By Josh Shepherd, News writer
The Cynthiana - Harrison County Recreation Department received nearly $75,000 in state grants to construct a handicapped accessible fishing pier on River Road and add new improvements to Flat Run Veterans Park.
Magistrate and Recreation Department Board Member Frank Henson, along with Recreation Department director Darrell Baxter, announced the news to members of the fiscal court last Tuesday night, Nov. 28.
Harrison County was one of 12 city or county governments to receive a grant through the Land and Water Conservation Fund for recreational and tourism projects.
Baxter said that the fishing dock will be an even more popular destination once they can apply the funds to make it accessible for handicapped persons.
The grant will also go toward covering the costs of two new outdoor basketball courts and a Frisbee Golf course at Flat Run, Baxter said.
Baxter went on to say that the department will receive additional support for the basketball courts from the Cynthiana Rotary Club.
“With the additional support we are getting from local civic groups and in-kind donations from private individuals, we are going to be able to get a lot more than just a 50-50 match for this grant,” Baxter said.
In related news, Magistrate Missy Lutz announced that due to some personal health concerns, she resigned her post as chair of the Recreation Department board.
“I have no personal matters at all with the department. I just need to cut back on some of my responsibilities,” she stated.
Henson said that the department board unanimously voted for Robby VanHook to replace Lutz as chair. Also, Magistrate Jeff Brunker was selected as a new board member.
Handy House restoration
With regard to other activities going on at Flat Run Park, Marilyn Bell and Cheri Daniels, representing the Harrison County Heritage Council, came before the fiscal court to request that the council be allowed to assume the lease on the historic restoration of the Handy House, which the Harrison County Historical Society announced they would soon relinquish.
Bell and Daniels presented their arguments for restoring the historic building, which they also presented to the Cynthiana City Commission last month.
In order to assume the lease, the Heritage Council must receive permission from both the commission and fiscal court.
The commission tabled a decision to grant permission to the council at its meeting and, following advice from Judge-Executive Alex Barnett, the fiscal court voted to do the same.
The court’s decision to table approval of the lease was not a lack of support for the heritage council, Barnett said.
In fact, Magistrate Bradley Copes made a motion to grant their request. However, there are questions about the viability of restoring the building and maintaining it long term.
Henson and Magistrate William Fritz expressed concerns about the city and county becoming financially responsible for maintaining the building after the restoration work was done.
Bell agreed with their concerns. She said the Heritage Council is certain it can restore the home and make it a self-sustaining enterprise.
“There is a need in this county for a meeting place about the size of the Handy House. It would be a place where many people would enjoy having weddings, receptions or reunions. The view of Cynthiana from the front porch is breath-taking,” Bell said.
But restoring the Handy House is also proving itself to be quite the money pit, too, Henson observed.
It is possible to fulfill the lease terms of the project by the 2015 deadline, but every step forward on the project so far has been mitigated by the destructive work of vandals.
“I just don’t want the city and county to find themselves on the hook for maintaining the place after so much money has been spent to restore it,” Henson said.
The fiscal court asked Copes to table his motion to grant the Heritage Council’s request until the court and commission can hear an opinion from Craig Potts, chief executive director of the Kentucky Heritage Council.
“We just want some assurance that this group can receive the grants necessary to restore this landmark,” Barnett said.
Elevator grant not likely in courthouse renovation
Regarding historic preservation projects, Barnett announced that he had some disappointing news regarding the availability of funds for restoration of the Harrison County Courthouse.
The elevator grant that the court administration assumed would be available to install the required handicapped access in the building has apparently expired, he said.
“Unfortunately, it’s likely that federal money won’t be available to us,” Barnett said.
However, he is optimistic that there will be room to make the elevator affordable in the competitive bidding process for the project.
Following that comment, Copes voiced his concerns about the increasing costs of the project. Barnett stated that the fiscal court is still in a position to cancel the project if bids for the project go beyond what the court is prepared to pay.
“I’m not going to shove this down the court’s throat. When we go to the bid process, if it costs too much, we can stop the project,” Barnett said.
With regard to the fiscal court’s commitment to move forward, Copes pointed out that the magistrates have never passed an official resolution expressing its intent to renovate the courthouse.
Though most magistrates felt that their votes over the course of the last few months were a pretty good indicator of their commitment to move forward with the project, Lutz made a motion expressing the court’s intent to move forward.
All voted for the motion except Copes.
In other business:
• Magistrates heard three text amendments to the planning and zoning regulations which were recommended for approval by the Harrison County Planning and Zoning Board.
Members also expressed to planning and zoning administrator Bonnie Skinner some local concerns about the types of businesses permitted along the new bypass.
•Approved Magistrate Brad Marshall and the road committee to investigate the purchase of a bucket truck with a 50-55 foot boom. Marshall estimated the cost at $40-42,000. Copes abstained from the vote.
•Barnett informed the court that interviews will begin soon to hire a new assistant animal control officer.
•The court approved the appointment of Richard Wolsing and Charla Nunnelley to the Harrison County Extension District Board.