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.

Plasterer said the HELP program would begin in earnest this week and last through August or September.

Richmond, Cambridge City, Dublin, East Germantown, Economy, Milton and Spring Grove joined Wayne County’s application that was accepted late in 2021. The Wayne County group was assigned to HELP’s third cohort with Franklin County and Connersville. Wayne County committed $10 million to the planning process, while the other communities committed 30% of their ARPA allocations. OCRA then provides an additional $1 million.

“There will be lots of opportunities for this group and people throughout Wayne County to participate,” Plasterer said of the HELP program.

More details about those opportunities for the public will be released as the program progresses.

County projects

Wayne County is seeking funding through the Indiana Department of Transportation for two bridge projects and for single-seal roadway work.

Brandon Sanders, the county engineer, will apply to receive federal aid through INDOT for preventive maintenance projects on two bridges. Council approved 7-0 the county’s financial commitment for the application.

The projects would be the 627-foot-long Pottershop Road bridge just east of Abington and the 200-foot-long bridge on Frontage Road east of the Interstate 70-Indiana 1 interchange.

The federal funds would pay 80%, Sanders said.

The Pottershop project is estimated at $960,000, and the Frontage project at $1,255,000. The county’s total share would be $443,000 for the two projects, which are scheduled for 2028.

Mike Sharp, the county’s highway superintendent, also received unanimous council approval for the financial commitment to apply for INDOT Community Crossings grant funding to single-seal roadways this year. The total project will cost about $250,000, the maximum allowed if the highway department completes the work itself.

Sharp said the list of roadways impacted is not yet complete. He noted that Community Crossings funds last year helped the county single-seal 14 miles of roadways.

Steve Higinbotham, the county’s director of facilities and development, updated the council members and commissioners on a series of projects.

One completed project is the demolition and cleanup of mobile homes at the corner of Salisbury Road and U.S. 35. Spivey Salvage completed the work at a cost of $30,384. Council unanimously approved paying that amount from its one-time expenditure fund. The city of Richmond has committed to reimbursing the county half the total expenditure.

Higinbotham said the bill would be sent to the property owners, Palm Harbor Villages; however, based on previous discussions, he does not expect Palm Harbor to pay. A lien would then be placed on the property.

Jail passes test

Sheriff Randy Retter said that Wayne County’s jail passed its state inspection “with flying colors.”

He said that jail leadership under Capt. Jason Wysong has carried out Retter’s vision for the jail.

“I’m very proud of the jail staff and the leadership there,” Retter said.

Retter also provided an update on the sheriff’s jail commissary fund, saying it added $8,071.37 during 2022 for a year-end balance of $266,851.54. That’s despite spending more than $104,000 from the account during the year.

Council does have plans for 90 of those dollars, though.

The sheriff’s department has struggled replacing a broken-down jail transport van because of supply problems. A suitable van has been located with Wetzel Auto, but it will cost $52,990, $90 more than the amount previously appropriated.

Council President Beth Leisure suggested the difference could come from the commissary fund, and Retter agreed.

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