to the council for the Harrison County Chaplain Association.
The board made the following re-appointments: Goldman to the alcohol beverage board; Miller, Harrison County Community Services board and River Hills board; Miller and Goldman, the county’s Economic Development board; Goldman, Division of Family and Children board and Workforce Investment board; Roger Creal, Boone Township Fire District board; Drs. George Estill and Kevin Pierson, county health board; Nina Faith, Heth-Washington Fire District board; Superior Court Judge Roger Davis, Prosecutor Dennis Byrd, Chief Adult Probation Officer Diane Harrison, Division of Child Services director Jim Miller and Attorney Stan Pennington, all to the Hoosier Hills Community Corrections Advisory board; Dr. Sharon Uhl, county library board; Rebecca Eckart and Nancy Casada, Lifelong Learning board; Clyde Windell, Paul Reas and Sharon Franks, Property Tax Board of Appeals (PTBOA); Dr. Leonard Waite, Town of Corydon Plan Commission; and Tim Lattire, Webster Township Fire District board.
Newly-elected District 2 Commissioner Carl (Buck) Mathes took over former Commissioner J.R. Eckart’s place on the following boards: Chamber of Commerce, emergency management, Lifelong Learning and county plan commission.
‘Just load the wagon, don’t worry about the mules,’ said Mathes.
All three commissioners, as required by state law, will serve on the Harrison County Solid Waste board.
The board tabled making appointments to the county’s land conservation committee and the hospital board.
Jeffrey Melvin was appointed to the Palmyra Fire District board to succeed Larry Embry.
Goldman continues as the chair of the board of commissioners with Miller serving again as vice chair.