Richmond became the final participant to approve Wayne County’s Hoosier Enduring Legacy Program strategic investment plan during the Oct. 16 Common Council meeting.

Council members heard a comprehensive presentation about the nine projects anticipated to result in $18,809,776 of investment. Four projects, with an expected investment of $5,075,000, are shared with Wayne County, while another five projects totaling $13,734,776 of investment are unique to the city. They voted 8-0 to approve the investment plan.

Later during the meeting, Gary Turner, the council vice president, referred an ordinance that would appropriate Richmond’s $2,393,776 contribution from its American Rescue Plan Act dollars to council’s finance committee for review. That contribution represents the minimum 30% commitment from the city’s overall $7.9 million ARPA allocation to the HELP program.

“Tonight, council heard a robust presentation which was the culmination of two years of collaborative work in the Wayne County strategic investment plan, which is just another component of investment coming into our city and county to keep Richmond and Wayne County rising,” said Mayor Dave Snow, who thanked council for its support. “It’s very exciting to see all these collaborative efforts coming together, to see this once-in-a-lifetime money being leveraged for the benefit of everyone in Richmond and Wayne County’s quality of life and to attract more investment to come in.”

Wayne County commissioners and council and councils from participating towns Cambridge City, Dublin, East Germantown, Economy, Milton and Spring Grove previously approved the SIP. Overall, 33 projects include more than $25.4 million in investment in the county, city and those towns. That investment includes Indiana Office of Community and Rural Affairs community development block grants, plus contributions from county EDIT money, the Economic Development Corporation of Wayne County’s consolidated EDIT money, Sugar Creek Packing Co., First Bank Richmond, the Wayne County Convention and Tourism Bureau, the Wayne County Foundation as well as private and match dollars.

“Now, we look forward to getting these projects underway and showing some really exciting results to everyone who lives in Richmond and Wayne County,” Snow said.

HELP projects impacting Richmond include activating the Whitewater Gorge Park that stretches from Test to Waterfall roads. The $2,650,000 project involves three phases in the 146 acres.

“The main focus here is we want to bring people to the gorge and to Richmond and Wayne County, and this activation plan calls out to do just this,” said Denise Retz, the city’s parks superintendent.

The parks department already received $500,000 from the Indiana Department of Natural Resources Land and Water Conservation Fund and the National Park Service and another $500,000 from the Richmond Redevelopment Commission, so Phase 1, which focuses on reimagining the Test Road trailhead, has already begun with design and engineering work.

A second phase includes an overlook and fishing pier and launch sites for canoes and kayaks at Test Road and where Weir Dam was located. Phase 3 includes zip lines and canopy tours of the gorge.

Mary Walker, executive director of the tourism bureau, shared visitation statistics from similar canoe/kayak sites and zip line facilities. She said the project will create short- and long-term economic impact from tourism and attraction of workers. Tourism is contributing $50,000 to this project.

The gorge project also is slated to receive $1.4 million in Wayne County HELP dollars and $200,000 in city HELP money.

The city plans to spend $725,000 of HELP money to purchase a BearCat armored vehicle and a body camera system for Richmond Police Department. The BearCat is budgeted at $340,000 and the body camera system at $385,000.

Police Chief Mike Britt said SWAT team officers have been shot at twice within the past year. A neighborhood dispute earlier this year resulted in the Indiana State Police responding with an armored vehicle, but the response time was 2.5 hours, Britt said.

“This vehicle is essential for officer safety with the challenging climate and dangerous time we live in,” Britt said, citing expanded mental health problems and escalating violence from more citizens carrying firearms.

The vehicle provides safe approach and cover for officers under fire, plus it can be used for extractions of citizens or officers and during natural disasters or extreme weather incidents.

RPD has chosen Motorola’s WatchGuard system of body cameras that will provide 50 cameras and associated software and equipment for five years. The Motorola bid was $364,374.

“The body camera is necessary to bolster transparency of the police department,” Britt said. “Although body cameras are not mandated in Indiana, we feel that it is time to take advantage of this funding opportunity in order to be better equipped to effectively provide what the public and justice system demand.”

Additional Richmond programs include:

  • Main Street revitalization projects.
  • An animal welfare needs assessment study.
  • A Family Resource Center with partners Indiana Department of Child Services, Firefly Children and Family Services and Wayne County agencies has opened at 714 N. 12th St.
  • Expanding the mitigation of blight through the Unsafe Building Commission.
  • Improving the E.G. Hill section of the Richmond Rose Garden in Glen Miller Park, including restoration of the fountain and ADA-compliant walkways.
  • Public Wi-Fi in Starr Park, Mary Scott Park and Test Road Gorge Park.
  • Supplemental funding for Townsend Townhomes, a $12.5 million project planned to provide 50 affordable apartments on the former Nicholson School site at North 13th and North G streets.

Snow said the city will soon also progress through public meetings to discuss funding for a $38 million project to create 150 market-rate apartments at the former Elder-Beerman site, calling that an “important anchor” to the investment presentation.

“This will be a landmark investment that will create an economic engine for our urban core, and the projects that you’re hearing today all sort of work in concert to support the quality of life that brings that type of investment,” Snow said.

Zoning change OK’d

Council also voted 8-0 to rezone a parcel on the southeast corner of Industries and Salisbury roads for low to moderate industrial use. That enables Storage of America to construct a planned self-storage facility.

The preliminary site map shows 13 buildings with 72,500 square feet of storage space.

Storage of America requested heavy industrial zoning to match surrounding parcels; however, the city’s Advisory Plan Commission, which recommended 6-0 council approve rezoning, suggested the low to moderate industrial zoning instead. That eliminates more intense industrial uses in the future on that land.

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A version of this article appeared in the October 25 2023 print edition of the Western Wayne News.

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