UNION CITY, Ind. — Union City Indiana City Planner Monte Poling said the city is a very strong contender in the contest towards the Stellar Communities Designation.
Launched in 2011, the Stellar Communities Designation Program is a multi-agency partnership, designed to recognize Indiana’s smaller communities that have identified comprehensive community and economic development projects and activities, as well as next steps and key partnerships. This is Union City’s second year as a finalist of the designation. Each year, Stellar picks three finalists. The other two cities in the race are Churubusco and Culver.
“I think we had a very strong application last year as we do this year,” Poling said. “All of it ties together and the projects compliment one-another.”
American Structurepoint, Inc., a consulting firm in Indianapolis, was hired by Union City to help earn the designation. Project Planner Brandon Bart with American Structurepoint said the Stellar Community Designation allows for prioritied access to a lot of state funding.
“What it allows the city is some non-competitive funds to apply for,” Poling said. “We still have to hit all the requirements for the federal funding, but we are not competing against 99 other communities for that funding.”
According to Bart, Union City’s projects equal about $8 million worth of work. The Stellar designation would cover about $5 million of that funding. Poling said the projects have to prove a value to the city.
“You really have to look at each project and say, not only is it a good sounding and looking project, it has to have the ability to be successful and sustainable, and something unreliant on grant funding to continue,” he said.
Communities have to put together a physical plan of what they will build, how they will build it and who is in charge, Bart said. Some of Union City’s Strategic Investment Plan projects are: “City Gateways”, “Artisan Crossing”, “Downtown facade projects”, “Oak Street Trail”, “Downtown to Harter Park”, “Downtown to Schools”, “Downtown Streetscape” and “Daycare and Youth Center”. The project ideas were developed by a city committee, including Mayor Bryan Conklin, Poling, members of the Arts Depot, the YMCA and a lot of locals.
“In addition, we did several surveys and received input at our meetings from a Stellar Committee of about 20 people,” Poling said.
Representatives of Stellar will do a site visit for a presentation and tour. Based on the final product and the site visit, the Stellar selection committee will choose the winner. Communities are judged by state organizations, such as the Department of Transportation and the Indiana Office of Community and Rural Affairs. In October, the winner will be announced. If Union City receives the designation, it will have a three-four-year period to complete the projects.
“If we got the designation, it will be a life-changing experience for the community,” Poling said. “It will put in a place a lot of things we have needed and wanted for many years. It will really set us up for success in economic development and quality of life.”
Also, Union City, is helping with a comprehensive plan for Randolph County. It is a 10-20 year outlook into the future, that includes plans for land-use development, transportation improvements, economic development, manufacturing development, adding infrastructure and other long-range goals. Poling is also on the committee for the comprehensive plan.
“Without that kind of an overview the comprehensive plan gives, it is very difficult to tell where we are in the county,” Poling said. “It puts those plans in place and prioritizes. It is also needed in order to be eligible for federal funding. It’s a team effort and we have a really good team in place. It’s a lot of fun.”
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