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Jeffreys Cliffs, the nature area park that opened to the public this summer, has been a big hit with visitors near and far, which has led to near traffic jams at the preserve east of Hawesville.
“I went up there here a while back and the parking lot was completely (full),” magistrate John Mark Gray said during Monday’s meeting of the Hancock County Fiscal Court.
The magistrates had heard a short report about first responder training at the cliffs, which will help prepare them for emergencies out there, when the topic of the jam packed lots came up.
“I think they’re going to extend the parking lot now,” said emergency manager Kyle Veach, who also noted how busy he’d seen it. “There were people parking in the road and everything.” “There wasn’t any parking the day I went,” said Gray. “We finally just squeezed in somewhere.”
Jeffreys Cliffs initially opened in May 2019 only by appointment, although the project had been underway since at least 2018 when land containing the cliffs and surrounding areas were partially donated and partially purchased using grant money.
It opened to the general public each weekend starting in June of this year, and it has since become a go-to spot for hiking, climbing and sightseeing.
“We drove up through there and there was 58 cars,” said judge-executive Johnny “Chic” Roberts. “And 27 just inside the gate and everybody else was on the other side.” Magistrate Kasey Emmick said he’d seen the same thing on his visits, including one where visitors gave up and left. “That one group was there, they left,” he said. “They said there’s too many people here, we’re going to Hoosier National Park. They had their walking sticks and everything.”
Crowds mean more visitors to the county too, and Gray said he saw cars from all over the area when he was there.
“I saw license plates from Jefferson County, Breckinridge, Daviess, Indiana, a lot of different places,” he said.
The court also took the following actions:
• Approved the minutes of the October 26 meeting.
• Damian Rice gave the ambulance report that showed an outstanding balance of $110,091.
• Kyle Veach gave the EOC report and said they’d cleaned up some fuel spills since the last meeting and that they’re still paying close attention to the COVID-19 numbers. He said the first responders held training at Jeffreys Cliffs Saturday with 40 participants.
• Approved the jailer’s monthly report that showed $2,369 in home incarceration fees collected for October along with $550 in jail fees for a total of $2,919 for the month.
• Lona Morton gave the senior services report. She said senior services is working on a plan for determining whether to close for inclement weather because currently they close if the schools close, but with schools operating virtual only they will have to find another way to know.
• Discussed installing a new sign for the senior center in Hawesville but decided to have Morton get totals for the sign and installation for a decision in a future meeting.
• Approved the career center report that showed a 4.9 unemployment rate for the county in September and that several companies in the county were accepting applications.
• Reviewed and discussed the claims for payment for October.
• Ronnie Edge gave the road department report and discussed how to use the $432,000 in additional road funds provided by the state road department for resurfacing existing county roads and discussed drainage issues in several areas.
• Discussed buying a milling machine to let the county do its own milling work on county roads.
• Approved the animal shelter report.
• Mike Baker gave the industrial foundation report and said that the county’s 4.9 unemployment number in September meant only 185 people were unemployed, but there were also 149 fewer people in the workforce. Baker also said the Lewisport Aleris plant had been sold.
• Approved the renewal of an HRA plan that pays $3,000 toward county employee health insurance deductibles.
• Held the first reading of an ordinance contracting with Pat Rhodes, who will provide building inspection services for structures larger than 20,000 square feet.
• Approved a resolution to use $40,000 of the $432,000 discretionary road funds to pave part of Storm Road.
• Read a proclamation about diabetes awareness.
• Discussed snow removal bids for county parking lots and said no one yet had sent in bids.
• Discussed a blighted property board and the magistrates said they will find someone from each district.