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Resolution on 4-H Park doesn't appear near

September 04, 2013
More than a year after discussions began about the county's stake in the Crawford County 4-H Community Park, things do not appear much clearer.

The Crawford County Council, at its Aug. 13 meeting at the judicial complex in English, spent time discussing the matter, which first came to light shortly before the Crawford County 4-H Council Inc. was to make a loan payment on the 66-1/2-acre park south of Marengo last fall.

The 4-H originally made the yearly payments with revenue from a tax levy to construct the main building at the park. However, the levy was only for five years, and the only way for the 4-H to continue generating tax income, short of constructing another building with a new levy, was to impose a lower-rate levy for maintenance of the building.

Not wanting the 4-H to impose another tax levy, the county council at the time said it would help make the annual $32,168 payments by utilizing riverboat gaming revenue.

It was thought to be able to do so because it was believed that an agreement existed between the county and the 4-H that called for the group to have exclusive use of the park during the two weeks of the fair but then lease it to the county for the other 50 weeks of the year.

However, upon review, no such signed agreement could be found, and, for the past year, the county and 4-H have been looking for a way that would allow the county legally to make the loan payments.

Much of the discussion has centered on signing a lease agreement that would provide the county's Emergency Management Agency office space at the pavilion at the park as well as use of other areas during emergencies. Since the county cannot rent the space for more than it is worth, an appraisal was needed. It was the $5,000 bill for that appraisal that sparked the council's discussion last month.

The bill had been submitted by the 4-H Council to the Auditor's Office for the county to pay. The council, however, balked, noting that all documentation on the bill indicated it should be paid by the 4-H Council.

From there, the discussion turned to the findings of the appraisal, which valued the yearly lease amount of the space in question at $9,050, far below the $32,168 needed to make the USDA Rural Development loan payment.

"At this point, you've got a bill that you're not willing to pay because it doesn't have your name on it," council attorney Marcus Burgher IV said. "If it's something that the commissioners expect to be paid, then that needs to be presented to you as a bill for the commissioners for an appraisal.

"The other thing is," he added, "there's nothing for you to vote on right now, as it relates to an agreement. You don't have an agreement. Nobody's proposed an agreement to you. And, if anything's going to be done, the next step would be for the commissioners and the 4-H Council to present a proposal, if they're going to do something."

While the 4-H Council received a reprieve last year, when it learned that, because of previously having made a double payment, no installment on the loan was actually due, council president Jerry Brewer asked when the next payment must be made. Burgher answered that it is due Sept. 28.

Councilman Steve Bartels said he believes the 4-H is a good non-profit organization, but, as a non-profit that isn't affiliated with the county, despite having "Crawford County" in its name, it shouldn't receive county dollars.

"I'm going to say this, that I believe the little league is a great non-proft organization. I believe the Older Americans is a great non-profit organization. I believe our food banks in Crawford County are great non-profit organizations," he said. "This is a non-profit organization, and we're spending a lot of time, effort and money, the taxpayers' dollars. How come this is our problem? It's not our problem. We're trying to beat the system by doing a contract to have an office out there so we can help make their (payments), and it's not working out. So, what more are we going to do?"

"The only thing you can do is lease it for fair rental value, and you don't have that, you're not going to get the payment for that," Burgher answered. "The other thing that's an option, which we've talked about before, is the commissioners, under Indiana law, can build into their budget for 4-H … but when they do that, that counts against the maximum levy for the rest of the county."

"So, that's not an option," Councilman Joey Robinson said.

The appraisal, done by Mills, Biggs, Haire & Reisert Inc. of Jeffersonville, valued the annual lease amount of the entire park at $165,000 and its outright purchase price at $1.5 million.

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