Residents fight back against highway project saying they knew nothing about it

Residents fight back against highway project saying they knew nothing about it
Harrison County, Indiana residents turned out for a March 2, 2020 meeting after learning that county commissioners had signed an agreement for the Watson Road five-mile connector before residents knew anything about it.
Harrison County, Indiana residents turned out for a March 2, 2020 meeting after learning that county commissioners had signed an agreement for the Watson Road five-mile connector before residents knew anything about it. (Source: Michael Flynn, WAVE 3 News)

CORYDON, IN (WAVE) - A highway project is causing an uproar in Harrison County, Indiana. The Watson Road five-mile connector would join Highways 111 and 135 at Highway 337.

It was emotional inside the meeting as neighbors and community members shared their thoughts and feelings about the project. Some said they felt completely blindsided by the decisions their county commissioners made. The room overflowed with disappointment and misunderstanding.

"They left the public in the dark regarding this situation,” Angela Schmelz said of her commissioners.

Angela Schmelz (left) and Kathy Hensley are two of many Harrison County, Indiana residents upset about the Watson Road five-mile connector would join Highways 111 and 135 at Highway 337.
Angela Schmelz (left) and Kathy Hensley are two of many Harrison County, Indiana residents upset about the Watson Road five-mile connector would join Highways 111 and 135 at Highway 337. (Source: Michael Flynn, WAVE 3 News)

Some neighbors got wind of a new $35 million road coming to their area. However, they caught the gust too late. After their commissioners signed the agreement.

"My main concern is that people that majority of people in our community, knew nothing about the vote before it happened,” Kathy Hensley said who lives near the project.

Harrison County Commissioner Charlie Crawford.
Harrison County Commissioner Charlie Crawford. (Source: Michael Flynn, WAVE 3 News)

Schmelz and Hensley believe their homes, neighbors farms and livelihoods are in jeopardy and said they aren't getting answers to their questions. The commissioners said the project is in the early stages and the county cannot tell how many homes and properties may be impacted. Majority of the community members said they want the contract rescinded.

"The fight doesn't stop here," Schmelz said. "We will continue to fight this battle.”

The Harrison County Assistant Superintendent said the state provided $35 million for the Watson Road connector. It cost nothing for the county. She also said the state would be responsible for any additional costs.Meanwhile Harrison County would take over three state highways.

We confronted planners in the project and the county highway superintendent after the meeting but they would not respond.

At the end of the meeting, Commissioner Charlie Crawford said he appreciates everyone's thoughts but doesn't know if it will make a difference moving forward.

Neighbors at the meeting said whether the county hold another public discussion or not they plan on organizing their own.

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