Municipalities will be asked about HELP

By CANDY NEAL
cneal@dcherald.com

Municipality officials will be asked if they would be interested in the Hoosier Enduring Legacy Program.

The Dubois County Commissioners are very interested in possibly applying for the state program.

“I think that would go a long way in making this a successful bid, if we want to pursue this, to have some type of partnership like that,’ Commissioner Elmer Brames said during a special commissioners meeting on Friday. “That might be a deal-breaker as to whether or not we get awarded.”

Hoosier Enduring Legacy Program, or HELP, was created by the Indiana Office of Community and Rural Affairs to assist local units of government in their efforts to optimize the Coronavirus Local Fiscal Recovery Funds they received through the federal American Rescue Plan Act. The commissioners have discussed possibly utilizing HELP to help with strategic planning for the county. Indiana communities are receiving a total of $1.28 billion; Dubois County’s share is $8.4 million. Municipalities have also received funding.

A total of 12 applicants will be chosen. The application process opens Sept. 6.

If selected, OCRA will give $20,000 to help fund a community coordinator position. The $20,000 funding is for one year, and applicants are expected to add to that salary at least another $20,000.

The coordinator will go through a year of training and become an authority on the American Rescue Plan. The coordinator will be the liaison between the local entities and the state, communicate with the HELP partners and oversee four teams, which are called pathway teams. The pathways are: advancing e-connectivity, enhancing quality of place, promoting community wellness and strengthening local economies. These pathways will help communities be more resilient to future economic downturns.

The community coordinator will also help the entities develop a strategic investment plan for their ARPA funding. The plan will include a number of projects that are to be started by 2026. The federal stipulation for ARPA funds are that plans for using the money must be in place by 2024 and those plans must be underway by 2026. OCRA also plans to offer a $1 million match grant that would be used to help fund projects in the strategic investment plan.

“It seems like a pretty intense program,” Commissioner Chad Blessinger said. “There is a lot to it.”

Commissioner Nick Hostetter, who is the commissioners’ representative on the Indiana 15 Regional Planning Commissioner Board, said that several counties and municipalities at the last Indiana 15 meeting were very interested in the program; so he expects there to be intense competition.

Brames said that having a community coordinator would be helpful. “It makes a lot of sense to me to have somebody focused on these projects,” he said. Brames also thinks the position would last beyond the one year of state funding; but the salary could be funded by using some of the American Rescue Plan funds, he said.

Blessinger agreed about having a person specifically focused on this. “Eight million (dollars) is substantial. That's a ton of money,” he said. “We want to make sure that we do things that will have a good impact on the community for a long time.”

Dubois County Council members Mike Kluesner and Becky Beckman were in the audience at Friday’s meeting. Kluesner said the right person would have to be found for the coordinator position.. “You have to have someone who will get out and be active in the communities,” he said. “They can’t sit at home and do this.”

The commissioners divided up tasks for finding out additional information, which they will bring back to their Sept. 7 meeting. Hostetter is going to talk to Indiana 15 Executive Director Lisa Gehlhausen to see how the agency could assist, possibly with the application. Blessinger plans to reach out to the municipalities to see if there is any interest in partnering on an application. And Brames was going to send to Dubois County Council members information about HELP, including the webpage and last week’s webinar at which OCRA officials talked about the program.

The commissioners also:

• Offered a conditional offer of employment for Gary Love for the county veterans service officer position. If he accepts, he will replace Amber Harris.

• Consented to 911 Director Stuart Wilson signing paperwork to accept grant funding from the Indiana Statewide 911 Board.




More on DuboisCountyHerald.com