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Town of Corydon is a thriving municipality

My Opinion
By Eva Bates North, Guest Writer

Some people say the Town of Corydon is frivolously spending all its money. Well, let’s look at the facts.

The Town of Corydon’s cash-on-hand, as of Oct. 24, 2019, is $10,745,296.74 across all its accounts, which hasn’t changed much since 2015. The town is not destitute nor has the current town council recklessly spent money.

The fact is expenditures are well thought out and guided by a Comprehensive Plan. This plan is based on public input and what our community visualizes for its future. This plan was so well done it was recognized as one of the best in the state by the American Planning Association. This plan identifies what Corydon needs to do to thrive, attract people to live and raise families here and for businesses to flourish.

The overwhelming theme that came from the planning process was to invest in quality of place, housing and infrastructure.

Additionally, the town just completed a full audit review by the State Board of Accounts with no findings or recommendations. This is the highest rating a municipality can receive from the state and means the town’s spending, budget, internal controls and accounts are exemplary and in compliance with all the state’s requirements. The town council and clerk-treasurer are very diligent about finances and staying within budget.

Prior to 2016, the town had no delineated budget and no clear priorities on what needed to be done next.

To further the goals set forth in its comprehensive plan, the Town of Corydon applied for a Stellar Community Designation, which they were awarded in 2016. The steering committee which applied for the designation was made up of over 60 citizens that brainstormed and utilized public input to determine what projects to propose.

As part of receiving the designation, the town committed to spending $4 million over four years to complete the projects. Our other primary partner, the Harrison County Community Foundation, also committed $4 million and has held steadfast in that commitment.

Because of the Stellar designation, the town received financial commitments from state agencies, including the Indiana Housing and Community Development Authority, Office of Community and Rural Affairs, Indiana Dept. of Transportation, Indiana Arts Commission, Indiana Bond Bank, Indiana Dept. of Natural Resources and others. These partners visit Corydon several times a year to review the progress of the Stellar projects.

The various grant funds are designated for specific purposes approved by the partner agencies and cannot be spent on other things like water and sewer lines or roads not outlined in the proposed projects. Our Stellar primary projects again relate back to the Comprehensive Plan and focus on housing, developing greenspace and connectivity with parks, trails and downtown enhancements, like lighting, sidewalks and street scape restoration.

Water and sewer rates had to be increased in order to complete a long list of essential infrastructure improvements over the next five years. One such project is a connection with Ramsey Water near the hospital, which, when completed, will connect the entire county’s water utilities to better meet any emergency. Other needed projects include the addition of a lift station near Walmart, a back-up generator system at the water wells near Mauckport and much needed and required upgrades to our wastewater treatment and maintenance facilities.

Using bonds to improve infrastructure is nothing new for Corydon. Fred Cammack, the former “mayor,” used bonds to finance the construction of Wastewater Treatment Plant No. 2 and the water wells on the river near Mauckport.

Bonds are a smart way to finance municipal improvements and necessary maintenance. Much like upkeep on a home, if you keep up with maintenance and smaller improvements, you can avoid larger costs due to disrepair. We have had to invest about $2 million per year since 2016 doing maintenance projects, mainly on the Wastewater Treatment Plant No. 1. Again, this all ties back to goals outlined in our Comprehensive Plan.

Community Crossings is another grant the town has received from the Indiana Dept. of Transportation. This grant required us to create a rating system and inventory of all our streets as part of an asset management plan which rates street quality and determines a maintenance and paving schedule. Because of having this asset management plan in place, we have been awarded $461,085 since 2017, and the town has matched this with $154,351. Prior to these grants, we spent $60,000 to $70,000 annually and paved fewer streets. Now, we have lowered our annual cost and improved more roads and sidewalks than we traditionally could have afforded. Again, all part of the town’s Comprehensive Plan.

A letter dated Oct. 15, 2019, from the Lt. Gov.’s Office of Community and Rural Affairs, the entity that award the town’s Stellar designation, states the following:

“Throughout their designation, the Town of Corydon has been generating impressive economic returns, preserving community character and celebrating local history. Corydon, as one of only 16 Stellar designated communities, is one of the highest functioning, community-driven and energetic towns within the designation. This is in large part due to the commitment of local leadership in maintaining the standards that being a Stellar Designee requires, including long-term comprehensive planning initiatives outlined in their Strategic Investment Plan. From the Senior Housing project to the design and application for restoring Rice Island, Corydon’s leadership team is part of a powerful movement of change-makers, and their dedication to improving quality of life for residents is inspiring. As a result, Corydon’s leadership team has utilized the Stellar Communities Designation to leverage the Town’s $4 million commitment into a $26 million total investment from both state and private partners. This is truly a transformative process that has accelerated the implementation of the community’s vision for Corydon.”

That kind of sums things up nicely. The State Board of Accounts and the Lt. Gov.’s Office both think the town is performing at an exceptional level. This is transparency and accountability from our conservative partners applauding the town as change-makers with a plan. After exhaustive reviews by the state leadership and oversite entities, it is clear that the town and its current leadership are truly on the right track and investing the town’s money wisely and in ways that will position the town for an exceptionally bright future.

Editor’s note: Eva Bates North serves as president on the Corydon Town Council.