County Park Board Gets Updates On SIP, Master Plan
By David Slone
WARSAW — Two updates were presented to the Kosciusko County Parks and Recreation Board on Thursday, March 16 — one for the strategic investment plans and the other for the five-year master plan.
The only action the board took, however, was approving up to $1,000 for a county park logo.
Kosciusko County Community Coordinator Amy Roe reported at this juncture, the SIPs are completed. “So that is a huge milestone for those who have been part of this process,” she said.
The county commissioners will be asked to approve the SIPs April 11, and the county council on April 13.
“So that was the final document that completed the final phase, and once that phase is complete, that unlocks the funding phase. So that’s very important for us, and it took a lot of fast talking and hard praying to make that happen. We were able as a team to be able to get all the information that each of the communities wanted to have in that, and that was the biggest part of that,” Roe said.
Kosciusko County was one of three communities selected in 2021 by the Indiana Office of Community and Rural Affairs to participate in the first round of the Hoosier Enduring Legacy Program. HELP assists and equips rural communities with developing strategic investment plans, resulting in a legacy project for each community focused on at least one of four community development pathways/focus areas including advancing e-connectivity, enhancing quality of place, promoting community wellness and strengthening local economies.
The communities of Mentone, Milford and Pierceton agreed to participate with the county in the program. Each of those communities had to agree to provide a 30% match from their ARPA funds. When the process is complete, it unlocks a $1 million in Community Development Block Grant funding the county will receive and the county will divvy it out.
Roe told the park board the next stage after April will be income surveys, “which are required for us to meet the low to moderate income level for the funding source that is the match — the CDBGs funds that I’ve been speaking about.”
She said they anticipate they will most likely have to do income surveys for Mentone, Pierceton and the county’s Chinworth Bridge trail project.
Michiana Area Council of Governments Senior Community Development Planner Donny Ritsema explained what to expect with an income survey.
“So, looking at Mentone, for example, the first step that we will need to do is define the service area to determine the income status. Once we have determined that service area, then we will need to populate random addresses that we will need to go out and survey. This has to be randomized, we can’t pick and choose people that we know are low and moderate income — it’s not a fair process to do something like that, the state wouldn’t allow that and wouldn’t be happy if we did,” he said.
Once they have the master list of random addresses, Ritsema said that will be shortened down to the number of households and people needed to be surveyed. Then they will go out and conduct the surveys after letting the community know the surveys will be done and when.
“The responses that we get are confidential and it’s more of a higher level of range of income limit,” he said.
Within that sampling, Ritsema said they need to hit that percentage number of 51% who are low to moderate income. If they meet that percentage or are over that, those results will be shared with the state and then they can proceed with the next step. The surveying takes at most a month. The final results for that same service area are good for a minimum of five years.
Roe said the income survey would be “essential to ensure that we can determine from a county level what money is available to be spent. And what specifically looks like.” If one of the named towns is not eligible because they are lower than the 51%, then that town would not be eligible to use the CDBG money “and that would provide more money for other projects that would be identified.”
She said the county hopes to work with MACOG either at the end of April or beginning of May to start the process for the income survey. If that’s completed by the end of May or early June, then a collective commissioner and council meeting will be held for the determination of project funding.
After that discussion, Ritsema provided the board with an update on the parks five-year master plan process.
This month, the plan is in the public review phase so the plan is being opened up to residents and visitors to comment on the draft. The review phase began March 7 and will go to April 6.
There is a paper review form available at any local library or city or town hall, as well as an online form at tiny.cc/ReviewKosciuskoParksPlan. Ritsema encouraged everyone to fill out that form if they haven’t already and encourage others to fill it out.
The board is hosting three public open houses this month. One was Tuesday in North Webster, one was Thursday in Mentone and the last will be 5-7 p.m. March 28 at the Warsaw Community Public Library. Ritsema said the format and content are the same at all three open houses.
As a final piece of business, board member Mike Cusick brought up the board’s desire to have a logo at some point for the Kosciusko County Parks and Recreation Department. He said he and board member Matt Metzger did some initial work on it, and they determined the highest cost to get that logo designed would be $1,000. He asked if the board had any type of budget to cover that $1,000 now.
Board President Rob Bishop said he thought they had a “small” budget this year. County Auditor Rhonda Helser said she thought that was true. Bishop said he and Helser could look into that and agreed they “really needed” a logo.
Cusick made a motion to allocate up to $1,000 for branding for the county parks, board Vice President Troy Turley seconded the motion and it passed 5-0, if there is money in the budget for it.