County Agrees To Allocate HELP Funds To Mentone, Milford, Pierceton Projects
By Leah Sander
WARSAW — Kosciusko County leaders have OK’d giving special state funding to projects to better the communities of Mentone, Milford and Pierceton.
At a special joint meeting on Tuesday, May 23, the Kosciusko County Commissioners and Kosciusko County Council agree to split the $1 million in Community Development Block Grant money it received via the county and the three towns participating in the Indiana Office of Community and Rural Affairs’ Hoosier Enduring Legacy Program between those towns.
The state created HELP to assist local governments with spending their federal American Rescue Plan Act money on projects to better their communities in four specific areas: Advancing E-Connectivity; Enhancing Quality of Place; Promoting Community Wellness; and Strengthening Local Economies. Kosciusko County was selected to participate, and county representatives invited any of the county’s cities and towns to take part as well, with Pierceton, Mentone and Milford joining on.
The county also hired a HELP community coordinator, Amy Roe, to facilitate the process. She was present at Tuesday’s meeting along with representatives from the Michiana Area Council of Governments, who are also assisting.
The county and Mentone, Milford and Pierceton had already narrowed down what projects they would like to complete using ARPA money through the program, with commissioners and the council approving so-called strategic investment plans for them in April.
Tuesday’s meeting involved leaders looking at five scenarios involving allocating the CDBG funds, with them opting to not give any for county projects, but rather those in the three towns. They also decided to reallocate monies if needed if town projects ended up costing less than what is currently estimated.
Those towns’ projects include: improvements to Mentzer Park in Mentone and developing a master plan for downtown Mentone; creating a master plan for downtown Milford and replacing water meters in town; and building a community building in Pierceton and completing a water utility study there.
In response to a question at the end of the meeting, leaders noted they made their decision due to wanting to invest in the small communities.
“With all of the work and the communities have come forward with coming up with these plans because they were encouraged to do so by Amy and (Kosciusko County Commissioner) Cary (Groninger) and MACOG and all the players … we want to allow them to see them to fruition,” said Kosciusko County Councilwoman Joni Truex. “It’s a matter of allowing them to see their dreams come true with money that is designated.”
Groninger noted the county could still accomplish projects it had decided on through HELP by just using its ARPA money.
“I believe … the smaller communities have a much greater struggle then what we do to come up with funding,” added Kosciusko County Councilwoman Sue Ann Mitchell. “I think this is important to give them a boost to try to help their communities grow.”
As noted at the meeting Tuesday, Mentone and Pierceton still need to have income surveys done to qualify for CDBG funds as per rules projects using those monies need to serve those “in lower- to moderate-income areas,” said Groninger. Milford’s already done a survey.
The three towns now have to finalize the projects based on Tuesday’s decision.
During Tuesday’s meeting, Roe also shared what other initiatives are coming about in the county related to HELP. The program was meant to encourage communities to work on other needs aside from the main ones outlined.
Roe said those consist of working on youth entrepreneurship, addressing food access and insecurity through a coalition and encouraging civic engagement among younger adults.