NEW ALBANY — In 2015 the state of Indiana handed out $126 million to three of the seven Regional Development Authorities in the state, but Floyd and Clark counties were not on the receiving end.

If more state funds become available again, both counties will be in a better position to qualify, according to One Southern Indiana Executive Director Wendy Dant Chesser.

In 2017, Clark, Floyd, Jefferson, Scott and Washington counties formed Our Southern Indiana Regional Development Authority and formed a board made up of five directors — one from each county. That board recently received a $125,000 planning grant and members are looking for input from governing county and municipalities for projects they would like to see funded. Ideas that could attract both public and private funds and one that would benefit the region.

Ken Rush is Floyd County's representative on the board. He and Dant Chesser gave a presentation to the New Albany City Council Monday night to provide members an update and encourage their participation in providing ideas for regional projects. The RDA board began meeting in January 2018 to look at the area's needs and meet with elected officials.

"If state dollars are available again, we have a vehicle in place now with the RDA," Dant Chesser said. "We are looking for ways to leverage those funds." 1si serves in an administrative role for the RDA.

The county commissioners from each of the five counties approved the board of directors. The idea of forming an RDA was to look at the bigger picture — as a region of five counties.

Councilman Al Knable said he would like to see the local RDA get some taxpayer money back for a project that will benefit New Albany and Floyd County.

Council President Scott Blair said he would encourage the RDA to pursue funds that will increase affordable housing options in the area.

New Albany would be under no financial commitment unless the RDA came in with a project that council members would support.

"Any project that would come back to you for fiscal consideration would have to go through proper channels [planning and zoning]. We are not here asking you for money," Dant Chesser said.

The idea is to get private investors on board and, combined with public funds, complete a project. She said the formula is for 60 percent of a project to be paid for by private money, 20 percent state funds and 20 percent local.

Prior to the meeting, New Albany Mayor Jeff Gahan voiced concerns regarding the RDA initiative.

"The current RDA legislation undermines voters in Indiana,” Gahan said in a news release. “As written, it transfers oversight of public funds and projects away from city and county councils to persons who have not been elected by voters to hold public office. It grants vast autonomy and protections to those who have not taken the oath of office and who have not sworn to act in the best interest of the people of Indiana."

He went on to say New Albany has pledged no money to the RDA at this time.

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Chris Morris is an assistant editor at the News and Tribune. Contact him via email at chris.morris@newsandtribune.com. Follow him on Twitter: @NAT_ChrisM.

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