Two Wayne County groups will take over management of Hoosier Enduring Legacy Program projects after Oct. 4 decisions by the county’s commissioners, including one described as “irresponsible governing.”
The three commissioners unanimously agreed that the Economic Development Corporation of Wayne County would organize and operate blight elimination within Wayne County. The EDC’s Sarah Mitchell previously ran Richmond’s blight elimination program. The county and EDC are providing $780,000 for that program.
But after a contentious discussion, only Brad Dwenger and Jeff Plasterer supported the Wayne County Foundation overseeing the engagement of a consultant to conduct an animal welfare survey. Mary Anne Butters, who had called the idea “outrageous” made the “irresponsible governing” comment after the vote that spends county money on a consultant. The county and Richmond each committed $50,000 toward the study, although two estimates were not that expensive; however, Richmond Common Council will not consider approving the HELP strategic investment plan until Oct. 16.
Plasterer said the EDC and Wayne County Foundation approached him about involving themselves in the respective projects. He said the foundation had been trying to arrange a study and would welcome the opportunity to organize the HELP project.
Butters said she and local animal organizations did not agree with ideas the foundation has previously expressed about animal shelters and did not want the group directing a study. Plasterer pointed out that local public policymakers would make decisions about proceeding with any recommendations a consultant would provide.
A local task force, to which Plasterer previously appointed Dwenger over Butters’ angry protests, has identified Team Shelter USA, a Florida group founded by Sara Pizano, and Shelter Savvy, formed in Georgia by Carrie Ducote, as possible consultants.
Dwenger said the task force worked diligently to identify the consultants and thinks either would provide the services Wayne County needs. He said making a decision Oct. 4 about the foundation’s involvement was important for a consultant to fit Wayne County into a fall window, rather than pushing the survey back until 2024.
Butters, who had said a county shelter needed to be built with “alacrity,” asked for a week to speak with the foundation and check the possibility of Purdue University providing a consultant. Instead, Dwenger advanced a motion to move forward with the foundation, and Plasterer supported that motion.
Commissioners unanimously found a burned residence at 2927 Westview Drive an unsafe building.
Kendra Baldwin and her mother, Cynthia Baldwin, had been given 90 days during a June appearance before commissioners to clean up their lot. On Oct. 4, Kendra Baldwin said the family is waiting for loan approval before demolishing and replacing the structure that burned during February 2022.
Commissioners considered having the county demolish the residence then charging the Baldwins for the cost. Instead, after the unsafe finding, gave the family until Dec. 31 to clean up or demolish the residence or have a letter indicating they had received financing for a replacement. If none of that has occurred, the county would then take steps to remedy the situation.
Steve Higinbotham, the county’s director of facilities and development, reported that the county earned $55,958 from a Sept. 30 auction. Of that, $54,150 came from the sale of cars and trucks.
Commissioners decided they need to explore other ways to dispose of items that are stored for up to a year then bring little return in an auction. One possibility is having multiple online auctions; another is allowing employees to have items deemed of no value to the county.
In other business, the commissioners unanimously:
Approved seeking bids for the removal of two 12,000-gallon underground fuel tanks, closing a 1,000 gallon underground tank and replacing them with three aboveground tanks.
Approved a 10-year lease renewal with the EDC for the Gateway Industrial Park in Cambridge City.
Approved closing the Wayne County Administration Building between 11 a.m. and 1 p.m. Dec. 13 for an employee holiday meal.
Extended previously approved funding for a part-time Drug Free Wayne County Partnership youth director from the fourth quarter of 2023 through 2024.
A version of this article appeared in the October 11 2023 print edition of the Western Wayne News.