City’s future includes planning next phase of growthJanuary 17, 2019
By CANDY NEAL
HUNTINGBURG — There was a lot of growth and development in Huntingburg in 2018.
It will be no different in 2019, but there will also be evaluation and study of what should come in Huntingburg’s future.
“There’s a lot of areas that we have made some significant progress. There was much change here,” Mayor Denny Spinner said as he reflected on 2018. “The most obvious to the community and seen by those who come to Huntingburg is the physical things we’ve done.”
The city completed two projects: the railroad overpass and Market Street Park.
The overpass project responds to a decades-old issue in the city: being able to bypass the railroad track that runs through the city’s center when a train is passing on the track.
“The primary reason for this project was that it was a solution to a local safety problem,” Spinner said. “It is not designed to fix traffic on U.S. 231. It is designed to address access to emergency services through the city. It was the most fiscally responsible response to solving the issue of how do we gain access through this city for emergency vehicles, so that they don’t get stopped by the train in an emergency.”
The partnership between Huntingburg, Dubois County and the Indiana Department of Transportation fixed that problem.
“It took much planning, much work and much dedication. Every department in the city had a department in some kind role in making this happen,” Spinner said. “Dubois County government came to the table immediately and was with us all the way. That’s a great example of how local governments can work together and accomplish something of significance.”
He has received a lot of positive response from people who appreciate the access. “The quality of life in Huntingburg was enhanced by the completion of that project,” he said, “because we now can be assured that if there is some emergency, that barrier is not going to be there. That gives you peace of mind. The convenience benefit that goes along with it is just a plus.”
The completion of Market Street Park, located behind Old Town Hall between Third and Fourth streets, is also significant.
“The project is another example of what Huntingburg can achieve when we all have a vision that comes together,” Spinner said. “Memorial Gym is a project that the community came together and decided was needed at the time; that was historic. The Huntingburg Event Center was historic; the community decided there was a need for that, and the community came together and it happened. I think that Market Street Park is the next in that line; this generation came together and created that project.”
The private investments in the park were also significant to the park’s completion, Spinner said.
“Not only were we able to construct the park, but we’ve created an endowment to sustain the park for generations through the generosity of local industry that sees the value of having a space like this as part of our community,” he said. “It’s something that we can be proud of as a community. And the opportunity that it presents for us to come together as a community in a social place for decades to come is going to be significant.”
The project had its challenges; because of the soft soil, additional work had to be done, which increased the project’s cost and extended its timeline for completion.
“There were challenges along the way, and it did not go as smoothly as we hoped,” Spinner said. “But the bottom line is that the project did get completed. It was done within the funds we had available to do the project. We had to find some additional resources. But all the resources that we found did not have an impact on the general fund. We were able to find those sources outside of the general fund to complete the project.”
The city also received a fiber network in 2018 through Perry-Spencer Communication’s completion of High Speed Huntingburg.
“We hear at the state level that one of the biggest challenges to make our rural communities an attractive place to be is connectivity,” Spinner said. “Through a great public-private partnership with a vendor that was willing to make the investment in Huntingburg, we now have a fiber network that’s available in our community. And as part of that, they’re contributing Wi-Fi to the downtown and Market Street Park.”
He said that the working partnership between Huntingburg and PSCI benefitted the community.
“We did it the Huntingburg way,” Spinner said. “It was low key, and it was just done ahead of schedule and on budget.”
The police force was expanded in 2018 with the addition of a school resource officer and a drug investigator. “The safety of our schools is top priority, so we made the investment,” Spinner said. “The opioid crisis is a tough challenge. This does not solve the problem by any means. This is one more piece in the puzzle that we have.“
Relationships have also been expanded through the ongoing Latino Collaboration Table.
“There is significant strides that are being made with the Latino population, not only in Huntingburg but across the county,” Spinner said. “We’re starting to see traction from things we are doing — small steps, but significant steps nonetheless.
“The Latino Collaboration Table is helping to bring a better understanding of how our community is changing, and the challenges and opportunities that it presents, and what it means to be diverse as a community.”
Spinner is looking forward to 2019. The construction should be underway of a behavioral facility in the former St. Joseph’s Hospital, which is a private investment.
“One of our goals was the revitalization of the hospital property, and by the end of next year, the building should be fully utilized,” Spinner said. “That will be a regional benefit. The type of care that’s going to be provided there is in demand.“
And there are other projects underway.
The downtown Fourth Street remodeling will start next month. The workforce housing at the former Wagon Works site on Washington Street will start this year. The smart network metering system upgrades will be completed this year. The city is also working on plans for expanding the water treatment plan, addressing stormwater issues in the city.
This year, Huntingburg will start updating its comprehensive plan, which contains many projects that have been completed or are underway, including those done through the Stellar designation.
“Now that we are in the final year of Stellar, we have to be just a diligent as we were five years ago, in resetting the course,” Spinner said, “listening to where we are as a community, evaluating our strengths and weaknesses again, determining where we as a community want to be, and setting a path that is fiscally responsible in achieving those goals.”
The plan, which was last updated in 2012, will include a lot of examination and community input on what Huntingburg needs and should develop in the upcoming years, the financial aspects of those ideas and how those plans should unfold.
“Like any family or business that lives on a budget, we have to be cognizant of the fact that we have made some tremendous investments,” Spinner said. “Now it’s time to re-evaluate, make sure that we have the right financial resources available as we plan for the next days, and to rebuild the resources to make the next phase of growth in Huntingburg possible.”
Spinner said he will continue to rely on the community to help build the Huntingburg community.
“Nothing that has been achieved is because of me. It’s because of our community,” he said. “And I’m blessed to be the person who gets to work on this every day. But there are others who are just as passionate and just as engaged in our community. And bringing them into the discussion, having them help me find those solutions — whether they be full-time employees, or the volunteers or the people who serve on the board or come to the public meetings — that’s what drives our community forward.”
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