County Votes to Join Eastern Partnership to Seek Grants

Kosciusko County Commissioners agreed this morning to align the county with 10 others in the eastern part of the state in a bid for development grant funding.
Mark Dobson, president of the Kosciusko Chamber of Commerce, recommended the county join the Northeast Indiana Regional Partnership in order to qualify for the Regional Cities Initiative, a two-year program now moving through the legislature. The initiative originally set aside $84 million to help spur investments in Indiana cities, Dobson told commissioners, but closer to $20 million may end up being approved. 
He said Kosciusko is often pulled in two directions, between the Fort Wayne and South Bend regions, but a task force had determined, for purposes of the RCI, that the eastern region makes the most sense. He cited the high-speed rail project and prospective development of U.S. 30 as top considerations, in addition to looking at patterns of airport use and commuter inflow.
The eastern partnership, established in 2006, currently includes the counties of Adams, DeKalb, Huntington, LaGrange, Noble, Steuben, Wabash, Wells and Whitley as well as the greater Fort Wayne area. Dobson noted that, for other purposes, Kosciusko remains aligned with the Michiana Area Council of Governments.
He also observed that if Kosciusko hadn’t made a choice now, it might have been drawn into a different regional development authority that might not necessarily reflect its interests.
“The analogy I’d use is, we’re dating two girls and it came down to we have to choose a prom date or the state will choose a prom date for us,” Commissioner Ron Truex quipped.
Warsaw Mayor Joe Thallemer remarked that the county is fortunate to have this problem, of having a choice on which way to go, and noted the city and county councils also will have to vote on their support next month. County Council President Bob Sanders urged the county to do what it can to ensure it has a voice on the board overseeing the regional partnership.
Also this morning, commissioners:
• Voted to go with the Area Plan recommendation to rezone two acres on Viking Drive in Mentone from commercial to residential to allow construction of a three-lot subdivision, at the request of Mentone Partners. A Dollar General will be built on the remaining commercially zoned portion of the land.
• Heard from Nate Bosch, director of the Center for Lakes and Streams, that logjam removal in Tippecanoe River is about halfway done and will be resumed this year on the 30-mile stretch from Old 30 to the county line. He also observed that instead of having to seek state funding every five years, the river might benefit from having a canoe livery which would have an interest in keeping it cleared.
• Heard from Highway Superintendent Scott Tilden that road patching is expected to continue for another month or two. Tilden said the recent freeze and thaw was one of the three worst in the past 35 years, and that he’s currently sending out eight to 10 trucks a day to carry out repairs.

(Story By The Times Union)