February 6, 2024 at 11:11 p.m.
Dunkirk asked for help.
Jay County Development Corporation agreed to provide it.
During its meeting Tuesday, JCDC’s board voted unanimously for the organization to assist Dunkirk with an application for grant funding to update its five-year utility master plan after hearing a plea from the city’s mayor.
Jack Robbins, who as mayor of Dunkirk sits on the JCDC board, told his fellow members he reached out to community coordinator Nate Kimball multiple times without any result.
“I’ve got no applications, I’ve got nothing,” he said.
He asked for JCDC’s assistance with the planning grant. (He noted that the city worked with JCDC on the grant for the five-year plan that is now at its end.)
“This has got to be done,” Robbins added, noting that having such a plan is a requirement to apply for project grants through Indiana Office of Community and Rural Affairs.
Asked about capacity to handle the work, JCDC executive director Travis Richards said it is feasible but that future construction grants would not be possible at current staffing levels. He noted that the organization is currently helping Redkey with a similar grant.
Richards pointed out that, based on JCDC’s contract with the county signed last year, such grant applications fall outside of the organization’s purview. (They are to be handled by the community coordinator.)
But, he added, JCDC is continuing to work on grants it had started before that contract was in place, and the 2024 contract has yet to be signed as final details are worked out. (The board discussed the contract earlier in the meeting.) He expressed a desire to not further aggravate the relationship between JCDC and the county but expressed a desire to help Dunkirk.
“That’s why we’re here,” Richards said. “We’re here to help our communities grow. We’re here to help them with whatever it is they need.”
Robbins said he had talked to two of the three commissioners regarding the city’s needs and that he would go to them again to explain the situation.
“I think it would be unfortunate if we missed the opportunity to support Dunkirk in their planning grant opportunity,” said board member Rob Keisling, making a motion to approve Robbins’ request.
The board members in attendance voted unanimously to assist Dunkirk with the grant application and asked Robbins to have a conversation with commissioners to explain the situation.
“I’m sure it’s going to ruffle feathers, but as long as you have that discussion that you had your back to the wall, I’m OK with it,” said board member Angela Paxson.
Also Tuesday, the board agreed to have new financial reports monthly, which the commissioners’ representative can then report back to his colleagues. Richards said commissioner Rex Journay, who now sits on the board and its executive committee, indicated that the proposed reports would meet commissioners’ previous request for an accounting of JCDC expenditures. He said commissioners made that request as part of their process of determining funding for JCDC for 2024.
As part of the discussion about finances, the board noted its cash balance, which currently sits at about 42% of annual expenses. Several members said they would recommend having sixth months — 50% of annual expenses — in reserve.
“Yes,” said board member and Jay County Council vice president Cindy Bracy, “because you could have some flaky elected officials that move things around.”
The board agreed to consider a formal cash reserve policy at a later date.
Also discussed at the meeting were the shared utilities at Community Resource Center, the building owned by the City of Portland that houses JCDC, Jay County Chamber of Commerce, Jay County Visitor and Tourism Bureau, Jay/Portland Building and Planning, and the county-contracted community coordinator.
Richards noted that traditionally utilities have been in JCDC’s name and paid for by JCDC, with the other organizations providing reimbursement. He noted, however, that the county’s contract with the city for the community coordinator’s office eliminated language regarding utilities and that commissioners denied claims for water, wastewater, electric, drinking water and gas while approving a claim for rug/carpet cleaning.
He said he has reached out to Portland Mayor Jeff Westlake regarding the issue.
Richards suggested one possibility would be to remove JCDC as the middleman by putting all utility services in the city’s name, with the city then billing each of the entities in the building individually.
In other business, the JCDC board:
•Elected Angela Paxson as president, Ron Laux as vice president, Barb Street as secretary and Trent Paxson as treasurer. Re-elected to three-year terms on the board were Mary Adair, Doug Loy, Josh Atkinson, Mark Leavell, Alicia Corwin, Angela Paxson, Keisling and Laux. Elected Journay to a two-year term replacing Brian McGalliard as the commissioners' representative and Portland Mayor Jeff Westlake to a one-year term replacing former mayor John Boggs.
•Approved $4,800 to renew a contract for the Yodel community calendar. Richards said he will take the request back to commissioners for their OK.
•Heard from Richards that the county is not eligible to apply for the new Stellar Pathways program — a revamped version of the previous Stellar Communities, in which both Dunkirk and the Jay! Region had been finalists — because it is still involved in the Hoosier Enduring Legacy Program (HELP). Once the HELP process is complete, the county could look into applying for Stellar Pathways.
•Approved an update to its policy on checks and billing. Checks will be double-signed as they have been, with a new policy of all bills being double-initialed by those who sign the checks. They also approved Richards, Loy, Street, Angela Paxson and Trent Paxson as check signers.
•OK’d shifting from an annual audit to a review. Bollenbacher and Associates, which has handled the organization’s annual audits, is no longer offering audits but said a review should be sufficient.
•Learned from Richards that the East Central Indiana Regional Partnership annual luncheon is Feb. 22. He encouraged local elected officials to attend.
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