Plaza and amphitheater on line for RDA funding

The board of the Northeast Indiana Regional Development Authority appears to be willing to put $423,183 into the Bluffton downtown plaza project and the Archbold Wilson Park’s amphitheater/pavilion project in Ossian.

The RDA’s board came to Bluffton Tuesday afternoon to discuss the proposals. The money comes from the Regional Cities Initiative money awarded to the region.

The presentations by Bluffton NOW! President Michael Lautzenheiser Jr. and Ossian Revitalization President Kody Kumfer at the Wells County Arts, Commerce, and Visitors Centre were well-received by the RDA’s five-member board — one of which is Gene Donaghy of rural Ossian, a member of the board of the Northern Wells Community Schools board and a retired employee of Northeastern REMC.

It marks the first time that a Wells County project has come before the RDA board. Wells was the only county of the 11 served by the RDA that had not had a quality-of-life project approved by the board.

Both projects were outlined in detail to the board — how much has been raised, how much is promised, and what the timetable is for completion. The bottom line: The request was for $226,023 for the Bluffton plaza and $197,160 for the Ossian amphitheater and pavilion.

Tuesday’s meeting attracted some 50 spectators, almost all of them Wells County residents and stakeholders in the projects.

“Your presence is important to us,” said Jeff Turner, one of the RDA board members. He was not formally announcing his support, but when he heard the presentations from Lautzenheiser and Kumfer, he said, “You had me at hello.”

“This is exactly what we are looking for,” said Turner, who is employed at Metal Technologies. “Congratulations for getting it to this point. This has been the heavy lifting.”

“I can’t compliment you enough for what you have done,” added Bob Marshall, who is employed at the Campbell & Fetter Bank. “I can’t tell you how excited I am for Wells County.”

Donaghy was likewise complimentary, and he said after the meeting that he was happy to be hearing a Wells County proposal after hearing from the other 10 counties — Adams, Allen, DeKalb, Huntington, Kosciusko, LaGrange, Noble, Steuben, Wabash, and Whitley.

He made note of the planned extension of sewer service that will make growth in the Lancaster Township portion of Bluffton possible, and the improvements to downtown Bluffton and Ossian — “the growth that all of this brings,” he said. “It makes Wells County a great destination.”

Also on the board with Donaghy, Marshall, and Turner are Andrew Briggs, who is employed by Farmers and Merchants Bank (which has taken over the Bank of Geneva) and Brad Bishop of OrthoWorx.

The board members took the Wells County proposals under advisement. That is standard procedure for the RDA board, which could consider an up-or-down vote on the proposal at the board’s March meeting.

The delay gives the board members time to fully review the proposal before approving it.

Michael Galbraith is the director of the Road to One Million project, the effort to bring the population of the 11 counties to 1 million people by 2031, and he serves as the staff member for the RDA board.

While he said he did not want to speak for the board, he said that if the board wanted to approve the full amount requested, there were enough funds for it to do so.

Story by Dave Shultz, Courtesy of the News-Banner

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