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County approves funds to extend gas lines

by Kaitlyn Clay, Staff Writer, [email protected]

A “win-win for Harrison County” is what county council president Donnie Hussung described a unanimously approved decision to fund $1.012 million to the Harrison County Economic Development Corp. at the council meeting Monday evening.

The money will go toward the extension of a natural gas line in the county to reach the northwest quadrant of the Lanesville Interstate 64 Interchange, where a prospective company is looking to inhabit. The EDC will work as the middle man in the arrangement between the county and Indiana Utilities Corp., which will extend the lines.

Two gas lines will be installed. One will extend from the north side, from New Salisbury, and the other from the south side just east of Corydon. Part of the revenue of these lines, a margin percent set by the Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission, will go toward paying back the $1.012 million during a six-year period.

Darrell Voelker, executive director of the Harrison County EDC, has been upfront with the council and commissioners from the start that the payments on the gas line potentially will not cover the entire $1.012 million but is hopeful the potential business, which has required him to sign a nondisclosure agreement so he is not able to discuss what the business is, will be able to greatly make up for any funds lost for the county through the agreement.

The company has also expressed to the county that it will not seek a tax abatement. Voelker estimates the tax abatement would have cost over a million dollars in potential tax revenue during the next 10 years.

The company is expected to build a $20 million facility that will potentially bring more than 300 jobs to the area.

Councilman Kyle Nix wanted to note that this does not necessarily mean there will be 300-plus jobs as soon as the doors open, but he expected to see that many jobs during a six-year period.

“I have been excited about this since the beginning, and I am looking forward to getting this company in our county,” councilwoman Holli Castetter said as she made the motion to approve these funds, which will come out of riverboat money.

The motion passed unanimously.

“I think this is a good use of our riverboat funds,” said Hussung. “This is going to make an investment that will reap rewards for our entire community. It’s a win-win for Harrison County.”

If the nondisclosed company does not decide to come to the county, the funds will not be used. If it does follow through with the agreements, it is expected to break ground in October, with hopes of opening by next summer. Gas hookups will begin being placed in April.

In a special Harrison County Board of Commissioners’ meeting immediately after the council meeting, the commissioners unanimously agreed to approve the agreement with the EDC for the gas line, thus allowing the project to move forward.

In other business, the council heard a request from Kevin Russel, director of the Harrison County Highway Dept., for $900,000 to go toward paving more roads in the county. He said last year’s budget for paving projects was about $1.5 million and that the county has appropriated about $600,000 thus far this year. He also noted that staying in that same budget for paving each year will be insufficient and they will need more dollars through the years to complete the scope of work they expect for Harrison County roads.

Nix expressed his desire to keep infrastructure as a priority for the council’s budgeting in hopes of continuing the economic development and growth in the county; however, he was unsure about how much money with which the county would be able to support the highway department.

“I didn’t know the request would be $900,000, but I did say I don’t want to see a situation where we get behind in paving the roads, and we’ve done that for several years,” Nix said. “Maybe this year isn’t the year we can catch up, but I hate to get behind, and I think we are.”

The council will vote on this matter at its next meeting, which is scheduled for Monday, Aug. 9, at 7 p.m. at the government center in Corydon.

Harrison County Sheriff Nick Smith approached the council to request a resolution to the current commissary fund. He said these are non-taxpayer dollars and come completely from the commissary fund at the jail.

He told the council he intends to use these funds for expenses that are associated with community events and festivals. His hope is to partner with more community organizations to provide safe environments for kids and families at events throughout the county.

The council unanimously approved the resolution to allow Smith to use funds for such events.

The council also took the first half of the meeting to allow non-governmental entities that request funds from the county during their budget hearings to approach and field any questions regarding their 2022 budget request.

Representatives from Comfort House, Blue River Services Inc., Chaplain Association, the soil and water conservation district, the Harrison County Alternative School, Leadership Harrison County, Harrison County 4-H and the Harrison County Agricultural Society all spoke with the council regarding their budgets.

The council anticipates meeting numerous times in August regarding the county budget for 2022. Hussung noted he was optimistic the budget will be done before October.