Wayne County has about $4.3 million in uncommitted American Rescue Plan Act dollars remaining.

The money must be committed by the end of this year, and while that sounds like a lot of time, the county’s commissioners are now moving forward with identifying possible projects to fund, leaving plenty of time to complete the commitment process.

During their Jan. 10 meeting, commissioners identified projects they’ll recommend receive funding. They’ll make those recommendations to Wayne County Council during the Jan. 17 workshop.

Commissioner Mary Anne Butters expressed concern that the county has so far spent too much ARPA money on county projects rather than community projects. She said the money should address quality of life issues in a robust and aggressive manner. Commissioners Jeff Plasterer and Brad Dwenger indicated possible projects do impact quality of life.

Funding that totals about $2.25 million is recommended for:

  • Landscaping for the county government complex.
  • Updated cabling to county employee work stations.
  • Roofs for the First Bank Kuhlman Center and horse barn at the fairgrounds.
  • Security upgrades for the Wayne County Administration Building.
  • Solar-powered speed limit signs for use by the county and its towns.
  • A BearCat armored vehicle for the sheriff’s department.
  • A Journey Home transitional housing project for veterans.
  • Payment of fees and contractual obligations while working on the other projects.

Additional projects, such as improvements to the county’s 911 radio system and providing contributions for state CreatINg Places grant matches needed by communities that did not participate in the Hoosier Enduring Legacy Program, continue on the commissioners’ list for later ARPA funding.

Commissioners are also considering additional funding, possibly $1 million, for the downtown revitalization program that’s part of HELP. The additional money would provide a funding mechanism for communities that did not join HELP.

Within the HELP program, the county is moving forward with a group to score applicants seeking part of the county’s available $1 million funding. Commissioners will then have final approval of which projects receive the funding.

A Building Together program that would provide training in employable construction skills while rehabbing local properties was suggested as a possible ARPA expense, but Plasterer and Dwenger favored using opioid settlement money to fund that program.

The state expects to distribute 2023 opioid settlement money during the first quarter of this year. Wayne County expects $441,778.27, according to Indiana Attorney General Office estimates updated during December. The county would then receive another $186,806.48 for 2024, according to the estimates.

In addition to the Building Together program, Plasterer said he’s interested in funding a jail program that would connect inmates with appropriate treatment facilities and housing when they leave the jail.

Fairgrounds projects

Projects for the Wayne County Fairgrounds also received commissioners’ attention. The $100,000 annual naming rights payment from First Bank Richmond enables the enhancement of fairgrounds facilities.

Commissioners discussed priority projects such as improving First Bank Expo Hall’s insulation, painting Expo Hall’s superstructure, creating a caterer’s kitchen, improving First Bank Kuhlman Center’s ceiling tile and lighting, maintaining and expanding fairgrounds parking, upgrading electricity and water for campers, creating a storage area for tables and chairs, providing a place for an ice machine, and upgrading the shower facility with a toilet and sink.

Commissioners also authorized the 2024 rental fees for fairgrounds buildings, plus new chairs and tables recently purchased. Rental for the entire grounds will be $3,500 per day, with Expo Hall renting for $2,200 daily and Kuhlman Center renting for $950 a day. The new gazebo donated by Wayne County Farm Bureau can be rented for $200, and all other facilities are also available for rent.

The new 5- and 6-foot round tables and cocktail tables will rent for $10 each with the new chairs renting for $2 each. The stage, which is built in sections, will be rented for $50 per section to a maximum $300.

Rentals of three or more days, not including setup and tear-down days, will receive a 10% discount, and nonprofits will receive a 25% discount off their total rental cost.

Cable installation

Craig Eason, the county’s IT director, received permission to pursue the installation of new cabling to county work stations. The cabling will enable faster upload and download internet speeds and a voice over internet phone system.

Comcast is offering a 60-month deal that would cost $1,000 a month for 2 gigabytes of upload and download speeds. The county now pays $450 a month for 1 gigabyte download and 35 megabyte upload speeds, and it would be able to cancel backup modems that cost $406 per month.

With Comcast as its primary provider, the county would use Parallax as its backup and for the phone system.

Gradall purchase

Commissioners authorized Mike Sharp, the county’s highway superintendent, to proceed with the budgeted purchase of a used Gradall from Cook Equipment in Michigan.

The 2012 Gradall with 2,855 hours of use will cost $195,000. Sharp said department personnel examined the Gradall and found it well-maintained and in excellent condition.

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

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