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Debate centers on Lifelong Learning

The Harrison County Board of Commissioners, after a long, heated discussion, voted Feb. 21 to give Harrison County Lifelong Learning another $100,000 of the $250,000 that was budgeted for HCLL by the county council for 2012.
Even though the council provided the funding for Lifelong Learning, the board of commissioners must sign the contract to award the money. Before last week, only $100,000 of the $250,000 had been made available for HCLL.
Commissioner Carl (Buck) Mathes, after former Lifelong Learning board president Gary Geswein gave a detailed look into the center’s plans and programs, said he still didn’t think the county was getting the best ‘bang for its buck’ by funding Lifelong Learning. Mathes said he hoped Lifelong Learning would focus on adult education only.
‘Your presentation was not in that direction at all; it was the same as it has been,’ Mathes said.
Mathes said he wasn’t sure that the county council’s action to move the funding the commissioners labeled as ‘adult education’ into a ‘Lifelong Learning’ line was legal.
Geswein said there’s no other agency in the county to provide the adult education services Lifelong Learning provides, especially now that it’s a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization.
‘In our eyes, going to that method has really been a positive step,’ Geswein said.
The nonprofit status allows the agency to reach more grants it otherwise may not have been able to, Geswein said, and, without the rest of the county funding, its services would have to be halted ‘cold turkey’ and the day-to-day serving of people would end.
Gary Davis, county council president, addressed the board to defend the council’s decision to fund Lifelong Learning instead of leaving the money in the ‘adult education’ line.
‘Buck (Mathes) is critical of the council for not funding what he wanted to fund,’ Davis said.
Davis said Mathes presented a plan to the council last fall that sounded like it ‘took him five minutes to come up with.’
‘We funded Lifelong Learning because we had a plan and Buck didn’t,’ Davis said.
Mathes’ plan wasn’t ready to hit the ground running, Davis said, and everything was in place at Lifelong Learning.
Later in the meeting, Mathes said if the councilmembers want to be commissioners, they should run for the commissioner position.
Commissioner James Goldman said he thought Lifelong Learning has made strides and advances in the past year or two.
‘When I was on the board, it felt like we were spinning our wheels a little bit,’ he said.
Goldman said it wouldn’t be right to stop what Lifelong Learning is doing in the middle of the year.
‘It ain’t like we’re just cutting their legs plain off,’ Mathes said, mentioning the $100,000 already given to Lifelong Learning.
Mathes agreed with Goldman that the GED program conducted by Lifelong Learning was a positive, especially since it is free.
Mathes made the motion to give HCLL the $100,000, with the thought that a $24,000 request for a Hand Up scholarship Work One program would be funded out of the $250,000. Mathes said the Hand Up program, which allows an amount of money for aspiring adult students on their path to employment with funding for everyday items that have not been traditionally purchased with grant or scholarship money, is more in line with his thoughts about how the county should spend money to help adult education.
Commissioner Jim Klinstiver seconded the motion while Goldman voted against and said Lifelong Learning should receive all of the $250,000 budgeted, which was still about $30,000 less than Lifelong Learning officials requested for the year.
When Geswein asked if he, or other Lifelong Learning representatives, could come back in November to ask for the remaining funding, the board implied that they could.
According to a handout from Geswein, Lifelong Learning provides seven ‘core courses,’ including the following with the number of students or individuals served in 2011 included: GED studies, 161; GED official testing (Region 10), 124; adult education at the Harrison County Justice Center, 89; computer education, 59; certified nursing assistant training, 14; Ivy Tech Community College (two-way), 38; and South Harrison Community School Corp. credit recovery, 287.
Other services offered by Lifelong Learning with the number served in 2011 included: college test proctoring, 209; COMPASS testing, 86; Work One computer training, 44; Harrison education literacy meetings, 25; Purdue Extension meetings, 55; transparenting seminars, 99; and child care provider training, 7.
In other business at this meeting, engineer Kevin Russel informed the board that two road improvement projects in the county have been, or will soon be, eliminated from the Indiana Department of Transportation’s ‘to-do’ list.
James Ude, capital program director with INDOT’s Seymour district, said the project at S.R. 11 and Pine Hill Drive has been canceled and the project at S.R. 11 and Old Dam 43 Road will soon be eliminated.
‘Both projects were re-evaluated in the last year or so as part of a statewide effort,’ he said. ‘All projects were divided into five categories and each team developed a set of scoring rules for their projects. Intersection projects were all re-examined, analyzed and prioritized. These projects, unfortunately, didn’t score well and, therefore, were eliminated since there wasn’t sufficient funding.’
Klinstiver, whose district includes the two project sites, said both are safety issues and last year state officials said there was ‘plenty of money’ for safety projects.
Goldman said Russel should try to obtain a copy of the scoring sheets, so the county can see where the projects were lacking.
‘One project is right by the school; might save a life someday,’ Goldman said, referring to the Old Dam 43 intersection.
Mathes said the other project site is even worse as far as sight distance is concerned.
‘Traffic goes by there as well after school,’ he said.
These aren’t the only Harrison County projects that have been shunned by INDOT. The Interstate 64 Corydon west interchange project was also deemed ‘unjustifiable’ by INDOT officials last year.
The commissioners’ next meeting will be Monday at 8:30 a.m. at the Government Center in Corydon.