Batesville Herald Tribune, Batesville, Indiana

December 31, 2013

City nabs $500,000 for Merkel Road upgrade

Debbie Blank
The Batesville Herald-Tribune

---- — City officials know how to get 2014 started right. Batesville has been awarded a $500,000 Lawrenceburg Regional Economic Development Grant.

Upon the recommendation of the grants committee, the Lawrenceburg City Council unanimously approved the allotment to Batesville Dec. 30, reported Mayor Rick Fledderman, who was there to hear the great news. 

According to the grant application, the project includes infrastructure improvements to Merkel Road and an access road and utilities into the new 73-acre industrial park, located on the east side of Merkel Road and south of I-74. 

"The improvements to Merkel Road will allow additional ingress and egress to the businesses and industries located within the Batesville Commerce Center. Currently Merkel Road is closed to heavy truck traffic. The access road and utilities to the industrial park will allow for construction of a 'shell' building to entice new industries, creating jobs."

The project's cost is estimated at $1.1 million, the document stated. Fledderman noted, "This was presented as a collaborative effort between the city of Batesville and Ripley County. Ripley County has pledged $100,000 toward the improvements to this road. Letters in support of this project were received from state Sen. Jean Leising; Rob Reiners, president of the Ripley County Board of Commissioners; local government officials and commissions; and local industries, medical facilities and educational facilities that will be impacted favorably as a result of the improvements."

Even with the grant and county contribution, "the city’s going to have to put some money into this also," the mayor said.

LREDG program director Grant Hughes observed, "From the committee's point of view, this is a project that is the basis of all development – getting a site nearer to shovel ready so it positions Batesville to be able to respond quickly. When a search comes in, they'll have a piece of property that's prepared and ready. Hopefully ... it gives Batesville a cutting edge" in attracting a company.

The grant application, submitted Nov. 20, 2013, was written by Fledderman and Trena Carter, Administrative Resources association, Columbus, municipal programs manager, with data from the Merkel Road presentation to the Ripley County Commissioners and input from Batesville Economic Development Commission members. "It’s always a team effort," the mayor pointed out.

On Dec. 12, the mayor appeared before the grants committee and requested the dollars after giving a brief project summary. He said, "I was advised shortly thereafter that the grant was approved for $500,000, subject to (Lawrenceburg) City Council approval."

The grant process will begin soon. Once work is underway, "we have to submit invoices, then they reimburse us."

Of the award, Fledderman noted, "The committee scrutinizes" applications. "They don’t always give what’s requested." In fact, city officials asked for $1 million, which would also have helped fund a potential shell building in the new park. "We presented the big picture to them. They were interested." According to Hughes, "We invited them back" to discuss the speculative building later this year.

In addition to $500,000 for Batesville, the council OK'd 11 other grants Dec. 30 and three earlier in the year, doling out just over $5 million in grant dollars in 2013, according to the director. These grants represent over $84 million in capital projects, he added.

Since 2006, the program has awarded grants to businesses, governments and other entities in a 10-county region, from Connersville and Greensburg to Columbus and Seymour, reported Hughes. The dollars come from Hollywood Casino, formerly Argosy Casino, gaming revenue.