Warsaw Falls Short In Stellar Communities Bid

INDIANAPOLIS – Warsaw was not named a Stellar Communities Designee for 2016.
Lt. Gov. Eric Holcomb announced Thursday the two designees in the Stellar Communities Designation Program are Rushville for Division I and Corydon for Division II. Warsaw was competing against Rushville and Shelbyville in the Division I category.

Warsaw Mayor Joe Thallemer said today he was disappointed in the state’s decision, but spoke positively of the progress the city made during the process.
“The city of Warsaw is very proud of the progress we have made up to and including the Stellar Process,” he said late this morning. “We have solidified our partnership and collaboration with the town of Winona Lake.  The community not only engaged but demonstrated tremendous support for our plan.  We have benefitted greatly from the Stellar process and will continue to move forward with the planning and collaboration to further the plan.”

Thallemer added, “While we would have liked to have been designated by the state committee as a Stellar Community, we know that the work we have done to make our community vibrant and growing meets our own definition of Stellar.  Also, congratulations to Rushville and Mayor Mike Pavey.”

Launched in 2011, the program is a multi-agency partnership designed to recognize Indiana’s smaller communities that have identified comprehensive community and economic development projects and activities as well as next steps and key partnerships, according to a press release from Holcomb’s office. In 2015, the designations were divided into two divisions based on population size. Division I are communities of a population of 6,000 or more, and Division II are smaller cities and towns with populations of fewer than 6,000.

In April, six finalist communities were announced for the 2016 program year, with Warsaw in Division I. The Division II finalists were Corydon, Culver and Union City.

Between April and July, Holcomb and representatives from the SCDP state team visited all six finalist communities where they heard highlights from each local team as well as toured project locations from their local strategic investment plans.

“I was filled with such pride while visiting the six finalist communities this summer, seeing firsthand the passion and dedication each team is putting toward bettering their community through economic development opportunities,” Holcomb is quoted as saying in the press release. “I look forward to celebrating the work of the state and local teams at the state fair next week. With or without the stellar designation, all six communities are on their way to achieving transformative outcomes that will better their local and regional areas.”

Warsaw’s strategic investment plan focuses on neighborhood beautification as well as establishing parks and a cycle track, made to resemble Indianapolis’ Cultural Trail. Other aspects of Warsaw’s proposal include building a roundabout for increased safety and a housing development which will offer diversified options to low-to-moderate income families, senior residents and persons with special needs.

Ten communities submitted letters of interest for the 2016 Stellar Communities Designation Program. Of those 10, six communities were chosen as finalists, received planning grants and were required to submit local strategic investment plans. The plans detailed the projects, partnerships and proposed sources of funding based on feedback and input from the local community. The next step was the site visits, which were conducted by the state stellar team, comprised of staff representing the partnering agencies.

On Aug. 18, a “Stellarbration” hosted by Holcomb will be held at the Indiana State Fair to celebrate the 2016 Designees. Holcomb and state stellar team members will also travel to Rushville and Corydon later this fall to participate in local “Stellarbrations” with the local community members.

Funding for the SCDP comes from multiple existing federal programs. Both communities have proposed projects involving public and private dollars; although they have been designated as a Stellar Community, the projects are proposals and no specific funds are guaranteed, the press release indicates. Both communities will meet with representatives from the state stellar team in the coming weeks to discuss details of the proposed projects including feasibility, available funding, time frames and partner participation.

The finalist communities will receive follow up from the state stellar team to discuss details about their submitted SIPs and provide feedback on the SCDP process.