When the Belterra® hotel and casino opened in October 2000 on the scenic Ohio River near the Markland Dam in Florence, a small Switzerland County town, Batesville residents had no idea how important that new enterprise would be to their quality of life.
Over the years, Belterra riverboat revenue-sharing funds have been used by the city council for special projects that could not otherwise gain dollars. The amounts at first were small and sporadic, but now are larger. According to records kept by clerk-treasurer Ron Weigel, the surprise checks arrive two, three or even four times each year.
One of the first council votes was to purchase a $5,500 tent to be used at city events, according to an article in The Herald-Tribune. On April 12, 2004, $24,414 in Belterra funds and $4,500 from the Southeastern Indiana Solid Waste District were earmarked for five projects: Liberty Park shelter roofs, $10,000; aerial fire truck, $8,414; summer concerts, $5,000; speed monitoring device, $4,500; and to promote Batesville during the World Muzzle Loading Championship, $1,000.
One of the most important allocations came in late 2004. About $37,800 from two grants plus $65,469 that was saved up in Belterra dollars paid for seven severe weather warning sirens.
The council decided Oct. 11, 2004, to spend up to $1,500 on advertising and prizes for the celebration of the State Road 229 bridge over I-74 completion; and $2,000 for the 2004 Batesville Summer Concert Series, which ended up $1,500 in the red due to weather.
Almost a year later, on Nov. 14, 2005, the panel voted yes on three proposals: purchase crabapple trees to line Walnut Street, $9,918; buy 51 lamppost aluminum bases, $5,000; and Ripley County Humane Society, $1,500.
On April 10, 2006, the council used $12,013 in Belterra money and $5,250 from SISWD because of Batesville’s recycling effort for these items: tree fund, $7,500; pool concession building, $5,263; Village Green drip irrigation, $3,000; and Batesville Farmers’ Market, $1,500.
Since 2008, Weigel has kept a Belterra chart to better track the riverboat distributions and how that money has been used.