Centerville and Hagerstown are joining other Wayne County communities in seeking Indiana’s Stellar Pathways funds. 

Neither participated in the county’s Hoosier Enduring Legacy Program. 

Forward Wayne County’s Acacia St. John and county Commissioner Jeff Plasterer shared Stellar’s potential benefits during Centerville’s April 9 council meeting. St. John then also appeared before commissioners April 10, requesting their formal approval of the county’s participation.

Acacia St. John

Two applications chosen next January by the Indiana Office of Community and Rural Affairs will each receive about $8 million in grant funding. St. John said the program is designed to build capacity and engage the community in developing strategies that will transform the area’s quality of place.

“Ultimately for Wayne County, we just want to see additional collaboration between all of our communities, funders, the government that really is going to help propel Wayne County in the right direction,” St. John said.

Wayne County Foundation is the lead applicant and is working to bring all eligible county communities on board. Cambridge City and Dublin are not eligible because they are receiving Indiana Office of Community and Rural Affairs’ Community Development Block Grant project funding through HELP.

Members voted 4-0 to join the collaborative application. Jack Bodiker was absent.

“I like the sound of this program,” said councilor Gary Holbert. 

Unlike the Hoosier Enduring Legacy Program, in which Centerville declined to participate, council didn’t need to immediately make a financial commitment.

Towns just need to agree to join the county’s letter of intent that’s due May 1. 

Four finalists will be announced in June, and they will each receive $50,000 to develop an application. Their applications are due in November. Two winners will be announced in January 2025. 

If Wayne County is a finalist, each town needs to offer a strategic community engagement session where residents share ideas. Each community’s priorities would be incorporated into the county’s application. 

Towns also must designate a representative to help with the county’s strategic planning process. 

Centerville councilors asked whether joining the Stellar Pathways application would conflict with any other grants they are pursuing.

Plasterer said Stellar Pathways doesn’t follow Indiana’s typical five-year blackout that restricts a community from seeking overlapping Community Development Block Grants.

And, because as many as eight communities are joining Wayne County’s application and multiple state agencies are offering funding to the winners, Centerville might not receive any CDBG funding as part of its share. 

Funding agencies include Indiana’s Office of Community and Rural Affairs (OCRA), Department of Transportation, Housing and Community Development Authority, Department of Natural Resources, State Department of Health, Department of Agriculture and Destination Development Corp. 

Communities would need to contribute a match of 10-20% for most projects and have time to figure that out.  

Council President Dan Wandersee supported the application. 

“I think that’s well worth a try, not knowing how OCRA is going to shake out for a while,” Wandersee said.  

If Centerville would receive CDBG funds through Stellar, the blackout would only last while the funded project was being completed. 

Plasterer said one benefit of Stellar is that finalists’ projects aren’t competing against the rest of the state. Centerville has applied several times for an OCRA grant to renovate its fire station but hasn’t been chosen.  

Even if the county’s application is rejected, Plasterer told commissioners there would still be a list of priority projects and their costs. Other opportunities, such as grants or bond issues, could be investigated to fund those projects.

Share this:

A version of this article appeared in the April 17 2024 print edition of the Western Wayne News.

Mike Emery is a reporter and layout editor for the Western Wayne News.

Millicent Martin Emery is a reporter and editor for the Western Wayne News.