North Vernon officials struggle with solution to ETC problem

North Vernon officials continue to work on what to do about the Education and Training Center (ETC). The facility, on County Road 150 North, is owned by the city. Currently, the building is about half-empty and is losing money.

The ETC used to be managed by the Jennings County Economic Development Commission (JCEDC). However, when the facility lost tenants and began having HVAC issues, the city took it over last year. In an effort to cut expenses, the JCEDC was relieved of it’s management duties and the property was placed under the purview of the North Vernon Clerk-Treasurer’s Office.

First District Councilman Jack Kelley, who joined the city council just weeks ago, said during Monday night’s North Vernon City Council meeting that the Clerk-Treasurer’s Office shouldn’t be responsible for managing the ETC. Clerk-Treasurer Shawn Gerkin agreed. Gerkin says that his office simply doesn’t have the time to dedicate to recruiting tenants and managing the building. Council members discussed the idea of hiring a manger and recruiter for the facility. Gerkin quickly noted that he was open to any suggestions, but argued that the money to hire a manager isn’t available. Even if it was, he said that the JCEDC should be granted another opportunity to manage the facility and recruit tenants.

Kathy Ertle,the Executive Director of the county’s Economic Development Commission, told the council that she is proud of the work her organization did in managing the ETC. She explained that “timing” has a lot to do with why the facility is in the conundrum that it is currently in. Ertle says that one of the ETC’s biggest clients, Jennings County Schools, vacated with little notice. She says that shortly thereafter, issues with the building began to pop up. Ertle says that all of these events snowballed to a point where much of the building was empty and there was no way for them to recruit new tenants while the building was facing repairs. Ertle went on to say that the ETC is important to all of Jennings County and that the facility’s success is vital for the economic success of the whole community. With that, Ertle pledged her support in doing what she could to help the ETC and the city.

The city council ultimately decided to put together a commission together to study the issue further and make a recommendation.