Jasper leaders meet to rank projects

Herald file photo by Marlena Sloss
The old Ditto Sales building stands along US-231 in Jasper.


JASPER — Friday morning, Jasper Mayor Dean Vonderheide met virtually with his department heads, common council members and city hall staffers to begin the process of prioritizing projects that could one day reshape life in the city.

About 40 total endeavors were listed. From infrastructure to new developments, the list is varied. Potentially redeveloping the Y intersection in Jasper, completing downtown revitalization work and developing student and resident housing adjacent to or on the Vincennes University Jasper campus were all on it.

It’s important to note that the projects would all ultimately require the approval of the appropriate government boards to be undertaken by the city. When the roughly 90-minute meeting came to an end, participants were instructed to email in their top 10 projects that would have the most influence on the community.

They were told that the group would meet again in the future to further discuss the possible options. The prioritized project list will be released then.

“This is a dynamic list,” Vonderheide explained at the beginning of the group’s meeting last week. “It changes and will change from today. But I think it’s important that we all kind of align with it.”

The city is currently developing a long-term financial plan, and Vonderheide said that eventually, leadership will be able to “marry up this prioritization with what our available funding is, and projected funding for 2021, 2022, and then see, does anything need to be adjusted based on that available funding. Because there are lots of factors that go into it.”

One project previously ranked as a high priority has seemingly reached a standstill. Last year, city leadership determined that purchasing the old Ditto Sales building at the Y intersection in Jasper and redeveloping that area was a top issue. The building’s owners have withdrawn their offer to the city on the structure, however. Vonderheide did say that ownership has informed the city that they would entertain offers in future years.

Other possible projects that are on the list include the construction of a new multimillion dollar aquatic center; maximizing the impact and presence of higher education options; various roadwork ventures and many more.

Ideas that were discussed at a similar planning meeting that took place last year and are now underway were also discussed on Friday. For example, the Dubois County Community Foundation and a community ecumenical council are currently working to bring a recovery and counseling home to the city; Ruxer Golf Course has been decommissioned; and the development of a transportation plan is underway.

Big projects that were completed in the past year were explored, too. Some of these included building the west parking lot at the Jasper River Centre and constructing the roadway that runs on the property; stormwater, wastewater and waterline enhancements along U.S. 231; and purchasing new air packs for the Jasper Volunteer Fire Department and body cameras for the Jasper Police Department.

Minutes before last week’s meeting ended, Councilwoman Nancy Eckerle voiced her support for the forum in a chat message sent to all the participants in the Zoom call.

“I really appreciate the mayor taking the time to do this,” she wrote of the mayor bringing everyone to the table and seeking opinions across all city departments. She added that the communication that took place was excellent.

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