The Vigo County Council on Tuesday voted to reduce the costs of 911 dispatching in the county’s 2019 budget by more than $1 million, replacing payment of those expenses with the county’s Local Income Tax.

Vigo County Auditor Jim Bramble said a new public safety tax portion of the income tax will generate more than $2 million by the end of this year, adding that income tax money can only be used for dispatching expenses. The move reduces expenses on the county’s general fund, largely supported from property taxes.

Additionally, the council held a public hearing, then unanimously voted to modify its local income tax distribution to include township fire departments and township fire protection districts. The funds are to be distributed based upon a formula calculating 65 percent for emergency runs and 35 percent on property tax levy.

The issue has been discussed in council committee meetings since March. The full County Council voted to pay two years of collections in 2020 totaling more than $471,500 to the township fire departments.

The payment includes income tax distributions that were to total more than $235,700 in 2019 and again in 2020.

The distribution breaks down as $179,172 to Honey Creek Fire Protection District; $8,545 to Linton Fire Department; $15,282 to Nevins Fire Department; $15,622 to New Goshen Fire Protection District; $49,061 to Otter Creek Fire Department; $8,835 to Pierson Fire Department; $21,876 to Prairieton Fire Protection District; $44,119 to Riley Fire Protection District; $35,489 to Lost Creek Fire Protection District; $8,580 to Shepardsville Fire Department; and $85,009 to Sugar Creek Fire Protection District.

In other business, dormant funds once used to match a Federal Emergency Management Agency program related to a property buyout program following flooding in 2008 will now be targeted to acquiring land for the county’s Bicentennial Park along the Wabash River.

The Vigo County Council declared $154,351 as dormant, returning the money to the county’s Rainy Day Fund. The council then appropriated the funding to the Vigo County Parks and Recreation Department’s budget for land acquisition.

“This would help expand the purchase of land for a passive public park,” said Vigo County Commissioner Brendan Kearns, adding a passive park does not have playground areas or restrooms.

Prior to the meeting, Adam Grossman, superintendent of the Vigo County Parks and Recreation Department, said the county has been contacted from “several willing sellers wanting to sell property,” along the Wabash River. “We are looking more at what is the best utilization of the area. We are looking for a river walk and a connection to the Wabashiki” Fish and & Wildlife Area, Grossman said.

During the meeting, Commissioner Judith Anderson said the biggest share of the funds “will go for a piece property right up the front next to the river, because that is where we want to have the head of our park. That is will the sign will be and the trail head,” Anderson said.

Councilman Jim Mann asked if the area will include a butterfly habitat.

Last year, Duke Energy gave $20,000 to Wabash Valley Riverscape in support of the construction of a monarch butterfly garden habitat on vacant property in Dresser, directly across the Wabash River bridges, which formerly was occupied by an auto salvage yard. Keans said the county already owns land for the habitat, adding such habitats can attract visitors to the county.

Grossman told the council the parks department is working to improve Bicentennial Park, seeking a grant to construct a new trail that would extend off from an elevated 1.17-mile concrete walkway to be constructed next year by the Indiana Department of Transportation on the south side of U.S. 150 along the Wabashiki Fish and Wildlife Area. The walkway, funded by INDOT and Vigo County, is being constructed for transportation safety.

“The ideal, later down the line, would be a river way with a pathway there,” he said of Bicentennial Park. “This is a project that we have started and we have to finish as we are halfway....,” Grossman said.

In other business:

• The council declared another fund dormant, this one established in 2000 to help Providence Housing with matching grants for new housing in West Terre Haute. 

The fund had $29,955, which the council then moved into the Vigo County Commissioner’s budget for community development. The funds will be awarded to Providence Housing to help it raise $1.1 million to $1.2 million to construct a new 5,000-square foot community health clinic and pharmacy at the corner of Sixth Street and National Avenue in West Terre Haute in a collaboration with Valley Professionals.

• Approved $11,238 from the county highway budget to reimburse Vigo County Community Corrections for a part-time employee to oversee offenders on a road crew, which has been picking  up trash and weed along county roads as well as helping in area such as the Vigo County Fairgrounds. The funds will reimburse Community Corrections for the part-time position, which started April 1, and will continue until the end of October.

• Approved $13,200 to the Vigo County Clerk for expenses related to two public referendums in the November election.

Reporter Howard Greninger can be reached 812-231-4204 or Follow on Twitter@TribStarHoward.