Tuesday, April 16, 2019 1:00 am
Regional board OKs $400,000 to Wells County
DAVE GONG | The Journal Gazette
One small vote Monday designated more than $400,000 to Wells County. But the big result is that all 11 counties in northeast Indiana will receive a share of the $42 million in Regional Cities Initiatives money awarded to the region three years ago.
The Northeast Indiana Regional Development Authority approved a request for $423,183 to support the Grow Wells County project, which is 20% of the $2.1 million total cost.
The project will create an outdoor plaza in Bluffton and a pavilion and amphitheater in Ossian. The venues will serve as access points to the Poka-Bache Trail, which connects Steuben County to Wells County.
About 55% of Regional Cities Initiative funds have been spent in Allen County, with the remaining 45% shared between the other 10 counties.
The Regional Development Authority has recommended more than $40 million in funding to the Indiana Economic Development Corp., which has final approval.
Michael Lautzenheiser, president of Bluffton NOW, said the projects will enhance the quality of place in Wells County.
“With support from the Northeast Indiana RDA, we can leverage these funds to get over the finish line and get this project completed as early as 2020,” he said in a statement.
The outdoor plaza will be adjacent to the Wells County Courthouse in downtown Bluffton. That land is occupied by a building that was damaged in a fire in November 2011. Plans call for a mural, green space and seating in the plaza. Designs also call for ramps and electrical hookups to allow food trucks to do business.
The Ossian project will revamp the 60-acre Archbold Wilson Park, located near Ossian Elementary School. Changes to the park include a trail, five acres of wild flowers, a playground, an 18-hold disc golf course and a hillside seating area for the amphitheater.
The pavilion portion of the building would have restrooms and a concessions area.
About 40 Wells County residents attended a meeting of the Regional Development Authority in January to show support for Grow Wells County.
Officials said construction could begin as soon as this fall with completion in 2020.
Northeast Indiana's submission to the Regional Cities Initiative was titled “Road to One Million,” a reference to the population threshold economic development officials believe the region must reach to attract major employers.
Numerous projects – large and small – have requested and received a share of the grant money. They include The Landing, Clyde Theatre and phase 1 of riverfront development in Fort Wayne; an aquatics center in Columbia City; an early learning center in Manchester; an outdoor recreation center in Kendallville; and a network of connected regional trails.
Chad Kline, executive director of Wells County Economic Development, said results from state investment are significant.
“Rural communities like Bluffton, Ossian and others throughout Wells County and northeast Indiana must benefit from investment in quality of life to continue to attract and retain talent,” he said in a statement.
“I applaud the RDA board and the individuals behind the Grow Wells County project for securing this critical funding.”