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New Middletown a step closer to securing building

New Middletown a step closer to securing building New Middletown a step closer to securing building

A compromise has New Middletown one step closer to purchasing a building to be used as its town hall.

Town officials were after $225,000 from Harrison County to purchase the property where recent town council meetings have taken place and to make necessary renovations to transform the building into a community center. Instead, the town settled for requesting enough funds to buy the property, which had a deadline.

“The main important piece of the puzzle right now is acquisition of the building because the property owners want to sell it early next year,” said Chelses Crump, a charitable financial specialist with River Hills Economic Development District and Regional Planning Commission, which had tried to secure a grant to help New Middletown with the project.

The request came down to $120,000, based off an appraisal.

“We can figure out a way to fund the remaining rehab and all of that at a later date,” Crump said.

During Monday morning’s Harrison County Board of Commissioners’ meeting, the three commissioners approved the request. They had tabled the initial request at their last meeting in October.

“It’s probably better to do it that way,” said Commissioner Jim Heitkemper, who added he appreciated knowing the estimated renovation expenses if the county is approached at a later date for additional funding to help with those costs.

The property is a former doctor’s office building that the town rents and rent payments are going toward the purchase. If it doesn’t secure the building, the town would have to move town meetings back into an old fire station that the town cannot expand.

The town told the commissioners it would make a 10% match if it receives the funds.

“I don’t want to see this opportunity get away,” Heitkemper said. “Unless another doctor wants to buy that and put another office in.”

Town council president Fred Lawson Jr. said the town would likely stop pursuing the building if the council heard a doctor would open a practice there.

Heitkemper made the motion to have New Middletown approach the Harrison County Council about the financial assistance.

Lawson and Crump said the town spent a lot of the funds it had saved on the costs of applying for grants. Other revenue the town receives through the riverboat has been spent on landscape and sidewalk improvements.

Other requests approved by the commissioners included two from Harrison County Sheriff Nick Smith, who needs an additional $40,000 for medical expenses. He said more inmates have become ill in the jail this year than what the budget had anticipated.

Smith is also seeking $44,398 for computerizing dispatch’s “flip-card chart.” Dispatchers use the chart to provide emergency medical dispatching to help 911 callers, which is mandated by the state. The cost will replace the chart with computer software to help dispatchers more quickly find the information the caller needs to hear.

The software is called the PowerPhone Total Response System.

The commissioners also sent the Harrison County Highway Dept. to the council for $600,000 in vehicles, after the council decided to not factor the purchase into the 2020 budget and told Kevin Russel to go ahead with an additional request.

Russel said his department will open annual bids for materials at the commissioners’ first meeting in December and award those bids at the final scheduled commissioners’ meeting of 2019.

The Harrison County Board of Commissioners’ next meeting will be Monday, Nov. 18, at 7 p.m. at the Government Center in Corydon.