County explores more OCRA funds to aid businesses
Kaitlyn Clay, Staff Writer, [email protected]
To start their first meeting of 2021, which took place Monday morning, the Harrison County commissioners welcomed newly-elected Nelson Stepro as the District 2 commissioner; he succeeds Kenny Saulman, who did not seek re-election. They also unanimously voted Charlie Crawford as chairman and Jim Heitkemper as vice chair.
Darrell Voelker, director of the Harrison County Economic Development Corp., approached the commissioners to discuss possible grant money for small businesses in Harrison County. He received approval from the commissioners at their Dec. 21 meeting to discuss with his corporation new ventures for grants created by Indiana’s Office of Community and Rural Affairs.
Requirements for the grant are that eligible businesses be negatively impacted by COVID-19 and have less than 100 employees on staff who fall in a low- to moderate-income category.
On Monday, Voelker was asking for approval to engage The Wheatley Group, an economic development strategy specialist firm in New Albany, for assistance on applying for the full grant funds of $250,000 on behalf of the commissioners. Businesses interested in these funds, if approved, will be able to apply to receive up to $10,000.
The commissioners unanimously approved that Voelker continue with this venture and all noted they were hopeful that this would be another option to help county businesses that have suffered through the pandemic.
Greg Reas, director of the Harrison County Emergency Management Agency, came before the commissioners to propose a new system for panic buttons to be placed in the courthouse. He noted that when the courthouse flooded a few years ago, many systems were damaged, including the panic one, which is a system comprised of buttons underneath counters used to alert emergency services of needed assistance.
The new system would require a control panel, a repeater and new buttons. Reas suggested placing these buttons in the health department, which is located in the Health and Education Building, as well. In total, it will cost the county $13,400 for the new system, he said.
Heitkemper made a motion, seconded by Stepro, for Reas to take this request for funds to the council on Monday evening.
Kevin Russel, Harrison County engineer, approached the commissioners to address a concern he has about phones for the highway department heads. He suggested the possibility of looking into expenses the county has used on phone bills and see if it would be more beneficial to give employees a stipend each month for using their personal cell phones or to supply phones for them. He noted that he uses his phone often, and he was certain others did as well, and was curious what the most financially feasible option is for the county.
This is an issue the commissioners agreed to look into and would get back to Russel at a future meeting.
The commissioners are scheduled to meet again Tuesday, Jan. 19, at 7 p.m. (moved from Monday due to the Martin Luther King holiday) at the government center in Corydon.