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Mathes, as new chair, casts deciding vote for master plan
submitted by mary
January 17, 2007 | 02:40 AM

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Newly elected Harrison County Council Chairman Carl (Buck) Mathes had to make tie-breaking decisions several times Monday night, and he did so in good humor and without hesitation.

In one instance, he said the presentation and explanation of a proposal to hire consultants to develop a long-range plan for county-owned buildings had changed his mind about the request.

"There are things that need to be done," he said, casting his vote with proponents. "We're going to move forward here."

His tie-breaking vote gave approval to the Harrison County Board of Commissioners to pay RQAW, an Indianapolis-based engineering firm, to look at the space needs of county offices.

The $75,000 request allows RQAW to begin the preliminary work to start phase II of the 20-year master plan for Harrison County government buildings.

"With the help of the riverboat money, we can address the needs of the county," Commissioner chairman James Goldman said Monday night, adding the commissioners were not architects or engineers, so they needed help in reaching the best long-range plan.

"You have to have expert people helping you in these issues," he said.

However, the council was not without concerns. Councilwoman Leslie Robertson and Councilman J. Gordon Pendleton both questioned the details of the contract with RQAW and what space needs the county has now.

Goldman said the county has several needs now, including moving county offices out of the county annex, which is alongside Little Indian Creek in Corydon and therefore in the flood plain.

"The annex does need to be moved out of the flood plain," Mathes said, voting in favor of the appropriation along with Pendleton, Robertson and William (Bill) Nichols.

Other possibilities Goldman cited were moving the county engineer and highway department together. Another possible need Goldman said was putting the circuit and superior courts under one roof.

The funds will cover RQAW's expenses while they complete the preliminary planning work, which includes looking at county office needs, space needs and cost estimates of any architectural work.

The preliminary work by RQAW would update the 20-year plan which was first created in 1991. It was last updated in 2000 with the renovation of the downtown courthouse and aims to combine county offices in as few buildings as possible.

Joseph Mrak, senior vice president of RQAW and architect of the justice center, met with commissioners in November to discuss what RQAW was prepared to offer. The council tabled the request last month to allow the new council to make the decision.

Mrak said in November that RQAW would be willing to defer the $75,000 in fees until the planning phase is completed. The fees would be rolled into the design fees for the project if the commissioners choose RQAW for the architecture work. The commissioners have said they do not know who will do the actual architecture work of any projects that will come out of the updated plan. The commissioners assured the council that none of the plans would move forward without funding approval from the council.

In other matters the council:

Scheduled a public hearing to designate property a revitatlization area so Awningtec USA Inc. in Corydon could be granted a declining tax abatement. The hearing will be held Jan. 22 at 7:30 p.m. at the beginning of the council's meeting.

Tabled for 90 days a $270,000 request made by the Harrison County Board of Commissioners to bring a higher education institution to Harrison County. Many of the council members agreed they would rather wait to see a college make a presentation before approving an appropriation and also did not want to appropriate money the commissioners could spend freely.

Approved a $75,000 budget request by the Regional Sewer District.

Approved a $3,000 budget request made by the Farm, Forest, Open Space and Preservation taskforce.

At councilman Pendleton's urging, Mathes had First Deputy Auditor Heather Metcalf record in the minutes that the current council was the first to have two women serve.
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