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Garage study, parking lot requests denied

The Harrison County Council Monday night denied two additional appropriations passed on from the Harrison County Board of Commissioners, one for an auxiliary parking lot at the Justice Center for $130,000 and another for $21,000 for a study on the highway department garage space, efficiency and compliance needs.
The parking lot additional, which was turned down for the second time by the council, would be built to the south of the Justice Center and would add about 45 parking spaces. The commissioners said the parking lot is needed when there’s a jury trial, visitation or other large events at the building.
Commissioner Carl (Buck) Mathes, the main proponent of the new lot, said at the council’s previous meeting that he passes the Justice Center sometimes six times a day and sees the need for the extra parking lot maybe more so than others who only see the parking lot in the evenings. He said vehicles are sometimes forced to park along Commissioners Way.
Mathes said he’d also eventually like to see the Harrison County Farmers Market relocated to the new parking lot for better exposure.
‘We feel like it’s a worthwhile project,’ Mathes said. ‘If it gets shot down again, I’ll bring it back again. That’s how strongly I feel about it.’
The council’s motion to approve, made by Councilman Gordon Pendleton and seconded by Jim Heitkemper, failed with a 3-to-4 vote. Councilman Richard Gerdon also voted for the motion, while Councilmen Gary Davis, Phil Smith, Chris Timberlake and Ralph Sherman were against.
The study on the highway department garage was presented to the council earlier this month. County engineer Kevin Russel and highway department superintendent Glen Bube brought representatives from R.W. Armstrong, an Indianapolis-based firm, which would conduct an assessment of the building for the county at a cost of just more than $21,000.
Russel said the garage has issues that need to be addressed such as drainage into a sinkhole and diesel fumes in close quarters with no exhaust system, among others. The department’s main storage is outside, with no protection from the elements. Salt for road treatment is even stored outside.
The firm said they’d figure out the best and safest way to remedy the situation.
Heitkemper made the motion to deny the request and said he thought the $21,000-plus could be spent on something else like a fence, fans or a tarp to shield outside items.
The vote passed on a split vote, 4-3, with all Republicans voting for the motion to deny (Davis, Smith, Sherman and Heitkemper), and all Democrats (Pendleton, Gerdon and Timberlake) against.
‘What are we going to do to fix the problems (at the garage)?’ Timberlake asked.
Gerdon said they’ll do the same thing as with the parking lot, ‘nothing.’
Gerdon voted to approve both the parking lot and highway department study.
Timberlake said he didn’t see the parking lot issue as a problem but did see the highway garage as a concern.
Davis said the commissioners need to come up with a solution for the highway garage compliance issues. He also said a committee was formed at the beginning of the year to determine the issues with the highway garage, but it met only once and no report has been made.
In other business Monday, the council approved an additional out of riverboat gaming funds for $180,000 for the rescue boat for the Emergency Management Agency. The money will be fully repaid through a grant. The fuel and maintenance on the watercraft will have to be picked up by the county, however, Greg Reas, the county’s Emergency Management Agency director, said after being asked by Gerdon. The total, which Reas estimated at $2,500, will have to be added to the 2013 budget.
During the approval of the minutes, Smith asked Auditor Karen Engleman if the Harrison County Hospital Board of Directors sent the requested financial information to the county.
Engleman said they had not.
At a joint meeting in July, the council requested the information, and the hospital board said it would provide it.
The council approved 13 sets of minutes Monday night.
The council’s next regular meeting will be Tuesday, Oct. 9, at 7 p.m. at the Government Center in south Corydon.