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12/27/2017 3:41:00 PM
Stellar Communities projects, infrastructure top Wabash mayor's list for 2018

Mackenzi Klemann, Wabash Plain Dealer Editor

Mayor Scott Long will spend his third year in office focused on infrastructure and seeing the completion of projects associated with the city’s Stellar Communities designation.

Contracts for all Stellar-funded projects need to be awarded before the end of 2018, but it appears that most projects will be complete well before that deadline.

All Stellar-related projects are either finished or under construction right now, save for the second phase of the Owner-Occupied home improvement program, the All-Inclusive Playground and improvements to the Ind. 13 – Ind. 15 corridor. Those three projects should be done by the end of 2018, according to current estimates.

Long said he expects bids for the Ind. 13 – Ind. 15 corridor project to be let in February, with construction taking another six months to complete beginning sometime in April.

Background work like right-of-way purchasing is already underway.

“We’re prepared to hit the ground running,” Long said. “They’ll be milling that road and putting new sidewalks in. That will affect our traffic some ... hopefully that is only a six month project.”

Construction of the All-Inclusive Playground is expected to begin next spring and the second phase of the Owner-Occupied program will begin early next year, Long said.

The first phase of the Eagles Theatre renovation is already underway, as is the Rock City Lofts senior housing complex. The second phase of the city’s facade improvement program is almost complete, with seven buildings still under construction including the Eagles Theatre and Rock City Lofts, both of which received facade grants. Fifteen buildings funded through the program are already complete, according to the December Stellar progress report.

West Market Street streetscape improvements are partially underway after being put on hold for the first three years of the Stellar program.

Plans to convert one-way streets to two-ways are still on hold, but improvements to Market and Canal streets started in October. The modified project will see the removal of overgrown trees to be replaced with fountain grass, lighting, flower pots and benches, according to the December progress report. New ADA-compliant sidewalks will be installed, too.

The report says that tree removal along West Market Street will begin the Wednesday after Christmas or soon after.

Infrastructure goals

Long cited infrastructure maintenance as one of his top priorities heading into 2018.

The Stellar-related streetscape improvements are one of several projects on his 2018 agenda. Others include new sidewalks near the South Side and Hanna parks and the doubling of the number of streets the City repaves next year, thanks to funds from the state’s Community Crossings grant.

The mayor also hopes to have a final design for the Business Park bridge before the end of 2018. The project will connect an unused portion of the business park to the current site, which Long believes will make the location more attractive to prospective employers.

“I want to be prepared to accept any businesses that want to potentially locate out there and have access to that west parcel of land,” he said.

Workforce development

The mayor says he will focus his attention on workforce development and talent attraction in 2018, too.

Long plans to continue working with nearby local governments and mayors, particularly those in the northeast Indiana region, to make the region more attractive to prospective employers and residents.

“Hopefully doing that can reverse our declining population trend,” he said.

A housing study is underway to evaluate the City’s zoning ordinances and their impact on housing, the results of which will be shared with the plan commission early next month.

“Housing is a huge issue for everybody in the state,” Long said. “You’ve got to have viable housing if you want to attract people.”

Copyright 2018 Wabash Plain Dealer

Editor, John C. DePrez Jr.; Executive Editor, Carol Rogers; Publishers: IBRC and IAR

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