Jefferson County and the city of Madison will begin seeking federal grants for a housing rehabilitation initiative.

The project would use Indiana Housing and Community Development Authority grants to help 18 families in the community - 10 in the city and eight in the county. An average house would receive about $19,000 for renovations.

Patty Jackson, special projects manager of the Southern Indiana Regional Planning Commission, reported to the Jefferson County Board of Commissioners on Friday morning that the county and city have a chance to receive up to $400,000, which would require a 10 percent match from participating municipalities.

The city has participated in the owner-occupied rehab program three times in recent years and the county has conducted a similar project of its own in the past, but this year, the city and county are partnering together.

"I feel like we need to move ahead with this full-throttle," she said, adding that there is no guarantee the state will commit to the $400,000 and the market is extremely competitive.

The program includes income requirements for residents, who would be eligible for upgrades to their property including electrical, heating, roofing and basic structural repairs.

Jackson said there are 20 families on the waiting list that have been approved to receive assistance. Some of their properties are in downtown Madison.

"We're not advertising right now because we'd like to assist the families already on the list," she said.

For the project, the city is asked to contribute $7,100 for its matching requirement, while the county is asked to contribute $5,600. The city and county also recently were approved for a federal housing preservation matching grant of about $22,000 to offset the cost of the match requirement.

Board of Commissioners President Julie Berry said that because some of the homes for the project are in downtown Madison, a national historical district, the county could use its historic fund to pay its contribution. The historic preservation fund earns revenue through an agreement between Switzerland County and Belterra Casino, not through county taxpayers.

"It will improve housing stock and get some of those houses that are really in need of repairs up to code," Berry said.

The commissioners approved the expense, contingent on County Council and grant approval.

Also during the meeting Friday, Recorder Leigh Koehler reported that residents who have used the new county prescription card, provided by Coast to Coast Insurance, have seen a 57 percent increase in savings for the year.

The county receives a stipend from the company when the card is used. For August, 202 county residents used the service, bringing in $705 for the county. From April to August, the partnership has earned the county more than $3,000, Koehler reported. The money is put into the county insurance account.

The cards are available at the Courthouse, local government buildings and participating locations. The county could save money on prescription pills, hospital bills and pet prescriptions and bills. The contract with Coast to Coast is no cost to the county.

In other business:

• The county will begin seeking bids to replace the heating and cooling system at the health department. Health Administrator Tammy Monroe said the county has continued to spend money on repairs for the current system, which is still having problems. Given the reoccurring issues, the commissioners requested Monroe to seeks bids to replace the system.

• Next year's trash cards will be $35 for county residents. That is a $5 jump from this year and a $10 increase from 2011. The motion, which had already been approved by the County Council, passed by a 2-1 vote. Commissioner Tom Pietrykowski voted against the price increase. He said while he still considers the service a bargain, he fears that higher prices will lead to illegal dumping. The trash cards are available for purchase at the Courthouse in the Auditor's Office. Those with cards can use the county's six drop-off sites in Chelsea, Ryker's Ridge, Dupont, Deputy, Canaan and Brooksburg.

• The county renewed a contract with Linkel Co. to maintain the county's six solid waste and recyclable drop-off sites. This is the third contract renewal between Linkel and the county, and it has not increased in the past four years. The contract is for $185,100. Jim Olson, county engineer, said he spoke with competitors who said they could not beat Linkel's price.

• The Board of Commissioners' meeting Oct. 25 will take place at the Hanover Town Hall at 5:30 p.m. Each year, the commissioners hold a traveling meeting in an effort to reach out to residents across the county.