The question of how to spend millions in community improvement dollars is closer to being answered. Wayne County’s Hoosier Enduring Legacy Program core committee will submit its project list Friday to the Purdue Center for Regional Development.

Those projects will form the Strategic Investment Plan for American Rescue Plan Act dollars committed by the county and the communities that joined the county’s HELP application to the Indiana Office of Community and Rural Development. Those communities are Cambridge City, Dublin, East Germantown, Economy, Milton, Richmond and Spring Grove.

The core committee will then prioritize the project list before each entity’s elected officials decide how to spend that community’s ARPA money. The county and the participating communities were required to commit 30% of their ARPA awards to projects developed during the HELP process. Aside from the committed money, communities have varying parts of its non-committed ARPA money available.

Additional money includes $1 million in Community Development Block Grant funds from OCRA, $500,000 each in EDIT money from the county and Economic Development Corporation of Wayne County, and $100,000 each from First Bank Richmond and Sugar Creek Packing. The Indiana Housing and Community Development Authority’s Creating Places program also provides up to $50,000 in match money if communities raise funds for qualifying projects.

Commissioner Jeff Plasterer said he’s happy with the project list that will comprise the SIP. It drew upon community input as well as comprehensive plans from the communities and other county organizations.

“I think we’ve identified issues, not only from the community engagement that we did, but in reviewing the other plans that have taken place in the last couple of years across the county,” he said. “We’re building on those.

“Clearly housing is a very high priority. Redevelopment of Main Streets appears to be a significant priority, and then beyond that, each of the communities has their own priorities, which hopefully we’re going to be able to help them complete some of those projects that they wouldn’t have the same opportunity to complete without the help we can hopefully provide with this ARPA funding.”

Wayne County committed $3.83 million to HELP, but has up to $10 million of its $12.78 million ARPA allotment to spend on projects. Proposed projects involving the county include:

  • Emergency communication towers that would address radio dead spots within the county for first responders. This would include two projects: an assessment for about $81,000 and two new towers, likely installed in the northeast and southwest portions of the county, for approximately $1.5 million.
  • Gateway Industrial Park water infrastructure improvements, including a new well and a new tower. The project is estimated at $8,385,000.
  • A YMCA project to expand available child care spots by opening a new facility in Richmond that would care for children up to age 3 or age 4 from 6 a.m. until midnight. The YMCA has also applied for a grant for the $300,000 project that includes a building renovation and furniture.
  • A single-family housing project that provides infrastructure on 80 acres of land along South 37th Street. The project would cost about $3.7 million to ready the property for 250 market-rate apartments and 162 houses.
  • An $800,000 project would extend water service for a development of senior retirement housing that would begin with 60 units and have the possibility to expand.
  • A new nonprofit would partner with Animal Care Alliance to build a new animal shelter. Richmond and Wayne County are being asked to contribute $300,000 each to the $1.1 million project.
  • A countywide mural project that includes a competition among 10 mural artists and an 11th mural that community members would paint. Mural artist Pamela Bliss would serve as project manager, and the budget is $85,000.
  • An expansion of Wi-Fi in community parks and Main Street corridors in Richmond, Cambridge City, Dublin, East Germantown, Economy and Milton. In Richmond, the Wi-Fi would be at Mary Scott Park, Starr Park and Test Road Trailhead.

Richmond has committed $2.25 million of its $7.5 million allotment for projects that include:

  • A blight elimination project that still needs an entity to run the program.
  • A downtown building renovation program earmarking $1 million for building owners to apply for assistance to improve facades, roofs and interiors or build out upper stories.
  • A $2.9 million gap exists between the secured $35.1 million funding and the $38 million cost of developing 150 market-rate apartments at the Elder-Beerman site downtown.
  • Richmond Parks and Recreation’s Whitewater Gorge Activation involves multiple phases that will begin with $1 million in federal funding. Another $500,000 from the HELP program would continue the plan, mainly at the Test Road Trailhead. This project could be considered for the block grant. It is composed of pieces that can be broken out depending on funding provided.
  • Richmond Police Department would like $725,000 to purchase body cameras and a BearCat armored vehicle from Lenco.
  • Development of a Wayne County Family Resource Center by Firefly Children and Family Alliance would require $700,000 to renovate a location and purchase a van. The project already has a two-year grant for operational expenses.

East Germantown committed $15,257 from its ARPA allocation of $50,858 and there are three project priorities for the town:

  • A basketball court that requires $8,000 after other contributions.
  • A sewer upgrade project that would need $42,000.
  • Installation of sidewalks with a cost of $62,550.

Milton committed $30,322 from the $101,074 provided by ARPA for projects that include:

  • A $1.6 million stormwater system upgrade that could be divided into stages.
  • Installation of sidewalks that could begin with $100,000.
  • A request for $65,000 that would help finance a sewer upgrade project.
  • Development of a basketball court for $20,000 in addition to donations received.

Dublin has committed $50,787 from its $169,292 ARPA distribution for projects that include:

  • Playground improvements that include rubber poured under equipment for safety at $245,000, ADA compliance for $6,000, signage for $5,000 and security cameras for $6,000.
  • The town has a $20 million water project in the works, and HELP money could finance aspects of the project such as new meter valves and hydrants for $242,500, a GIS system for $50,000 or security for the well system and tower for $9,000.
  • The town also would like to replace sidewalks.

Economy has two primary projects identified for the $11,897 it committed from its $39,658 ARPA allocation:

  • A $100,000 project would upgrade the town’s playground with new equipment, fencing, flood lights and lines for four square, pickleball, hopscotch and basketball.
  • Renovations to the community center and 1930s-era gymnasium would require $120,000 and include an ADA-compliant restroom, a kitchen, better lighting, a new gym floor and exterior improvements.

Cambridge City has $118,978 committed to HELP from its $396,596 in ARPA funding. Two projects have been identified for the town:

  • In addition to the water infrastructure needed at Gateway Industrial Park, the town needs water infrastructure improvements.
  • The town also would like to develop an entertainment venue or provide a playground upgrade in Creitz Park.

Spring Grove, which has committed $21,891 of its $72,972 allotment, would like to update its town website.

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A version of this article appeared in the June 7 2023 print edition of the Western Wayne News.

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