Franklin County Suing Lawrenceburg Over Riverboat Funding
By Mike Perleberg
(Franklin County, Ind.) – Franklin County will file a lawsuit against the City of Lawrenceburg saying the county is owed riverboat money.
Lawrenceburg had been granting Franklin County a $500,000 economic development grant each year under a 2006 agreement. Lawrenceburg ceased sending Franklin County the money in late 2013 as the city’s riverboat revenues declined in the face of increasing casino competition in the tri-state.
There were also concerns that Franklin County was not using its annual funding for its intended purpose: economic development and job creation in the county. Email exchanges between the former Franklin County Economic Development Commission president Michael Hiles and Lawrenceburg Redevelopment Director Grant Hughes shows that the city had concerns that the county was not putting only a small portion of the grant money towards economic development. The rest was going towards general expenses like payroll and maintenance.
The Brookville American-Democrat reports that on Tuesday, Franklin County Commissioners voted 2-1 to file a lawsuit against Lawrenceburg. Commissioners Tom Linkel and Tom Wilson voted to file the suit while Eric Roberts was the dissenting vote.
Rushville attorney Grant Reeves will be representing Franklin County in the lawsuit. According to the newspaper, Reeves said that the contract Lawrenceburg and Franklin County signed on January 17, 2006 “calls for the payment of $500,000 in revenue sharing from Lawrenceburg riverboat money so long as Lawrenceburg was continuing to receive wagering tax revenues that would be paid to Franklin County.”
Reeves claimed that the agreement has no end date and mentions nothing of a restriction on the funding for economic development.
“It is not drafted so that if the wagering tax revenues fall so many percent or fall below a certain dollar threshold, it just says as long as they continue to receive the tax revenues, that they would continue to pay that amount,” Reeves said.
The lawsuit will be filed in Franklin Circuit Court before Thursday, November 19, the attorney said. It could potentially be shifted to a Dearborn County court.
With the loss of the Lawrenceburg funding that it had been using for general expenses, Franklin County encountered even greater budget deficits in 2014 and 2015, forcing cuts for local non-profits and county agencies. This past September, the county passed a new income tax to help fund emergency and safety services, including a new dispatch center.