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Discovery center presented to council

The Harrison County Council heard the proposed Harrison County Discovery Center project plan Oct. 26 for the first time and will vote on the accompanying $1 million request at its next meeting, which will be Monday at 7 p.m. in the Government Center in south Corydon.
The presentation has already been made to the Harrison County Parks Dept. board and the Harrison County Board of Commissioners.
Both entities approved the plan.
Cynthia Torp, owner of design and build firm Solid Light, led the council on a virtual walk-through of the facility, which is planned for the old jail/archives building in downtown Corydon along North Capitol Avenue, across from the Old State Capitol Building.
The building will serve as a hub to encourage visits to historical sites downtown and throughout the county.
It will be an interpretive experience, not just a building full of artifacts, Torp said.
The Archivist’s Office, she said, one of the first stops in the center, will include a ‘Harry Potter-like’ experience with characters speaking to visitors.
‘It’ll be a place where you come back and your experience will be a little bit different every time,’ Torp said. ‘It’ll really engage kids.’
Another interactive aspect of the tour will be found in the cave section, where visitors will be able to pick up a flashlight and discover information only seen by their light.
Torp said Solid Light is anxious and excited to move to the design phase.
‘But we need your help,’ she said.
As the fiscal body of county government, the council’s questions centered around the funding of the project.
‘I think it’s an exciting project,’ Council Chair Gary Davis said, as he discussed how much it will cost the county for operating expenses in the future.
Councilman Kyle Nix asked about possible future remodeling and reconfiguring of the facility and the costs that would entail for the county.
Torp said, generally, a refresh of a facility such as this one would occur every 12 to 15 years.
Parks superintendent Rand Heazlitt said conservative estimates, with revenue from rental of the second floor (and potentially the entire building) and admissions, show the facility could pay 100 percent of the operating cost within five years.
Plus, he said, he plans to create an endowment fund for the discovery center with a goal of raising $1 million and receiving an appropriation of $1 million over five years from the county, which would be in addition to the initial $1 million request on the table now.
‘Once we have a product like this, then I’ve got something to go out and sell,’ Heazlitt said, discussing a possible endowment fund to help with future costs.
Which is why it’s crucial, he said, to have the project ready to open for the bicentennial next year.
‘We’ve got a pretty knock-out project to offer the public,’ he said.
Davis encouraged other councilmembers to visit Solid Light’s previous projects, such as the Evan Williams Experience and Falls of the Ohio, before voting on the request next week.
‘I don’t think you can get an appreciation … for what Cynthia’s talking about (without visiting these sites),’ he said. ‘This concept appeals to lots of people.’
In other business, the 2016 budget, after its second reading, was officially adopted at $36.5 million-plus.
The council also unanimously approved (5-0 vote, with members Jim Heitkemper and Sherry Brown absent) $150,000 for the capital murder case to finish the year and $30,000 for Superior Court Judge Joseph (Joe) Claypool for the public defender fund.

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