Council to contemplate future funding requestsJuly 28, 2021
By CANDY NEAL
The Dubois County Council must start considering funding requests for future projects, including one from the City of Jasper for revitalizing the Courthouse Square.
“We need to be thinking about some of these projects that are going to be needing money in ‘22 and ‘23, how we feel about them,” Councilwoman Becky Beckman said at the end of the council’s Monday meeting. “Because at some point, (Jasper Mayor) Dean (Vonderheide) is going to want to know what the county is going to do.”
Council members listened to Vonderheide earlier in the meeting explain the importance of the revitalization.
“This is a transformational project that will realize some real economic value and benefits to the area,” he said Monday evening. “It’s going to be more pedestrian-friendly. It’s going to serve as a destination for regional families to live, work and play for generations to come.”
Although a specific amount has not yet been requested, city officials would like the county to help with the project financially.
Vonderheide gave county council members an overview of this project, which includes the Square as well as the one block off the Square, going north, south, east and west. The road around the Square needs to be repaired, aging waterlines underneath need to be replaced and the curb, ramps walkways need to be replaced to be ADA standards, he explained.
The city is looking at a second phase of work that will include work down Main Street, Second Street and Ninth Street. But officials do not expect the county to contribute to that, Vonderheide said.
There have been collaborative discussions between county and city representatives concerning the project. As a part of those, city officials were asked to add ADA access to the courthouse, Vonderheide said, and to address the safety issues that face pedestrians who cross the Courthouse Square to get to the courthouse. “It can be dangerous as you cross in the crosswalks due to the lack of view,” he said, “for both drivers and pedestrians.”
Officials were also asked to consider what can be done architecturally to refresh the monument area, he said.
The estimate to complete the Square revitalization work is at $5 million, Vonderheide said.
“This is a big investment,” he said. “To bring in talent to the area, the city must have amenities and facilities available to draw in those people and their families.”
Vonderheide mentioned the successful development of the Thyen-Clark Cultural Center, the Alexander Schoolhouse and Schaeffer Barn near the Riverwalk, the River Centre development and City Mill near Patoka River and the Spirit of Jasper Train Depot.
“Those investments are paying off,” he said. “Courthouse Square will serve as another pillar of progress for making this a great place to live, work and play.”
The city is applying for grants and funding for the project. “But there will be a price tag,” Vonderheide said. “And we’re just asking that you consider sharing in that price tag.” Although he did not have a specific amount, he asked the council to consider funding for 2022 and 2023.
The city expects to have final designs and construction documents in four to six months, and plans to get started as soon as those are in hand.
“We can’t wait on this on this infrastructure any longer,” Vonderheide said. “We can’t shelve it any longer. We gotta get this stuff fixed.”
Beckman said the council needs to think about the different financial requests for future projects. For instance, if Jasper does include in its project work on the monument area, that will definitely be the county’s cost to cover, she said.
In their considerations, the council should consider what the county contributed to the Stellar Communities project in Huntingburg, Councilwoman Charmian Klem said. The county contributed $500,000 to receive space in the Huntingburg Street Department building that was specifically designed county for emergency management’s equipment and use.
The county should consider how much to contribute to the Square project and what the county wants included in the scope of work, Klem said. She added that Jasper can get some grant funding through Indiana 15 Regional Planning Commission, which Vonderheide said the city is pursuing with the agency.
Council President Mike Kluesner said work on the monument area is one of the projects being considered for some of the money the county has received from the federal American Rescue Plan Act. As of now, there are 23 funding requests for that money. The county ARC committee will start prioritizing projects at its next meeting, Kluesner said.
The council also:
• Approved funding two additional positions for the county coroner’s office, which will start in 2022.
• Heard an update on the security center construction work that is underway.
• Was reminded that the daylong hearing for county budgets will start at 8 a.m. Monday, Aug. 9, in the commissioners/council room of the Dubois County Courthouse Annex, 602 Main St., Jasper.
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