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Most requests for project funds on hold amid frozen ARP dollars

Kaitlyn Clay, Staff Writer, [email protected]

With Harrison County’s American Rescue Plan funds — about $7.9 million — being frozen, a decision made by the county government while it determines the best route to divide the dollars, many organizations and boards are having requests for funding taken under advisement until further notice.

One of those projects is the purchase of an effluent force main requested by the Harrison County Regional Sewer District. This is a portion of a much larger plan to completely expand the Berkshire wastewater treatment plant near New Salisbury.

After being previously turned down for funding from state revolving funds and county funding, the sewer district has reshaped the scope of the project and broken it down into numerous smaller projects.

First up on the list of items to get done — something that district president Tom Tucker says desperately needs to be done for the county to expand and develop — is to upgrade the effluent force main.

“With Kepley Fields and Apple Orchard developments expanding, the future flows of this area will exceed our capacity if things continue,” Bob Woosley of Heritage Engineering told the Harrison County Board of Commissioners during its meeting Monday morning. “This project benefits our county by maintaining affordable housing at the trailer park while also promoting growth with our new developments.”

At the district’s board meeting in September, bids were open for this project, with the lowest bid coming in at about $223,000.

Woosley told the commissioners the district would ideally like to award the project in December, begin work in January 2023 and be completed in May 2023.

Woosley and Tucker requested $223,000 from the commissioners, noting that this request does fall under the qualifications for ARP funds.

Commissioner Jim Heitkemper said he agreed with the pair that this was a vital project that the money would be put to a good use for; however, Commissioner Nelson Stepro was wary of showing support for the project.

“We don’t have any ARP money available right now,” Stepro said. “With some other things that the budget has produced, we just don’t have this kind of money right now. For me, to throw this on to the council is throwing the buck. So, for me, I don’t feel like I can do that at this time.”

After discussion, the commissioners agreed to take this request under advisement.

The sewer district has had a hold on bids for the effluent force main which lasts 90 days since opening at its Sept. 17 meeting.

Bruce Cunningham, general manager of South Harrison Water Corp., also approached the commissioners requesting ARP funding. His request of $500,000 would cover a portion of the money needed to upgrade about three miles of water lines from 2- and 3-inch lines to a variety of 8-, 10- and 12-inch lines.

He explained the corporation had applied for a grant from the state in 2021 for this project but was denied. Money for this project would be needed in March or April of 2022 in order to start the project in the fall.

The commissioners unanimously took this request under advisement and suggested Cunningham return in January when they may know more about how ARP money will be dispersed.

Eric Wise, Harrison County Planner, also requested funds from the county on behalf of the county’s Land Conservation Committee. His request of $200,000 would be to provide match funds for a federal grant program that provides 50% of the cost to purchase a conservation easement from a willing landowner.

Currently, the committee has four farms that have completed an application for the program. The $200,000 request is made on the estimate of the most expensive estimates of the farms. Wise shared that the committee hoped in providing all four estimates that the county may decide to fund at least one.

Heitkemper shared that he believed the county needs “to get a handle” on preserving farmland, but he isn’t sure if the council would be willing to do that at the time.

Wise’s request was also taken under advisement.

The one request that was unanimously approved and forwarded on to the county council was made by Larry Shickles, superintendent of the Harrison County Parks Dept. He requested $7,500, which will be matched with $7,500 from the Town of Corydon, if they approve the request at its next meeting, and will be used to purchase equipment and tents needed to support the outdoor Christmas market that will take place during A Merry Country Christmas, an event put on by the parks department. The funding would be taken from riverboat dollars.

Originally, the expansion of the Merry Country Christmas was scheduled to begin in December 2022, but many business owners and volunteers expressed their desire to Shickles to begin this year.

Shickles shared with the commissioners that the parks department would have ownership of the tents and other equipment that could be used for numerous events that take place in downtown Corydon.

“Our goal overall is to have around 30 vendors, but we are hoping for about 20 this year, who can set up in the tents and sell various craft items,” Shickles said. “It will take place on the weekends for three weeks, starting after Thanksgiving in Bicentennial Park.”

Stepro asked if the parks department had any sort of funding they could use for this, but Shickles shared that because they didn’t plan for the event this year they did not.

Heitkemper made a motion, which passed, to forward this request to the council.

The commissioners’ next regular meet is scheduled for Monday, Oct. 18, at 7 p.m. at the government center in Corydon.