The county commissioners on Tuesday got a first look at their brand new Capital Improvement Plan.
Previously called the EDIT (Economic Development Income Tax) Plan, the document outlines exactly how the commissioners plan to spend the county’s share of the state income tax.
Per a new state law, however, the EDIT Plan must now be approved as the Capital Improvement Plan, explained county attorney Andrew Porter.
“Traditionally it’s been called the EDIT Plan, and it’s still the same thing, a written form of our long-term goals and how the commissioners intend to spend those funds,” he said.
The 3-year plan typically includes both expenditures for major improvement projects as well as the fulfillment of contracts with other county organizations.
For instance, the current proposed plan includes $100,000 per year through 2022 for the Pantheon: A Business and Innovation Theater, 428 Main St., for daily operating expenses.
The shared work space and small business incubator is jointly owned by city and county elected officials; each put up half the $2.4 million construction costs.
The Knox County Development Corp., too, has chipped in more than $600,000.
Before the gift of $100,000 is approved and officially included in the plan, however, commission president Kellie Streeter said she wants to see an annual budget from the Pantheon’s operating board.
“I just want to look at that first,” she said.
The Pantheon is expected to open later this fall, likely sometime in November.
The new Capital Improvement Plan also includes $250,000 each of the next to years to fund its Unsafe Building Ordinance.
Per legislation passed just last year, the county puts up that amount of money per year to clean up eyesore properties. That effort is overseen by a separate 3-member board as well as enforcement officer Mike Mikiska with the Solid Waste Management District.
There is also just over $400,000 set aside in 2021 for the continued upgrade of technology across all county departments, a process now in its third year.
Most of that money is being spent on new equipment for county offices as well as new servers.
Expenditures in 2022, however, remain to be determined.
The commissioners also will look, as part of the capital plan, to reinstate its annual gifts to KCDC.
The county council this year cut those contributions by half, but Streeter said those amounts were increased in the plan for both 2021 and 2022 — or $48,000 for daily operations and another $150,000 per year for special projects.
She did not say for sure whether or not the county council was on board.
The plan also includes smaller contributions to the county’s Code Red warning system as well as VanGo, the county’s only public transportation system.
In terms of improvement projects, just over $1.7 million will be appropriated in 2021 for an overhaul of Elkhorn Road near the U.S. 41 Industrial Park.
That is actually a state-funded project, so 80% of that, Streeter said, will eventually be reimbursed to the county.
That project is set to get underway next year.
Also as part of the plan, the county sets aside $750,000 each of the next two years for various county road projects as well as $25,000 per year for continued courthouse security upgrades.
Just over $74,000 will be spent in 2021 for a new chiller in the probation department, and $60,000 will be spent to erect an internet tower to better serve Ouabache Trails Park.
The major question mark, however, is whether or not the county moves ahead with a more than $30 million jail expansion project.
Should the county decide to do that — a jail study has already been done by local architects with RQAW — how much is contributed from EDIT funds will have to be decided later.
“If you want to take (the jail project) off altogether, we can do that and add it back later,” Porter said. “Or we can leave it in and amend it once we know a cost.”
The study suggests adding a pod to the existing jail at 2375 S. Old Decker Road, increasing its capacity to 520 total beds.
The jail opened in 2007 to house 200 inmates.
The plan, too, calls for the construction of a building adjacent to the jail to house both the probation and community corrections departments, but county officials have spoke little of the project since the results of the study were made public in June.
In total, there are 17 projects and contractual obligations spelled out in the commissioners’ Capital Improvement Plan, and while the document doesn’t require approval from the county council, members will have to approve the expenditures themselves as part of the annual budget.
Streeter said during the commissioners’ budget hearing with council members Tuesday, there was little push back on any of the 17 projects.
“It was actually really quiet,” she said of those discussions.
Porter will now make the very few — and slight — changes recommended by the commissioners Tuesday and bring the plan back to them when they meet again next month for approval on first reading.
It likely won’t be given final approval until later next month.
In other business, Streeter said that the county did hold a third round of applications for a mini-grant program funded by the state.
Vincennes and Knox County in May each received a $250,000 grant from the state Office of Community and Rural Affairs’ now revamped Community Development Block Grant Program, money meant for businesses struggling after the COVID-19 shutdown stifled their revenue.
Last month, the commissioners approved nine applications totaling gifts of nearly $40,000. During the first round, they awarded 11 applications for a total of $57,000.
So far, they’ve awarded about $100,000.
Per state guidelines, though, more than half — or 51% — of the applicants’ collective employees need to meet federal low-to-moderate income guidelines.
Streeter said they received another five applications as part of the third round of applications, but they are now officially over that low-to-moderate income threshold.
“So we’re going to have a conference call and see what we do from here,” Streeter said of their partnership with Loogootee-based Southern Indiana Development Commission.
“We have some options in terms of figuring all that out.”
The city has also done three application rounds and has given away $96,000 to local businesses as well.
For more information on the county’s process, see the application on the county’s website at www.knoxcounty.in.gov.
For information about the city’s mini-grant program, contact City Hall at 812-882-7285.