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Developer eyes Lanesville Business Park

Lack of natural gas could be deal breaker
Kaitlyn Clay, Staff Writer, [email protected]

The Lanesville Business Park could possibly see a project that would create more than 300 jobs for Harrison County come to fruition if a natural gas line is extended, according to Darrell Voelker, director of the Harrison County Economic Development Corp.

Voelker explained to the Harrison County Board of Commissioners during its meeting yesterday morning (Tuesday) that he has been working with a developer who is interested in potentially building a large-scale distribution center project to be placed at the business park. However, not extending the natural gas line would be a deal breaker. He could not go into much detail regarding the potential company or developer as he was required to sign a do-not-disclose agreement.

However, Voelker was able to inform the commissioners that the developer is interested in constructing a 250,000-square-foot facility on the property and is hopeful that the gas line could be placed for the facility by April 2022.

To service the site, Indiana Utilities would need about $1.12 million to fund the expansion of the natural gas lines.

Voelker said the developer would pay that amount back to the EDC over a six-year period through a financing plan both parties would agree upon.

“I did a tax abatement estimate because the developer told me they did not intend to seek tax abatement because they have realized the gas lines will take county resources,” Voelker said. “The $20 million building alone would have generated $1.5 million of property taxes over 10 years with today’s tax rate.”

The three commissioners were in agreement that this would be a good investment for the county and unanimously voted to allow Voelker to approach the council regarding extending the natural gas lines at the Lanesville Interchange for this potential development.

Voelker also took some time at the meeting to make the commissioners aware of his ongoing efforts to become more involved with the Regional Economic Acceleration and Development Initiative (READI) to promote strategic investments.

Voelker said he was granted approval from the Harrison County EDC board to participate in the READI grant application process with Indiana Region 15 to create plans for potential projects.

Explaining further, Voelker said this was not anything binding for the county, other than the county would receive plans for potential projects, and no new body of directors is being formed, nor are they joining anything with financial obligations.

The commissioners were receptive to the idea, but Commissioner Charlie Crawford noted he would like for Voelker to have the ability to back out of any project or financial obligations.

“I wouldn’t have a problem with you joining this, as long as we have an escape route,” Crawford said. “We don’t have the scope of work or agenda for any potential projects, and, if it comes down to being something we don’t want to belong to, then I would like for you to be able to get out.”

Voelker said he would simply not participate or move forward with any projects if they didn’t have the support of the county.

As budgets for 2022 are beginning to be discussed with county officials, the commissioners used this meeting to go over Harrison County Animal Control’s budget with director April Breeden.

She noted the main changes in her budget from prior years was her hope to increase pay rates for her staff. She explained that in a year and a half she has lost six employees due to wage rates.

Breeden said she hopes to change a couple of her employees from part-time to full-time employees, which would also allow the facility to have more hours when it is open and operating to the public.

Commissioner Jim Heitkemper said he would like to raise wages more than Breeden’s proposed 2% increase in her budget proposal and hoped the county council could be receptive to that idea and support her more.

Breeden said she only increased wages by that small of an amount because she wanted to “get at least some sort of amount passed” in hopes to help her staff.

“Only one council member has been to visit us at animal control since I have worked there,” Breeden said in response to Heitkemper’s hope.

Crawford expressed his gratitude for what Breeden does, noting he couldn’t imagine how she has made so few dollars stretch so far to keep animal control operational.

Also in regard to budgets, Kevin Russel, county engineer and highway department director, noted his intent to raise wages for highway department employees as well. This discussion was sparked after the commissioners were requested to approve a resignation at the highway department.

Russel and Mel Quick-Miller, highway department assistant superintendent, both noted that wage rates are a main reason for the turnover rate of employees they have seen in recent years.

The commissioners approved the personnel matter and intend to schedule a budget meeting with Russel to evaluate his 2022 budget requests.

The commissioners next regular meeting is scheduled for Monday, July 19, at 7 p.m. at the government center in Corydon.