Capital board hears proposals to enhance east part of county

December 21st, 2016

By Rosa Salter Rodriguez | The Journal Gazette

A blueprint for nearly $5 million in investments to serve current residents and lay groundwork for future growth in east Allen County was presented Thursday to the Allen County-Fort Wayne Capital Improvement Board.

A revitalized NewAllen Alliance formally put forward projects conceptualized over the last year with the aid of an $80,000 board-funded study grant and input from leaders of east Allen’s seven smaller communities and the public.

Kent Castleman, NewAllen’s volunteer director, said the projects include infrastructure and economic development plans and quality-of-life improvements in parks and trails.

In addition, New Haven Mayor Terry McDonald submitted as part of the plan an additional  $1 million request to aid in acquiring the 268-acre all-but-abandoned Casad Depot site from the federal government with the aim of turning it into an industrial park.

The other proposed projects are in Grabill, Hoagland, Leo-Cedarville, Monroeville and Woodburn. Harlan participated in the planning process but did not submit a project with a dollar amount because as an unincorporated municipality it does not have access to local funds, Castleman said.

Taken together, the projects would mean a Capital Improvement Board investment of $2,447,997, money that would come from the county’s food and beverage tax. The board’s investment would be matched by funds raised by the smaller communities for a total of $4,923,002 in new investment.

Before the meeting, Castleman stressed that the seven east Allen County communities covered in the study have a population of more than 56,000 – only 16 percent of Allen County’s population but larger than 65 of Indiana’s 92 counties.

“We wanted to create a more unified voice for the east Allen communities,” he said. “It was important to have a serious conversation about how to have the smaller communities grow and plan and do things in a better way.”

Among the projects being proposed:

  • Relocating Grabill’s town hall to what was described as a longtime eyesore – a vacant property at State and Main streets. The grant for $375,000 would help fund the land purchase, removal of a concrete foundation laid by a previous owner, a building and possible development of a visitors welcome center. If the property cannot be acquired, the community advanced an alternative project to extend a trail to Hurshtown Reservoir.
  • Rebuilding a fire-damaged park pavilion in Leo-Cedarville for $680,000 and a trail project for $630,000 that would connect Riverside Gardens, Leo-Cedarville Park and county-owned Metea Park.
  • Funding an “outdoor band theater” and other improvements to Hoagland Community Park for $327,000.
  • Improving Monroeville Community Park with possibly a splash pad and doing trail work for $250,000.
  • Making park improvements and connectivity upgrades in Woodburn for $500,000, including possibly moving a baseball diamond. 

Castleman and consultant Kristi Strutz of Sturtz PMG said the timetable for specific plans would be six to nine months.  

Information about proposals is at www.newallenalliance.net.

Board member Tim Pape said the projects, compared with what the board has funded, such as Fort Wayne’s Riverfront, are on a small scale.

While he did not dispute the projects’ potential impact, he questioned whether they should be part of the municipalities’ budgets instead. “It’s really a different kind of ask of these funds,” he said.

Board member Nancy Townsend, attending via conference call, challenged the board “not to be in a box.” 

“I believe we need to look at the whole county, and I think what NewAllen has done is really historic. … This is a cohesive plan for half the county, and it’s an asset we need to develop and draw upon,” she said.