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Georgetown’s request goes belly up

The Harrison County Council Monday night voted to keep the sharing percentages of riverboat gaming funds the same and not to return the 1 percent amount to the town of Georgetown, despite Georgetown Town Council President Billy Stewart’s best efforts.
After a back-and-forth, debate-like setting between Stewart and Floyd County Council President Ted Heavrin, the Harrison County Council voted 5-1 to leave the percentages as they are. Only Councilman Jim Heitkemper opposed.
The motion, which was made by Councilman Richard Gerdon, included language that the council trust the Floyd County Council to distribute it properly. Councilwoman Leslie Robertson seconded the motion.
Stewart began his riverboat gaming funds request by reading a transcript from a meeting that took place in 1996, when Harrison County received the license for the riverboat. Stewart read how the group emphasized sharing revenue and the breakdown of 8 percent to Crawford County, 3 percent to New Albany, 1 percent to Floyd County and 1 percent to Georgetown.
‘These are the recommendations of the people of Harrison County,’ Stewart said. ‘Harrison County needed help; Georgetown was there to help. Georgetown was always there. All we’re asking is Harrison County honor the original agreement.’
Stewart spoke about the original intent of the money to be spent on infrastructure needs, not budgeted items.
Council Chairman Chris Timberlake responded, saying that didn’t happen with Georgetown, which is why the money was taken away and given to Floyd County.
Stewart, who wasn’t on the town council at the time, said that some board members wanted to save the money for a new town hall and others wanted to save it to pay for a sewer system. But, Stewart said, the new council would not save the money and would spend it in the manner Harrison County intended.
He also read a letter from a resident of Harrison County with a Georgetown address who supported the town and wanted the county to give the 1 percent back.
‘Are we the only entity that can’t be trusted? If we can’t be trusted, hold it (1 percent), and we’ll come to you with a list of projects and you approve it,’ Stewart suggested.
Timberlake asked why Georgetown can’t do that with its own county, Floyd.
Stewart said he was told not to even bother asking the Floyd County Council because it didn’t have the money.
Timberlake said what upset many Harrison County constituents is that from 1998 to 2003 Georgetown received more than $1 million in gaming funds from Harrison County, more than most towns in the county, to which Stewart responded that the difference is the towns in Harrison County receive the benefit of being in the county, unlike Georgetown.
Heavrin then spoke on behalf of Floyd County, saying the county fully supports Georgetown, and said Stewart failed to mention the $1.4 million sewer plant agreement to be paid for by Floyd County.
He also mentioned funding for the Providence House in Georgetown, which Floyd County provided, and the YMCA in New Albany.
‘We support Georgetown in every way,’ Heavrin said. ‘If you take it (1 percent) away, I’d like you to know the facts first.’
Stewart said the sewer agreement has nothing to do with the money given to Floyd County from Harrison County and $350,000 of it is a loan, to be paid back to the county. And, he said, the Providence House was a great project, but the funding for it wasn’t given to the town of Georgetown.
After the vote to keep the 1 percent with Floyd County, Councilman Gordon Pendleton said the issue can be revisited next year if Floyd doesn’t share the funding with Georgetown.
In other matters, the council approved the following additionals out of riverboat gaming funds: $35,000 for a new server for cameras at the justice center, $71,500 for the Lanesville connector road (Pendleton and Councilman William T. Nichols against), $28,840 for the Corydon-Ramsey-Sival Road project, $20,450 for a back-up generator at the Regional Sewer District’s Berkshire plant and $29,000 for Emergency Medical Services ambulance equipment.
The board also approved $100,000 out of the rainy day fund to pay for juvenile and adult placement (Pendleton against).