June 5, 2024 at 2:05 p.m.

JCDC to ask for $ to restore staffing

Executive committee continuing to discuss commissioners’ contract points


Jay County Development Corporation will request funding to return the organization to its previous staffing level.

Points of consideration offered by Jay County Commissioners as part of contract negotiations are still being discussed.

The JCDC board of directors voted unanimously Tuesday to request $261,975 from the county for 2025, which would allow the organization to hire a new employee to restore the Jay County Community Development position that has been vacant for nearly two years.

Board president Angela Paxson explained that the board’s executive committee went back and forth on whether to request funding ($156,010 from the county) for JCDC’s current staff of two or a return to three. She expressed her preference for three, saying the organization needs an additional grant writer, work on its website and the ability to free up executive director Travis Richards to spend more time in the community.

The community development position has been vacant since August 2022. County commissioners decided to go in a different direction, opting to hire a community coordinator through East Central Indiana Regional Planning District.

The board unanimously voted to request the funding to return to a three-person staff.

Paxson also reported to the board that its executive committee has met twice to discuss the proposed contract points from commissioners as part of JCDC’s contract negotiations with the county. She said the committee plans to meet again regarding those points, which include reducing board membership to between 9 and 11 from the current 25 with the mayors or council presidents of Portland and Dunkirk, one county commissioner, one county council representative and representatives from Bryant, Redkey, Pennville and Salamonia as members; meeting monthly or as needed; and making manufacturing the purview of JCDC while retail business would be handled by the community coordinator.

As the negotiations continue, the board informally agreed to request the disbursement of county funds for the first half of 2024 as a good-faith gesture.

Board member Rex Journay, who is also a county commissioner, later suggested that JCDC respond to the commissioners’ points before making their funding request.

JCDC took no further action on the issue.

Richards noted that he has received an updated lease agreement from the City of Portland for the organization’s space in Community Resource Center. He said he will forward it to board members for their review.

There has been a dispute over the lease agreements since the fall because the updated terms were not the same for all tenants. Tenants met with Portland Board of Works on May 15 to discuss the contracts, coming to an agreement in principle to monthly rent of $350, one-year leases to be reviewed annually, the city covering maintenance for permanent structures such as heating, cooling, plumbing, electrical, the parking lot, etc.; and tenants being responsible for utilities and the cost of other shared items such as bathroom and cleaning supplies.

Richards said he expects the contracts to be on the agenda for the next board of works meeting at 4 p.m. Wednesday.

Richards updated the board on recent JCDC activity, including a tax abatement for Fort Recovery Holdings, the $35 million Regional Economic Acceleration and Development Initiative (READI 2.0) and the coming final application for projects, challenges being submitted regarding internet access as part of the Broadband Equity Access and Development program, business retention and expansion visits and his certification to work on Community Development Block Grant work.

In other business:

•Richards presented the financial report, noting that the organization closed a certificate of deposit at the end of April. That resulted in $30,000 shifting from the CD to JCDC’s general fund.

•The board celebrated recent honors, including the Not for Profit of the Year Award during the Jay County Community Awards and Richards winning the inaugural East Central Indiana Pathfinder Partnership Award. “I hope what that shows is we’re doing the right things, we’re on the right path,” Richards said.

•Alexander commented on the strength of Indianapolis pharmaceuticals firm Eli Lilly, which is now the ninth most capitalized company at $791 billion. He said the growth the company has shown is great news for the state, noting that it results in additional funding being available through the Lilly Endowment.

•Mary Adair noted that the county now has a representative — McKenna Vore — through the Ball State University County Ambassador Program, which is an effort to empower students to share community pride and to encourage their friends and classmates to get to know their county and why they may want to consider working or living there in the future.

•The board heard reminders about various events, including:

—Community appreciation day at CrossRoads Financial Federal Credit Union with lunch from 11 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Thursday

—The National Center for Great Lakes Native American Culture Gathering of Great Lakes Nations from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Saturday and 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday at the Tri-State Gas Engine and Tractor Association Grounds, 1010 N. Morton St., Portland.

—Portland Elks’ observation of Flag Day, scheduled for 6 p.m. Friday, June 14, at the Elks Lodge, 126 W. High St.

—A fundraiser for Jayland Partners, also sponsored by the Elks, beginning at 5 p.m. Friday, June 14, at Good-Rich Brewery

—A Hank Ruff and the Hellbenders concert, a benefit for Jay County Cancer Society, on Aug. 17 at the Hudson Family Park amphitheater

—A ribbon-cutting ceremony at noon Friday at Patriot Auto Service and Sales, which will include a cookout.

•Journay offered a reminder that applications are open for the county’s owner-occupied rehab program. It offers funding for home improvements including roof, water heating or heating ventilation and air conditioning unit replacements, electrical work or upgrades to make a home more accessible and applications are available at Jay County Auditor’s Office at Jay County Courthouse in Portland, Dunkirk City Hall, Redkey Town Hall and community coordinator Nate Kimball’s office at the Community Resource Center in Portland. 

•Trent Paxson complimented the business growth in the former Westlawn Elementary School building in Dunkirk.

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