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Council at crossroads over RSD seats

Kaitlyn Clay, Staff Writer, [email protected]

The Harrison County Council seems to still be at a crossroads on board appointments for the regional sewer district. All other board appointments were made at the council’s previous meeting, but some council members had questions Monday night regarding term length for the sewer district seats. Currently, both council-appointed seats are held by Gary Davis and Dan Lee.

However, Kyle Nix and Jennie Capelle had at once expressed interest in filling one of the seats but only if term lengths could be shortened from their current four-year term to a possible one- or two-year seat.

The sewer district board members had said at their meeting on Jan. 15 that they would prefer to keep the four-year terms and also prefer to keep both Davis and Lee on their board.

Sewer district board president Tom Tucker suggested either a council member attend the RSD meetings and provide input or the council expand the sewer district board and add both a council- and commissioner-appointed seat.

Nix said he didn’t wish to see the sewer district board grow in size; however, he did say he believes there is an importance to having a council member present, especially if the sewer district will be serving more residents of Harrison County in the coming years due to ongoing expansion projects.

“The sewer board has not been operating at the capacity they are getting ready to operate at with their new developments,” Nix said. “They are going to double the amount of households in their coverage area and they have proposed other projects in the past, and I think we really need to have a voice. I don’t think we need to expand their board. I just think we need a rotation of folks from the county government represented.”

At one point during Monday night’s meeting, councilman Brad Wiseman made a motion, which was seconded by Ross Schulz, to appoint Gary Davis and Kyle Nix to the regional sewer district board, which would ultimately result in the removal of Dan Lee from the board. However, after further discussion, the motion was rescinded in order to have the council attorney look into the statutes regarding term length for the sewer district board.

Holli Castetter made a motion, which passed 7-0, to table the request until the council is more aware of the bylaws.

In another matter, Carrie Herthel, Harrison County Health Dept. administrator, presented expenditures to date and also projected expenses in regard to COVID-19. She also was there to request an additional $75,000 to go toward COVID-related costs, which would be broken down into $40,000 going to personnel services, $15,000 to additional COVID supply costs and $20,000 to other services.

About $33,000 from Herthel’s funds requested in 2020 were reverted at the start of the new year due to how they were contracted, so this would be a way to get those dollars back as well as what Herthel expects her department to spend throughout the vaccine distribution period.

Richard Gerdon made a motion, seconded by Nix, to approve Herthel’s request. The motion passed 7-0.

Jeff Hess, chief of the Boone Township Volunteer Fire Dept., approached the council to request the release of $235,000 from the department’s General Fund to be used to purchase a new fire truck. The township currently has about $246,000 in its General Fund and will be able to fund the new truck completely in house.

The council will vote in two weeks on the request.

In other business, Capelle expressed to the council that she has heard a request from a concerned citizen to enhance the audio and visual capabilities of the council and commissioner meeting recordings. She proposed the possibility of upgrading the equipment, and all council members agreed this is something that should be researched further. They are requesting the commissioners begin the process of looking into the issue.

Prosecutor J. Otto Schalk, at a prior meeting, had requested the council reclassify a community outreach position he created into a salaried administrative investigator position. No other money would be needed to fund the position, and the motion, made by Castetter and seconded by Schulz, was approved 7-0.

The council also gave verbal endorsement to Harrison County Highway Dept. director and county engineer Kevin Russel to move forward with his pursuit of a Community Crossings grant. The county commissioners had suggested he approach the council to keep them in the loop with his intent.

The grant, if approved, would go toward a $1.5 million resurfacing project for numerous roads in Harrison County. The grant is a 75-25 split, with a maximum of $1 million the highway department would receive.

Numerous council members gave their support to Russel, encouraging him in the application process.

Russel said he will report back with any advancement in the process.

The council also voted unanimously to allocate $11,825 to fund the replacement, installation and upgrade to the panic button system located within the county courthouse. There has been an insurance reimbursement that will go toward paying for this as well.

The council’s next regular meeting is scheduled for Monday, Feb. 8, at 7 p.m. at the government center in Corydon. The council is scheduled to have a joint meeting with the commissioners on Wednesday, Feb. 3, at 3:30 p.m.