WARSAW — Suzie Light, chief executive officer of the Kosciusko County Community Foundation; and Stephanie Overbey, associate director at the Foundation, attended the Kosciusko County Commissioners meeting Tuesday, Feb. 4, to provide an update related to the Giving Indiana Funds for Tomorrow (GIFT) grant program.
Since 1992, the Foundation has participated successfully in Lilly Endowment’s GIFT grant programs.
“We are now deep in the process of working our way through GIFT VII,” Light said. “We successfully raised half a million dollars and Lilly Endowment matched that with one million dollars for our community endowment funds.”
Light talked about the Hometown Chats that were hosted by the Foundation last summer. Representatives from the Foundation went to Mentone, Silver Lake, Claypool, Pierceton, Warsaw, Winona Lake, Leesburg, Milford, North Webster and Syracuse to ask questions and gather information about issues such as childcare, workforce development and housing.
“Those topics resonated with those attending the chats, but we found something that surprised us,” Light said. “Our citizens are hungry for planning — community planning that involves more than where do roads go, more than infrastructure of water and sewers.”
“They want planning to address playgrounds, trails, parks, libraries, storm shelters and community amenities,” Light said.
“Because we have an opportunity to take what we learned and apply to Lilly Endowment for an implementation grant of $150,000, the Foundation Board of Directors have approved making our request focused on community comprehensive planning,” said Light.
Light said they are proposing planning that would cost $264,000 coming from three funding sources: $164,000 from the Community Foundation; $50,000 from the county; and $50,000 from a private foundation. Light said their application is pending at the private foundation and is contingent on the county being a contributor.
The goal of the project, Light said, is comprehensive planning in a unified manner that creates unique individual plans for each participating community and the county with a shared vision and common threads in a comprehensive manner.
“The towns who will participate are being asked to commit personnel for the 18-month process and to host convening of their own community members as required by state statute. Individual communities are not being asked to contribute money in this process,” Light said.
Light asked for a letter of support, as well as support from commissioners in the Foundation’s request to the Kosciusko County Council for an allocation of $50,000 to fund comprehensive planning throughout the county.
Kosciusko Commissioner Cary Groninger thanked Light and Overbey for the work they put in.
“From a perspective for the county, a comprehensive plan was something we had on our radar screen that we knew we needed to take care of,” Groninger said. “You got all the communities involved — I think this is great.”
Commissioner President Brad Jackson said a united comprehensive plan that includes all communities in the county will end up saving the county money.
Commissioners approved the $50,000 from the EDIT fund since the money was already appropriated to be used in 2020 for a project such as this.
Commissioners also heard from Joe Lenon, who resides at 91 EMS T13B Lane, Leesburg. Lenon told commissioners there is a major problem with flooding on the road that leads back to that addition.
Several other residents from that area spoke up as well, stating that the flooding issue is compounded because some property owners are not maintaining their properties.
County Surveyor Mike Kissinger and County Highway Superintendent Steve Moriarty responded to the concerns, though both said they are uncertain how the problem can be fixed.
According to Kissinger, the road is only a foot above lake level at this time.
“I don’t see any drainage pipe solution to this,” Kissinger said.
“Anything we do is going to have repercussions,” said Moriarty. “To come up with a solution is going to be very difficult.”
Residents of that area expressed concern that in the event of an emergency, first responders may be unable to access the road.
Commissioners said they will discuss the issue further with Kissinger and Moriarty.
- Conley called for a moment of silence at the beginning of the meeting to honor Warsaw Police Officer Jason Dobbins, who died on Feb. 1.
- Commissioners congratulated County Auditor Michelle Puckett for receiving the 2019 Government Excellence Award.
- Terry Baker of Silver Lake was honored as Veteran of the Month.
- Commissioners approved County Recorder Joetta Mitchell’s request for an ordinance restricting the size of plats that are recorded.
- The next regular meeting will be at 9 a.m. Tuesday, Feb. 18.