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2/24/2012 6:43:00 PM
Henry County to support Eastern Indiana Development District

Craig Mauger, Courier-Times News Editor

The troubled Eastern Indiana Development District received some positive news this week.

After delaying decisions whether to continue funding the development district for months, the Henry County Commissioners voted unanimously on Wednesday night to begin contributing funds to the district again on a quarterly basis.

The commissioners' decision was a victory for the EIDD, which is looking to bounce back after a former employee allegedly stole about $150,000 from the organization.

The alleged thefts brought the regional planning organization, which serves fives counties, to its knees financially. They also inspired member counties to temporarily stop funding the EIDD while the counties waited to see if the district survived.

The U.S. Economic Development Administration, which suspended its relationship with the EIDD, wanted new financial commitments from all five member counties before it started funding the district again.

Before Wednesday night, the EIDD and its current president, Jeff Plasterer, a Wayne County Council member, said the district had new commitments from Rush, Union and Wayne.

Randolph County officials apparently told the EIDD that they were waiting on Henry County's decision.

If Henry County would have decided to stop funding the EIDD, which is based in New Castle, the move could have jeopardized the organization's comeback.

But on Wednesday, the Henry County Commissioners voted unanimously to continue funding the EIDD.

Kim Cronk, president of the commissioners, said he researched the matter and believed that it was the right decision.

"It's still touchy," Cronk added of the EIDD's future.

Combined, the five member counties provide $49,000 in funding for the development district each year. The EDA matches that amount by also providing $49,000.

Henry County's contribution is $12,000 annually. Of that, $5,000 is an in-kind donation of office space here.

For the rest, $3,000 comes from the commissioners, and $4,000 comes from the New Castle-Henry County Economic Development Corp.

The EDC was waiting to pledge its funding moving forward until the commissioners made their decision.

During Wednesday's Henry County Council meeting, Councilman Nate LaMar urged the commissioners to continue funding the EIDD. LaMar said the contribution was in the best interest of the county because the EIDD helps towns and other agencies get important grants.

"Bit by bit, we'll see it get back on its feet," LaMar said of the EIDD, which currently has no paid staff.

Likewise, Plasterer said on Wednesday night that things were "looking up" for the EIDD.

"We're making progress," he said. "We're moving forward."

Related Stories:
• Eastern Indiana Development District continues to face challenges

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