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Lifelong Learning role questioned

Harrison County Councilwoman Leslie Robertson, a council appointee to the county’s alternative education center board of directors, expressed concern Monday night about Harrison County Lifelong Learning Center duplicating services already provided by the Harrison County Alternative Education Center.
Last week, the board of commissioners asked its legal counsel, John E. Colin, to research Lifelong Learning’s status as a county entity.
Commissioner Carl (Buck) Mathes, present at the council meeting, said he thinks the county may have been acting illegally by funding Lifelong Learning.
‘The commissioners are trying to do what’s legal,’ he said.
Robertson requested the council’s counsel, Shawn Donahue, to confer with Colin on the issue.
‘I am adamant that we not fund two programs with county money that are offering essentially the same services,’ Robertson said. ‘Especially since that is not, nor was it intended for, Lifelong Learning’s mission to include grades 9 through 12 student services.’
The county gives Lifelong Learning about $240,000 per year in funding.
Robertson said that in February the South Harrison Community School Corp. approached the alternative school about the possibility of partnering for a grant. The alternative school board, after calling a special meeting, decided not to partner with South Harrison for the grant.
‘The first and foremost concern was the fact that the amount of funding for the alternative school originally proposed by South Harrison had been reduced from $100,000 per year to $55,000 without explanation,’ Robertson told the council. ‘Also, the board was uncomfortable with the short time given to make a decision and review the grant to fully understand its obligations.’
Robertson also said the alternative school was concerned that its participation in the grant could jeopardize or affect the amount of funding from the county. She said the alternative school board didn’t want to obligate itself to the possibility it may have had to supplement the South Harrison program with its county monies.
Robertson said South Harrison approached Lifelong Learning about partnering for the $400,000 four-year grant and Lifelong Learning agreed to participate.
‘While some individuals have differing views on what Lifelong Learning’s true purpose is, its mission statement clearly reflects that its mission is ‘to provide access to a wide range of education and training opportunities for the adult residents of Harrison County’.’
She said she told Doug Robson, HCLL director, and the Lifelong Learning board that should they find themselves in a situation of having a shortfall in funds to meet their obligations under the grant, they should not use county funds allocated for other programs to supplement grant services.
Councilman William T. (Bill) Nichols, the council’s appointee to the Lifelong Learning board, said the center is there for anybody who needs an education. Nichols also said he visited Lifelong Learning last week and it was ‘full of school kids.’
‘Anywhere there’s a need for education, we try to fill that,’ Nichols said. ‘What’s the harm if we duplicate? That’s the name of the game ‘ kids in there getting educated.’
Councilman Gordon Pendleton said that in tough economic times, centers like Lifelong Learning are needed even more.
Robertson said she would be in favor of merging the alternative school with Lifelong Learning.
In other business Monday night, the council approved $200,000 for bridge work on Valley View Road out of the cumulative bridge fund; $20,000 for right-of-way appraisal work for the Corydon-Ramsey Road project out of riverboat gaming funds; and $30,000 for right-of-way purchase on phase two of the Corydon-New Middletown Road project.
The council’s next meeting will be Monday, July 12, at 7 p.m. at the courthouse in Corydon.