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‘Exceptional’ county museum proposed at a cost of $2 million

The Harrison County Board of Commissioners Monday morning heard a presentation and request for $2 million from the Harrison County Parks & Recreation Dept. for a Harrison County Museum on the square in downtown Corydon.
The museum would be placed in the old jail/archives building, which is already in the county’s possession, along North Capitol Avenue.
The proposal, which would remodel the two-story structure, includes a 2,000-square-foot exhibit gallery area on the first floor and a welcome area in the front of the building. The second floor would be used as a multipurpose area with a capacity of 80 to 90 people for any type of reception event.
‘We’re trying to produce a project that’s exceptional,’ Rand Heazlitt, parks department director, said. ‘We have an exceptional history; we’re trying to come up with a way to show it, exceptionally.’
Heazlitt said he and the parks board do not want to just throw historical items in a building like a grandma’s closet, but, instead, want something visitors will talk about as the hub of history for the county.
‘It’s an investment not just in history, but in our economic future,’ he said.
Commissioner George Ethridge said he had some sticker shock when he heard the cost estimate.
‘When I first heard of interest of putting in a museum, I didn’t think it would cost $2 million,’ he said. ‘Especially with the building in place.’
He said it was hard to grasp a $2 million cost for a gallery area on the first floor and a multipurpose room in the second.
Heazlitt said the plan will include interactive attractions, more than just items in a display case.
He called it an important thing for the county, something that could become the flagship place for the county.
The proposal was put together by Cynthia Torp of Solid Light, a design-and-build firm based in Louisville. Torp, the owner, is a Harrison County resident.
‘The location is fabulous,’ Torp said of the potential museum. ‘Right across from the Old State Capitol Building.’
Heazlitt said it’s a significant investment but a reasonable one, given what they’re going to do with it. He said the museum will be similar to ones people drive to Louisville to visit.
The plan is to have the museum open for visitors in 18 months, in time for the bicentennial celebration. The state-wide torch run will begin in Corydon in September 2016.
The county commissioners, earlier this year, gave the parks department the task of leading the museum plan.
The commissioners did not pass the full $2 million request on to the county council, but they did unanimously approved $75,000, 1/2 the cost of the planning phase for the facility (the county council will hear the request next week). The parks board plans to also request funding from the Harrison County Community Foundation so the full $2 million will not be required from the county.
In other business, the commissioners tabled a request of $150,000 for a Ramsey Volunteer Fire Dept. substation in Blue River Township.
The 50-by-72-foot building would be constructed in the Hancock Chapel area, Blue River Township Trustee Michael Beyerle said. The total cost of the building will be about $278,000.
Ethridge asked why the substation wasn’t a part of the $500,000 gentleman’s agreement between the county and the fire chiefs’ association for this year.
Beyerle said he thought it was a part of the plan in the past and now for 2016.
‘At this point, we can’t continue to play that game,’ he said. ‘We’ll go into debt to get it done. I’m trying to avoid that at all costs.’
The commissioners’ next meeting will be Monday, April 20, at 7 p.m. at the Government Center in south Corydon. The board plans to open bids for the highway garage facility at the beginning of the meeting.