Henry the schnauzer and Topper the cat might not understand nuances of economic development. However, their owner, Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb, is grateful that his pets’ daily food provider, Blue Buffalo, is expanding its Richmond operations. Holcomb visited Richmond on Thursday to celebrate Blue Buffalo’s plans to create 50 to 60 new jobs by the end of 2024. The pet food maker will spend $200 million to build and equip a 169,000-square-foot addition, which increases its Midwest Industrial Park building by more than 40 percent.
Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb remains hopeful that proposed investments in public health, housing, early childhood education, school safety and first responders will move forward during the final weeks of the legislative session. During an exclusive interview with Western Wayne News during his March 23 visit to Blue Buffalo, Holcomb said it’s an “interesting” time, comparing it to the third quarter of high school basketball state finals. He noted that state officials are currently focused on “investments in how we grow our economy, getting the necessary tools of the day, so the IEDC (Indiana Economic Development Corp.) can partner on more projects like this.”
Holcomb said lawmakers also are showing interest in investments in educational and workforce development and in public health, which he believes is central to economic development. “Companies like Blue Buffalo require not just a skilled-up workforce, but they require also a healthy workforce, and the state has a role in that,” Holcomb said.
Wayne County auction and antique enthusiasts and business owners are among those mourning the loss of Shane Hawkins. Hawkins, a 54-year-old Fountain City resident, was known around the county through his work and community involvement. The Northeastern graduate died March 13.
Mayor restructures positions, plans department of planning and zoning
Richmond Mayor Dave Snow plans to restructure positions to intensify the city’s focus on planning and zoning. Ian Vanness, the director of infrastructure and development, left the city, and that position will be eliminated. The city planner position will become director of planning, and a new zoning administrator position will be created.
Midwestern animal advocates have rallied to support a local refuge for pets and wildlife with varying needs. “We are staying, and all of the residents are safe,” said Liberty Acres United Rescue Animal Sanctuary Director Shell Young. “We can continue our mission to save senior, geriatric, disabled and special needs animals.”
In recent months, area animal lovers became concerned about the future of Liberty Acres. Despite its Liberty address, the sanctuary draws a lot of support from Wayne County residents. The rural acreage at 3546 E. Mitchell Road is just south of the Wayne County line, a bit southwest of Boston.
A Wayne County ministry that furnishes homes soon will be homeless. St. Vincent de Paul must vacate its storage space at Richmond State Hospital because the building was deemed unsafe. President Tony Talbert said they must find a new location by June 6, or the ministry will have to shut down after 22 years. The timing isn’t ideal.
Justin Farmer had a stroke. No one knows how long it was before his aunt found him unconscious. But in only four days, the Fountain City community where he lives and works came together in his support. Farmer, 50, is a well-loved fixture at Martin’s Country Mart, a convenience store along U.S. 27 in Fountain City. The community has come to love his sense of humor and his concern for all.
Indiana Landmarks finds area buyer for Huddleston site; family aims to preserve farmhouse for future generations
A home as unique as the Huddleston Farmhouse — a former inn for U.S. 40 travelers and a museum — doesn’t fit everyone’s needs, budgets or talents. After about a year on the market, Indiana Landmarks officials announced Friday that experienced Hoosier preservationists and organic farmers have purchased the historic Cambridge City house and 18 acres. Tyler and Gentry Gough already restored a 1902 shingle-style house in Greenfield and a 1928 Dutch Colonial house in Indianapolis’s Irvington neighborhood. They’re bringing those skills to a 14-room farmhouse built in 1841 that provided a home for the 13-member Huddleston family as well as shelter for weary National Road travelers. “You can tell they are passionate about it and they want to do it right and be respectful of the property and the land,” said Brittany Miller, director of Indiana Landmarks’ Eastern Regional Office.
After inviting audiences to watch five conductors audition for their potential new job, Richmond Symphony Orchestra has hired its top choice. Late last week, Maestro Andrés Lopera entered a three-year contract with RSO as its fourth-ever music director. RSO Board President Jeff Carter said Lopera “brings unbounding energy and passion to his role.”
“He is excited to work with the RSO’s talented musicians, engage the local community, and inspire a rising generation of music enthusiasts,” Carter said in a news release. “With vision and enthusiasm, Maestro Lopera will carry the energy of this season into the next.”
The search process began nearly two years ago, when RSO’s third music director Guy Victor Bordo announced he would retire at the end of the 2021-2022 season. Carter thanked board member Jeff Jackson and the search team he led for their careful work in narrowing the candidate pool of 53 to five and evaluating them further.
Damage has been estimated at about $75,000 after a vehicle went off the road and crashed into several signs in downtown Centerville. The accident took place just after 10:30 p.m. March 12. A Centerville man apparently had a medical episode while driving east along U.S. 40 and crossed the center line, approaching several buildings on the north side of the road. Police Chief Ed Buchholz said security video shows that the driver first crashed into a picnic table outside the Centerville Christian Church’s Family Life Center, then destroyed a digital sign outside Delay Insurance Services and Associates. He then came close to the front of Centerville — Center Township Public Library.
Sanitary District plans $6.6 million loan with $2 million forgiven by state
Richmond Common Council will allow Richmond Sanitary District to increase its bond allowance to cover an upcoming $11 million project. Council voted 7-1 in favor of the resolution during its March 6 meeting. Sanitary Director Pat Smoker had presented the resolution Feb. 20, but the council tabled it because three members were absent. The project, which is expected to cost $11,190,808, will improve the Short Creek Interceptor by replacing the Hayes and Short Creek lift stations.
Special council meeting, public hearing set for March 20
Although they don’t expect the outcome will change, Centerville’s council members are conducting another public hearing and special council meeting related to an already-approved increase in electric rates. An ordinance was introduced at a short March 6 meeting to correct a mistake in the newly increased rates that accidentally would have been a rate reduction for customers. Clerk-Treasurer Richard Tincher said someone had misplaced a “0” in the document. A public hearing will take place at 5:30 p.m. March 20, with a special council meeting following to address the issue. Town officials are planning for customers to see the newly adjusted rate of $0.1455 per kilowatt-hour soon.
Additional security will soon be provided in one of Wayne County’s courts. It’ll only be for Superior 3 right now because that’s all current funding will allow. During their March 8 meeting, commissioners unanimously approved contracting with Whisenhunt Construction for $32,000 to provide shatter-resistant film for the courtroom and office glass and enhance the courtroom and office locking systems. Indiana’s Supreme Court has provided a $33,000 grant to finance the project. However, the Supreme Court did not provide additional funding this year that would have enabled similar measures for Superior 1, Superior 2 and Circuit Court. Kory George, the county’s chief probation officer, said it would be ideal to protect all four courts right now, but the lack of funding makes that impossible.
Public is invited to learn more about project March 20
Indiana Department of Transportation will conduct a public meeting about its U.S. 27 bridge project in Richmond. The open-house-style meeting will be 5:30 to 7 p.m. March 20, with a project presentation planned at 6 p.m. at New Boswell, 450 N. 10th St., Richmond, according to an INDOT news release. INDOT representatives will present project information and discuss the project with attendees, collecting community feedback. After the meeting, materials shared during the meeting will be posted on INDOT’s Renew Richmond webpage, www.in.gov/indot/about-indot/central-office/welcome-to-the-greenfield-district/renew-richmond/, where project details are explained. The project, which is scheduled to begin during April, will replace the U.S. 27 bridge that crosses several roads and the Norfolk Southern Railroad tracks in the city’s Historic Depot District.