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New Middletown $50,000 closer to building purchase

New Middletown $50,000 closer to building purchase New Middletown $50,000 closer to building purchase

New Middletown has $50,000 to purchase a building to house its town hall and community center if it can find the rest of the funding.

The town had sought $120,000 to purchase an old doctor’s office that the town council has been using as a place for meetings. At the final November Harrison County Council meeting, on Nov. 25, five Harrison County councilors approved giving the town $50,000 for the building, with councilmen Gary Byrne and Ross Schulz voting against.

“If they come up with $70,000, we’ll come up with $50,000,” said council president Donnie Hussung.

The council decided on the $50,000 because that was the amount it gave Laconia to construct a pavilion.

Hussung, who works in finance and banking, said the town could then get a 20-year loan to cover the final $70,000, which would cost approximately a payment of $350 a month.

“I know it’s not what they wanted, but, if we give it to one, we have to give it to all types of scenario,” said councilman Kyle Nix, who made the motion to fund $50,000 of the request.

The town is spending approximately $1,250 a month on rent, with each check going toward the final purchase price. However, town officials said they could not keep spending that amount each month for much longer.

“One way or another, yes, we will be out of this building,” Shana Lyons, New Middletown’s clerk-treasurer, said.

One option to receive more funding could be through the Harrison County Community Foundation.

“This could be an opportunity to partner together,” Julie Moorman, the president and CEO of HCCF, said.

The town can apply for the grant, and once it’s completed, the HCCF board of directors has up to 120 days to make a decision.

The building owner has moved to Florida and has given the town until the spring to strike a deal.

Byrne said the county’s riverboat fund had too much uncertainty.

“We may be spending a savings instead of riverboat revenues,” he said.

The Webster Township Trustee, Isaac Brown, also rents a portion of the building. If New Middletown owns the building and keeps the tenant, it could get $100 to $125 monthly in rent as revenue. The town estimated it would need $225,000 to purchase the building and make renovations.

The same two councilmen also voted down a request for $12,000 to cover part-time wages for Harrison County Animal Control.

Animal control had requested $22,000 for staffing but was given just $10,000 recently and still needed the rest.

“Here’s part of the problem I got with it,” Byrne said. “This is turning into, instead of animal control, an animal shelter, and that was done behind the scenes, not coming in here and getting funding to do that.”

The county’s animal control has had turnover this year, including two directors, with one being terminated by the Harrison County Board of Commissioners following an investigation by the county’s prosecutor office. No details about what sparked the investigation or the findings have been released.

The council said April Breeden, the facility’s newest director, had inherited the issues and was not blaming her for staffing shortfalls in the budget.

“We don’t allow any other department to go out and add $60,000, $70,000 to the part-time line middle of the year,” said councilman Kyle Nix. “Doesn’t happen that way. It’s not how Harrison County budgets.”

Breeden said finding other sources for funding is challenging as most applicants need to be by an animal shelter, not an animal control facility.

Nix said he only supported the request because it was not Breeden’s fault.

“I cannot support $125,000 next year,” he said. “I can’t do that. I won’t do it next year.”

Byrne said, “I think our commissioners should have been coming to the council and say, ‘We’d like to go this direction with this, will you guys fund it?’ ”

During the discussion, Breeden said her animal control officers had a gun pulled on them earlier in the day and wanted to find a way to fund bulletproof vests.

According to Breeden, a property owner had invited the department to trap cats on their property but a neighbor was mad it was happening.

“We know we are not law enforcement — we don’t want to be law enforcement — but we want them to be safe and come home at the end of the night,” Breeden said.

According to Harrison County Sheriff Nick Smith, who was at the meeting to see his request for new radios and to computerize emergency medical dispatching that guides dispatchers when talking with callers get approved, his department came to the aid of the animal control officers.

“Nobody pulled a gun on anybody,” Smith said to the council.

The sheriff explained that the thought was an elderly woman had a shotgun, which turned out to be a BB gun. His deputies spoke to the woman and she said she has never pointed the gun at anyone.

Smith said vests typically cost approximately $500 each, and his department’s policy is, anytime animal control feels it needs a deputy to go with them on a run to call his department.

“We will go there with you every single time,” Smith said.

The next Harrison County Council meeting will be Monday at 7 p.m. at the Government Center in Corydon.