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Highway department property purchase debated

The Harrison County Council Monday night discussed a request of $700,000 for property near the Harrison County highway garage off Quarry Road north of Corydon.
The property, formerly the old Castle pre-cast site, would be used as storage for the highway department. Harrison County Engineer Kevin Russel said the department does not have a place to keep mowers indoors during the winter and also lacks a place to store salt. This 14-acre pre-cast property would solve those problems and more.
Salt storage is important because it can be dissolved by rain, which is not only a loss of money, but the run-off is bad for the environment, Russel said. He also said cinders, used on county roads during snow events, can become clumped up and difficult to use if it is not stored properly.
‘It’s just a bad situation,’ he said.
Russel said the fueling station needs to be revamped and the extra space will allow for it. The new space would allow the county to seek other means of fighting snow, such as a salt-water solution which is cheaper, but there’s no room at the current facilities to store it. It would also allow the county to open an area for storm debris to be dropped off by residents.
‘There’s a lot of things we could do with the property; it’s right next door,’ he said. ‘We’re asking for your support in pursuing this.’
Russel said the county has been working on purchasing more property for the department for at least the last 10 years. The county has just more than $1 million saved from the Major Moves initiative with the plan to use it for this property.
‘The commissioners pigeon-holed or earmarked it for this purpose,’ Russel said after Councilman Phil Smith asked if the money could be used for the Lanesville interchange project. ‘It was intended and saved for this project.’
Smith asked if any studies have been completed on the land or if the buildings have been checked for asbestos.
Russel said nothing like that has been completed because he believed the council should show support for the purchase before money is spent on studies.
When asked by Smith what the total cost would be for everything the department plans to do with the new property, Russel said there’s no figure for that yet.
‘We don’t have anything laid out on paper yet,’ Commissioner James Goldman said.
The council agreed to have a special joint meeting with the commissioners Thursday, Feb. 3, at 1:30 p.m. to take a tour of the property.
In other business, the council has not yet made a decision about Harrison County Lifelong Learning’s $99,000 request to get its 2011 budget in line with 2010.
‘I’m kind of in a holding pattern,’ Lifelong Learning director Doug Robson said.
Council Chair Gary Davis said he still wants to meet with the commissioners to see if a place can be found for Lifelong Learning at the new government center and he wants to meet with Robson to go through his budget line by line. Last week, the council took a tour of the facility.
‘The only conclusion is that there’s ample space in the new government center, but whether we can find a place for Lifelong Learning or not is up to the commissioners,’ Davis said.
Robson asked if about $50,000 of the request could be looked at separately from the rent money.
‘I was wondering if you would consider that separately so I can move forward with some of the contracts for this year,’ Robson said.
Davis said the council will do so at its next meeting, but it had not yet been advertised so it could not have been approved Monday night.
In a procedural matter, Davis tried to get the council to have one meeting each month for requests and the other reserved for voting. He said that way the council can have two weeks to research the issues. But many people spoke against the plan, causing Davis to keep it the way it is, with both meetings used for requests and voting. Either way, however, there’s a two-week period between the request and voting.
Russel said the plan would make it more difficult for county officials because they would have to wait a month for an additional if they missed the deadline for requests.
Councilman Richard Gerdon said more can be accomplished using both meetings for requests and voting, and Councilman Chris Timberlake said he thought the council should be more flexible.
Commissioner Carl (Buck) Mathes said it could take up to six weeks to pay for salt with Davis’ method.
‘It’s not very good, Gary, not very flexible,’ he said.
Davis said better planning is needed by county officials, but he agreed to keep the meeting procedure method as is.
The council’s next regular meeting will be Monday, Feb. 14, at 7 p.m., at either the courthouse or new government center, both in Corydon.