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HCH continues I-64 interchange fight

After Indiana Department of Transportation officials informed the Harrison County Board of Commissioners last month that the second Corydon Interstate 64 interchange project was not justifiable, the project again appeared to be dead. But that hasn’t stopped Harrison County Hospital from continuing the fight for another interchange west of the 105 exit.
The hospital board of trustees sent a letter to Gov. Mitch Daniels at the end of last month that details its strong support for construction of a second interchange. The letter was also brought to the county commissioners Monday afternoon and was entered into the minutes.
The letter, signed by each member of the hospital board, said the construction of a new interchange would substantially enhance access to HCH services and doctors and the project would be a quality of life matter for patients and their families.
‘Most importantly, however, the reduction of time to a hospital in emergency cases could be very meaningful in determining a patient’s medical outcome,’ it reads.
Harrison County Emergency Medical Services is located on the HCH campus and a new west interchange would provide quicker access to persons west of HCH, including many counties along the I-64 corridor that share in EMS disaster assistance and mutual aid, it said.
The letter said the closest hospitals west of Corydon are in Tell City and Jasper, 55 and 65 miles away, respectively.
The Harrison County Council approved a resolution in early October supporting the project, with a narrow 4-3 vote. Just a week later, however, state representative Rhonda Rhoads, R-Corydon, reported to the board that INDOT wanted nothing to do with the project and instead recommended enhancing Quarry Road north of the interstate.
More than $9 million of federal money is earmarked for the interchange project, and INDOT said it can only be lost by an act of Congress.
In other business Monday, Steve Gilliland, executive director of the Harrison County Community Foundation, informed the commissioners that he is no longer confident the Foundation’s grant to the county will be replenished by the end of the year.
The Foundation granted $8 million (it can’t loan money) to the county to help HCH get out of debt. It has also done the same in the past for the building of the hospital ($12 million) and the renovation of the old hospital into the Government Center complex ($9 million).
Gilliland said attendance at Horseshoe Southern Indiana casino at Bridgeport has been down considerably since the emergency closing of the Sherman Minton Bridge in September.
The county receives $23.2 million per year in state admissions and revenue taxes as well as profit sharing from Horseshoe. Harrison County government receives 75 percent of that total, and it gives a quarter of it to the Foundation for its endowment. The county also shares a portion of the funds with neighboring counties and towns as well as Harrison County towns.
Gilliland said it should be replenished by January.
‘We’re all anxiously awaiting the re-opening of the bridge,’ Commissioner James Goldman said.
Repair work to the bridge is expected to be completed by March 2.
Gilliland also said changes are in store for the Foundation board, which will move from 21 members to 15. He said Pam Bennett Martin succeeded Joel Voyles, who recently resigned, as the board chair.
Mark Shireman, Government Center project manager, said the county may have nearly $500,000 in extra funds leftover from the project; however, a few items are still to be completed.
The commissioners will next meet Monday, Nov. 21, at 7:30 p.m. at the Government Center.