Planning process begins to boost fairgrounds rentals, self-sufficiency

Commissioners also review requests for opioid settlement funding

Wayne County Fairgrounds rentals are beginning to rebound after slipping sharply because of the COVID-19 pandemic. That trend must continue for the fairground’s finances to become self-sustaining, which is the ultimate goal. The fairgrounds drew $136,000 in rental income during 2017; however, it brought in just $89,000 during 2022. Steve Higinbotham, the county’s director of facilities and development, said rentals were returning late in 2022 and look to continue the momentum in 2023. The Wayne County commissioners discussed Jan.

INDOT hears hopes, concerns about Revive I-70 project

About 75 attend public meeting to provide input, hear plans

Nothing distinguishes Richmond’s U.S. 40 exit from others found on Interstate 70. Motorists pass under the blue arch and sweep through a right-hand curve, then there’s two plain exit ramps. One leads back into Ohio, and the other funnels traffic to National Road East businesses and into Richmond. Sam Patel hopes that interchange will stand out after the Indiana Department of Transportation completes the Wayne County portion of its Revive I-70 project of interstate improvements. Patel, owner of the Best Western hotel at 533 W. Eaton Pike, hopes for flowers and decorations that properly welcome motorists to Indiana, Richmond and those National Road East businesses.

Health department aims to take services on the road

Director hopes for monthly RV visits in 4 county towns

The Wayne County Health Department is a half-hour or longer drive away for some county residents, creating challenges for those wanting to use services the department provides. Christine Stinson, the department’s executive director, would like to take services to those residents. Stinson outlined five departmental goals for 2023 during the year’s first Board of Health meeting Jan. 19. One is to use the department’s mobile unit for monthly visits to Fountain City, Cambridge City, Centerville and Hagerstown.

Richmond firefighter contract hangs on Common Council vote

Sides present arguments related to impasse, panel’s recommendations

Ten months after negotiations began, Richmond Fire Department members do not have a 2023 contract. Richmond Common Council could approve one on Feb. 6, or the negotiating process could continue. Council must decide whether to accept or reject recommendations from a fact-finding panel enlisted to help resolve the impasse between the city and RFD’s union, the International Association of Firefighters AFL-CIO Local 1408. The five-person panel’s final recommendation was for a two-year contract with 2% raises each year and the addition of three new positions to ease overtime strains.

County’s HELP participation picks up speed

With the start of 2023, Wayne County’s participation in the Hoosier Enduring Legacy Program has begun. Offered by the Indiana Office of Community and Rural Affairs, the program helps participants plan effective spending of American Rescue Plan Act dollars. A group of county representatives participated in four days of HELP training last week in Connersville, Commissioner Jeff Plasterer told the combined commissioners/council workshop Jan. 18. The training caused cancellation of that day’s commissioners meeting.

Snarls before smiles: Construction inconveniences will lead to wider I-70

State’s Revive I-70 project to begin during late 2024 in Wayne County

The Indiana Department of Transportation envisions six lanes of free-flowing Interstate 70 traffic between the Ohio state line and Indianapolis. That vision, called Revive I-70, is still years away, but Wayne County construction should begin in late 2024. Starting at the state line, INDOT plans to expand I-70 through the county’s 20-plus interstate miles, widen and improve 40 bridges and modify the U.S. 40 and U.S. 35/Williamsburg Pike interchanges. Then, the work will continue toward Indianapolis. INDOT says the changes will reduce congestion while improving traffic flow and safety.

Preservation Commission to decide fate of 4 old houses in Depot District

Demolition would clear way for 26,000-square-foot new building

Bob Johnson will return to Richmond’s Historic Preservation Commission with updated drawings of a new, three-story mixed-use building. When he does, likely during the Feb. 13 meeting, commission members must choose between that new building and four vacant houses in varying states of neglect and disrepair. Johnson has applied for a Certificate of Appropriateness to demolish those buildings. Johnson thinks tearing down the structures at 814 N. D St., 400 N. Ninth St., 406 N. Ninth St.

Richmond mom requests tougher penalties for parole violators causing deaths

Driver in crash that killed her son faces Level 4, Level 5 felonies

Christine Stinson was shattered June 17. Stinson’s son, Joseph “Evan” Dely, 31, died that day when his Jeep Wrangler was struck from behind while traveling Interstate 465 on Indianapolis’ southeast side toward the airport. He was catching a flight for a camping and hiking trip with his stepbrother when a 21-year-old on parole, driving under the influence while speeding and distracted, caused Dely’s life to end. His mother is still shattered, and she’s not satisfied with the punishment the other driver faces. So much so that Stinson has suggested to state legislators a change to state statute for future similar situations.

Fairgrounds improvements aim to boost rental revenue

Sales and marketing job description sent to consultant

The Wayne County Fairgrounds is a county asset that provides revenue, and county officials would like to take better advantage of that opportunity. With a concentrated effort to update, renovate and repair the fairgrounds, the county hopes it becomes more attractive for rentals that generate enough revenue to make the fairgrounds self-sufficient. That effort received a major boost this year when First Bank Richmond agreed to a 10-year, $1 million naming rights deal. The county received the initial $100,000 payment this fall. Already underway when that naming-rights deal was finalized, a $430,558 project to repair and update the First Bank Kuhlman Center and First Bank Expo Hall exteriors is nearly complete.

23 groups request shares of opioid settlement money

Wayne County would need three times its 2022 opioid settlement money to fill all the requests it has received. Applications for the county’s $411,000 initial share of the national settlement requested in excess of $1.2 million. Twenty-three not-for-profit entities filed applications by the Dec. 28 deadline. Wayne County will receive nearly $2 million through 2038 from the national settlement with Johnson & Johnson, AmerisourceBergen, Cardinal Health and McKesson for their role in the nationwide opioid epidemic.