SugarCreek Packing has expressed interest in expanding within the Gateway Industrial Park.

SugarCreek wants to acquire 16.9 acres south of its plant to expand its truck staging and parking area, Valerie Shaffer, president of the Economic Development Corporation of Wayne County, told the county commissioners during their June 14 meeting. The county owns that land.

SugarCreek would pay the full, $14,500-per-acre price — about $245,000 total — because the company plans no large-scale investment associated with the purchase. Industrial park regulations currently require that companies acquiring land must build a primary structure on the land within five years.

Shaffer presented commissioners amendments that eliminate that requirement for existing industrial park companies buying land contiguous to their facilities. Commissioners unanimously approved.

“This seems like the best use for this ground,” Shaffer said.

She added that SugarCreek’s future plans include using land it already owns around the current facility.

“Based on how much they’ve grown over the last five years, I am confident that there will eventually be a large-scale investment project tied to this,” she told commissioners.

Health money

Rod Blanchford expressed to commissioners concerns about the state’s new public health spending.

The county has until Sept. 1 to accept the increased 2024 funding enacted during this year’s legislative session. The money increases requirements for core services.

Blanchford asked commissioners during their June 14 meeting to be careful about the funding’s conditions and controls.

Commissioners have asked the health department to provide a plan and budget for the extra funding before they opt in or out. Commissioner Jeff Plasterer told Blanchford that State Rep. Brad Barrett, a retired surgeon, has also agreed to review the plan and provide his insights.

Blanchford said he’s concerned about state and federal controls that lead to health department overreach.

“I am concerned that we’re slow-walking ourselves into giving up our own power to make decisions within our own county, and I don’t want to see that happen,” he said.

Commissioner Brad Dwenger said he also is concerned about restricting overreach.

“We do have a health epidemic, especially in Wayne County,” Dwenger said. “We have bad numbers across the board, so this money’s going to come well-needed and benefit the citizens of Wayne County, but I agree with you we have to really, really, really make sure it’s not an overreach.”

Road certification

Mike Sharp, the county’s highway supervisor, recently received master road builder certification from the Indiana Association of County Highway Engineers and Supervisors.

Brandon Sanders, the county engineer, reported the honor to commissioners. He said the certification requires 600 credit hours of coursework.

Sharp was honored at a recent IACHES conference.

Cooling Kuhlman

Commissioners unanimously approved replacing all three air-conditioning units in First Bank Kuhlman Center at the Wayne County Fairgrounds.

The compressor in the unit that cools Kuhlman’s offices failed Tuesday. HVAC system replacement has been on the fairgrounds project list. Steve Higinbotham, the director of facilities and development, recommended replacing all three units now, rather than spending $10,600 for a new compressor. All three needed units are in stock, costing about $39,000 each.

Higinbotham also received approval through email and text from Wayne County Council members, so he placed the order.

Temporary cooling of the offices has been arranged at no cost.

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A version of this article appeared in the June 21 2023 print edition of the Western Wayne News.

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