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Council approves additional funds for blacktop

Kaitlyn Clay, Staff Writer, [email protected]

It seems that more road paving is on the horizon for Harrison County as the council approved the highway department’s request for $900,000 to be appropriated for such.

Councilman Richard Gerdon made the motion during Monday night’s council meeting to allocate the funds after stating that, because the county spent years getting blacktop on the roads, he would hate to see the highway department get behind on this issue due to funding.

Highway department director Kevin Russel explained at a previous council meeting that last year’s budget for paving projects was about $1.5 million and the county has appropriated about $600,000 thus far this year. This appropriation will bring the amount spent on paving to the same in hopes of keeping county roads at an acceptable level, he said.

The motion, which was seconded by Jennie Capelle, passed 5-2, with council members Ross Schulz and Holli Castetter opposing.

Schulz explained prior to the vote he would be more apt to consider voting for the project after upcoming budget meetings.

“I want to know what we are doing for our county employees regarding their salary and wages,” Schulz said. “That’s the No. 1 priority for me, and then we can look at this after that.”

Russel echoed Schulz’s sentiments that employees should be the No. 1 priority but said the funding for this paving project would be from a separate fund. He also noted that if they waited until a future meeting to approve the funding, it would make for a very tight window of time to get the paving complete this year.

The council will begin to look at salaries and budget requests from various county organizations in the coming weeks, noting they will meet with department heads who have requested the council’s time regarding salary and compensation questions for the 2022 budget.

Reuben Cumming, a budget consultant for the council, presented the council members with paperwork regarding the upcoming budget period for the county. He said it seems most funds are in decent shape and he expects the latter half of the year to bring a higher revenue than the first six months, as predicted by the past six years’ trends.

In other business, Deborah Davenport, a resident of Harrison County, returned to the council following her first appearance a few meetings ago to advocate for needs at Harrison County Animal Control. She said she doesn’t believe the employees are being paid livable wages, the animals are kept in poor living conditions and the facility itself has major concerns.

Council president Donnie Hussung explained to Davenport that in larger-populated areas there are nonprofits that step in and partner with the county government to help fund shelters. He shared that maybe a goal for the county should be to find an organization to partner with to fund the facility.

Councilman Kyle Nix said this would be an issue to be taken up with the county commissioners as the council can only listen to her monetary requests. The commissioners would be able to better help with the larger-scaled issues, he said.

Commissioner Charlie Crawford approached the council to say he has been “working diligently” toward forming a 501(c)(3) to help mitigate the funding issue for animal control. He said he currently has three people interested and is working toward finding some sort of solution for this issue.

Harrison County Parks superintendent Larry Shickles approached the council with some positive news: retail sales for the parks are doing well. He was requesting an additional $5,000 to go toward concessions, which includes all sales — not just food and drinks — within the parks of Harrison County.

He noted that of the $10,000 appropriated for this thus far in 2021, the parks have generated about $29,000 in sales and have around $5,600 worth of inventory still.

“A lot of times the public hears that the parks are asking for an additional request, but a lot of times we don’t hear what you bring back in for the county,” Hussung said.

Also in regard to the parks department, the council approved unanimously to transfer $5,500 from the part-time to the overtime line to fund all overtime hours being worked by parks department employees.

Most of these funds, Shickles noted, are due to being understaffed currently and that many employees are working time-and-a-half hours, which are funded through the overtime line.

The council’s next regular meeting is set for Monday, Aug. 23, at 7 p.m. at the government center in Corydon.