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Council nixes Regional Cities effort

Following a split and narrow vote Monday night, Harrison County will not join local counties (Clark and Scott so far) in pursuit of state funding through the Regional Cities Initiative.
The two Democrat councilmen, Richard Gerdon and Kyle Nix, were on opposite sides of the issue. The five Republicans also were split, with two voting for and three against.
Gerdon made a motion to join the initiative, and Councilman Sam Day seconded the motion. It failed with a 3-4 vote.
Council Chair Gary Davis joined in favor, while Nix, Jim Heitkemper, Holli Castetter and Sherry Brown, council vice chair, voted against.
About the same time Harrison County voted against the initiative, Clark County approved it 5-1. Floyd County was expected to vote yesterday (Tuesday), and Washington County will reconsider its ‘no’ vote during a special meeting Aug. 20.
Before calling for a motion and a vote, Davis said he was not opening the meeting to discussion.
‘We’ve already spent the bulk of two meetings discussing this, so I don’t plan to open up the floor for any further discussion,’ he said. ‘I’m sure we’ve heard all the pros and cons. We tabled this at our last meeting because two of the members on the council asked for additional time to review and investigate issues and concerns they had.’
Davis said the question before the council was relatively simple.
‘If you believe, as I do, that there are benefits to Harrison County joining the Regional Development Authority … Those are regional economic development planning and access to another funding source … there aren’t that many out there; if you get a chance to participate in one, you should do it,’ he said. ‘If you don’t believe this is a value to Harrison County and are concerned about other issues and don’t believe the protections that are built into the legislation and ordinances and bylaws are sufficient to allay your concerns, then you can vote accordingly.’
After the motion was made and seconded, Nix said he wanted everyone to understand this was not a vote for economic development.
‘This is a vote to start an authority in which we are in that has loose ties and loose ends included in it,’ he said. ‘I’m not opposed to economic development; I’m not opposed to being involved in regional participation and development. I would like to see us go to the table for discussion of economic development with other counties.’
Heitkemper said he echoed Nix’s sentiments, and Castetter said she thought they could find less risky ways to get involved in regional development.
The initiative was created in the General Assembly last year and will be administered by the Indiana Economic Development Corp. to combat what it says is the biggest threat to economic development in the state: population stagnation. A region or two will be selected later this year for matching funds from the state amounting to $84 million during a two-year period to bring economic and quality-of-place development to the chosen regions.
Other than this region, other prospective regional cities applicants include the areas of Evansville, South Bend, Fort Wayne and Indianapolis. In all, 31 counties have voted to support the formation of an RDA.
The council’s next meeting will be Monday, Aug. 24, at 7 p.m. at the Government Center in south Corydon. It will act on a number of additional appropriations, including $1.2 million for the transfer of the old Valley View Road bridge to the Indian Creek Trail as part of a plan to connect two existing trails; $92,000-plus for design and study of a boat ramp at Morvin’s Landing; and $80,000 to help the Historical Society of Harrison County purchase the William Henry Harrison log cabin (Branham Tavern).