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Harrison Council approves emergency related funds

Under emergency powers, the Harrison County Council, during its meeting Monday night, approved up to $1 million to help local health officials limit the spread of the coronavirus.

The Harrison County Board of Commissioners last week approved a $200,000 request to be taken to the council that would go to assisting the Harrison County Health Dept. with its plans to stop the spread of COVID-19. However, with Gov. Eric Holcomb’s declaring the COVID-19 outbreak a public health emergency, the council determined the public health crisis gives it the ability to provide even more funding if it saw fit.

Councilman Kyle Nix said the $200,000 request was determined to be a good start but the health department wasn’t sure how much would be needed.

“We don’t know how long this is going to be here,” Nix said. “We don’t know where it’s going to end up, and we don’t know when we’re going to get vaccines.”

The council, which isn’t scheduled to meet again until April 13 at 7 p.m., heard the health department was already short on funding to address the outbreak.

“We don’t know what they’re going to need in the next three weeks,” said councilman Gary Byrne.

The council decided up to $1 million in casino funds would be available for the health department immediately to be spent on the coronavirus outbreak.

“This gives them breathing room to go ahead and operate and not be afraid that we aren’t going to get funding and put someone’s life at risk,” Donnie Hussung, council president, said.

The money can be used in any number of ways to help treat the virus that the health department deems is necessary to help curb the rate people become sick. Any funding that is not used will go back to the county.

All seven councilors agreed to the motion Monday night, despite being physically separated farther than usual. Five council members sat at their regular seats with councilors Brad Wiseman and Jennie Capelle sitting at the Commissioners’ table. Legal counselor Mike Summers sat at that table, too.

The meeting lasted less than 40 minutes, and nobody approached the podium other than a pastor to begin the meeting with a prayer.

The council also unanimously agreed to give $15,000 to Harrison County Community Services to help provide food to residents it helps. Rick Cooper, HCCS executive director, said the money would be used to help feed children and families who are feeling the impact of the COVID-19 outbreak.

The council ended the meeting discussing the possibility of having its next meeting through a conference call rather than gathering in public.

Harrison County Auditor Chad Shireman said he was looking into the process to make sure the meeting could be recorded for the public to listen either while the meeting was in progress or afterward.