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Elizabeth ditch repair funding request questioned

At least a couple Harrison County Council members expressed concern with the Town of Elizabeth’s request of riverboat gaming funds to help stabilize a ditch threatening a well field and, in turn, the water supply for 4,000 residents and Horseshoe Southern Indiana at Bridgeport.
Council Chair Gary Davis, while acknowledging the ditch needs to be repaired, said he thought the Town of Elizabeth and Harrison County should each pay 50 percent of the project cost.
The county commissioners unanimously passed a request of $165,800 to the council, which would cover close to 80 percent of the total $210,000 cost estimate.
‘The county has no responsibility whatsoever,’ Davis said of the ditch, which was created by the Indiana Dept. of Transportation in the late 1970s.
Davis said he’d support paying 50 percent of the project ($105,000) because Elizabeth has enough riverboat money to afford the rest of the cost.
Hugh Burns, Elizabeth’s town manager and clerk-treasurer, said their water utility has never asked for one penny from the county and he thought the request was more than fair.
‘And I don’t think it’s unfair to ask for 50-50 (cost share),’ Davis said. ‘There’s no argument; it needs to be fixed. You spent all this time trying to get the state to fix it, you could have already fixed it yourself.’
Burns said he’s still ‘cleaning up the mess’ from his predecessor, who beat him by three votes in 2007.
‘I’m still paying back what he messed up financially,’ he said, adding he’s trying to do what’s best for taxpayers in the Elizabeth region, some 4,000, serviced by Elizabeth water.
He also said Elizabeth supplies water to Horseshoe.
‘Geographically, we serve a bigger area than Lanesville, bigger than Corydon,’ Burns said. ‘Our responsibility as a small town, as it relates to a water utility, is enormous.’
Burns suggested Elizabeth footing the entire bill for the ditch repair would raise customers’ cost 35 percent.
Commissioner Jim Klinstiver, who was a part of a 3-0 vote on the matter on the board of commissioners, said he supports Burns ‘100 percent.’
Klinstiver said he had a good plan regarding riverboat gaming funds spending, which entails paying off debt to save an estimated $50,000 (while also nearly wiping out the town’s riverboat funds).
‘He’s not just hoarding it,’ Klinstiver said. ‘It’s good business.’
Councilmembers suggested Burns take the money planned for debt elimination and, instead, put it toward the ditch repair.
The council will vote on the additional appropriation at its next meeting, Monday at 7 p.m.
It also will vote on a $200,000 request from the Town of Palmyra to overhaul its dilapidated wastewater treatment system. The request hinges on a $600,000 OCRA grant the town is seeking.