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Council denies support of planned repairs to 111

Kaitlyn Clay, Staff Writer, [email protected]

The Harrison County Council did not seem to be on the same page as the county commissioners and highway department at the council meeting Monday evening in regard to a Community Crossings grant project for the highway department that was applied for in October of 2020.

The grant, for $1 million, is a 75-25 split, so, for the project to continue, Kevin Russel, the highway department director and engineer, explained he would need to add $400,000 from the highway department’s money to complete the project on Old Highway 111, with $200,000 coming from the Motor Vehicle Highway fund and the remaining $200,000 from the local road and street fund.

The project would include a recycling of Old Highway 111 to a depth of eight inches, repairs of any base failures, regrading and compaction, traffic control and a two-inch HMA overlay. The section of Old Hwy 111 included in this project is from the intersection of Old Highway 111 and S.R. 211 south to the intersection of Old Highway 111 and Rosewood Road.

However, the concern of the council was that the highway department is using funds to resurface and maintain roads it just acquired from the state highway department, rather than using the funds toward roads the county has had for a longer time.

Councilman Brad Wiseman said it was the entire council’s belief it had not ever expressed interest in helping fund this project, saying it was “a mystery how this even got to this point.”

Commissioner Jim Heitkemper approached the council at Monday’s meeting to express his support of this project moving forward.

Wiseman and Heitkemper couldn’t seem to get on the same page in regard to their thoughts about the project, ending with Heitkemper saying, “I don’t believe a damn word” regarding Wiseman’s concerns on the project.

Russel said the reason this grant included this specific road was because it was scheduled by the Indiana Dept. of Transportation to be resurfaced in 2020 had the county not completed the relinquishment agreement and took ownership of it in July of 2020.

“As we work our way down the list of roads that need maintenance and are doing projects, we are using INDOTs prioritization to go through them,” Russel said.

Russel also said he believed, whether the road belonged to the county for “six months or six years, it’s still our road and our responsibility.”

Most council members expressed their concerns of funds getting tighter all around due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and they were going to have to start figuring out where to draw funding lines.

Russel requested moving $50,000 out of the MVH fund to put money back into the account for overtime payout and to move $60,000 into the MVH repairs account to cover additional costs of repairs to trucks and tractors that have carried over from 2020. All issues will be voted on at the council’s next meeting, scheduled for Monday, April 12, at 7 p.m. at the government center in Corydon.

In other business, it seems Harrison County will add four new police officers to the roster, as Sheriff Nick Smith’s request for $323,993 to fund the new officer positions was unanimously approved.

While this was a tough pill to swallow in terms of approving these funds, Nix said he believes public safety needs to be a top priority of what the government should be taking care of, so approving this was much needed.

Harrison Circuit Court Judge John T. Evans approached the council to request $25,000 to go toward new recording equipment for the two courtrooms at the downtown courthouse.

Evans noted that both systems, which were installed in 2011, have begun to fail and it is time to move to a digital system rather than the analog that has been used.

The council will vote on this matter at its next meeting.

Jeff Hess, chief of the Boone Township Volunteer Fire Dept., approached the commissioners on behalf of the Harrison County Fire Chiefs Association to explain the association’s intention of reallocating funds already approved by the county.

He said the Palmyra Volunteer Fire Dept. was to receive $500,000 from the county for the year but decided to step back and allow Boone and Elizabeth fire departments to split those dollars. Both Boone and Elizabeth VFDs would use the money to purchase new fire trucks.

However, the two departments would have to also use funds allocated to them in 2022 to make these purchases, and the council’s concern was that, if the council didn’t budget the same amount of money to the fire departments for the next three-year agreement, it would cause some confusion between all parties.

Nix suggested a meeting with the fire chiefs to establish better communication on this matter and to figure out what can work best for everyone before the council takes any action regarding disbursing the $500,000.

The council did unanimously approve the following requests which wore made at previous meetings: $15,000 to the Prosecutor’s office for a travel costs regarding an upcoming murder trial; $35,000 to replenish a courthouse account for funds used to purchase a generator; $50,000 to the equipment repair line in the budget for the county maintenance department; and $50,000 for building repairs for county maintenance.