Ligonier focused on projects in progress and in planning
By Kelly Lynch | KPC News - The News Sun
The city is making major moves this year to meet Ligonier’s potential for new jobs, residents and amenities.
Mayor Patty Fisel emphasized these points during her State of the City address Thursday evening to a full council chamber at Ligonier City Hall.
“We’re the little pea in the pod, and we had to do something significant, something that was different in the plans,” Fisel said. “We have a gold wmine running through this city.”
Fisel pointed to the presentation of the city’s proposed Strawberry Valley Cultural Trail to the Northeast Indiana Regional Development Authority Tuesday as one of the first steps to boost the city’s appeal for investment from new business and residents.
A $254,000 Regional Cities Initiative grant would help launch the estimated $1.4 million first phase of the trail and culminate in a 5-mile loop that builds on the current Elkhart Riverwalk by connecting downtown murals, statues and historical landmarks to the city’s parks.
City officials won’t know whether the funding request is approved for another month, but Fisel is hopeful.
“Ligonier is going to be the connector to get people to where they want to go,” Fisel said. “I think we’re in a good location. I think that gives us a good opportunity to possibly be funded.”
While the cultural trail may be the most ambitious project the city has ever aimed for, at the moment, it’s still in the proposal stage.
The city has multiple programs and projects already slated for implementation and construction this year, and Fisel spent the majority of her time at the podium outlining what the year has in store.
Ligonier City Hall will welcome and provide a space for Indiana 3rd District Rep. Jim Banks’ staff members to hold open office hours from 9:30 a.m. to noon the third Tuesday of every month, beginning next week.
This gives residents a direct line to the congressman, Fisel said.
“Please take advantage of that,” Fisel said. “As long as we can get our voice out there, that’s what it’s all about. They’re never going to know who we are or what our needs are if we don’t tell them.”
Once the weather begins to warm, construction on multiple improvement projects will begin, starting with a 250-foot retaining wall on the Elkhart River east of Cavin Street near Third Street and a horse and carriage parking area on Fourth Street to accommodate Amish community members.
City officials will be bidding out its proposed $2 million waterworks overhaul project in April after being awarded a $650,000 Indiana Office of Community and Rural Affairs grant in December.
Construction is planned to begin in July and includes treatment plant renovations; replacement and addition of water mains, hydrants and valves; updating system software; and an overall improvement of the distribution network.
The spring season will also bring the completion of the city’s years-long, nearly $2 million sewer separation and wastewater plant renovation project.
The separation of the city’s stormwater lines from sewer lines is the result of an unfunded federal mandate from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to stop contamination of rivers and water sources during periods of heavy rain, which have the potential to cause overflow of untreated waste.
“When we get finished, we’ve only got a few small sections that won’t be separated, so we’re pretty much on board with that,” Fisel said.
Upgrades have included building a new sanitary sewage system on the north side of the river, installing higher-capacity pumps, constructing new clarifiers, increasing overall capacity of the wastewater treatment plant and overhauling the ultraviolet disinfection chamber.
Throughout the year, work will continue on erecting the three-story, 54-unit Riverside Villa Apartments complex at 200 Water St.
The $7.8 million project broke ground in three months ago and is slated to be completed in November. It will provide income-based housing with one- and two-bedroom units and has already opened a waiting list for those interested in renting an apartment.
More than the projects already scheduled is the potential for even more improvements in the downtown business district and residents’ front yards, Fisel said.
Fisel took time in her speech to reiterate the importance of citizens taking advantage of the city’s facade improvement grant program, as well as its new 50/50 sidewalk renovation program.
For the facade program, the city matches the cost of exterior improvements, up to $30,000 in total construction, for downtown businesses. It encompasses the entirety of the outside of a building, not just the front face as many other programs. It can also pay for details including murals, sidewalks and signs.
The newly-implemented sidewalk renovation program splits the cost of installing sidewalks and can help with aesthetic and liability issues.
It’s these ambitious projects and ideas that make Ligonier great, but even more than that are the people working behind the scenes to make them a reality, Fisel said.
“I tell everybody everywhere we go that the reason Ligonier gets so much done is because we have such a great team,” Fisel said. “We’ve got a lot to celebrate.”
These projects are meant to attract more business and visitors to stay in Ligonier to see what it has to offer, rather than go on to Shipshewana or other nearby destinations.
Fisel knows that the city has the potential. It just needs the investment.
“We’ve got the jobs. We’ve got the businesses. We’ve got the industries out there,” Fisel said.