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Local counties looking to leverage $50M economic development opportunity
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A $500 million statewide Regional Economic Acceleration and Development Initiative (READI), is spurring a sense of excitement among local officials about what could be achieved through Our Southern Indiana Regional Development Authority (OurSIRDA) for Jefferson, Scott, Clark, Floyd and Washington counties with such an infusion of money.

“We have the opportunity of a lifetime,” said OurSIRDA Chair Dana Huber at Friday’s Board of Directors meeting that included a presentation of the READI program by Mark Wasky, vice president of Innovation and Strategic Initiatives for the Indiana Economic Development Corporation (IEDC).

READI encourages communities to team up regionally to improve economic development efforts. As part of the program, individual regions — there are 10 in the state — can be awarded up to $50 million for implementation of their regional development plans.

That’s enough money to draw interest from a wide array of governmental officials and entities throughout the five-county region. Friday’s meeting was attended by about 60 people — as well as others watching online — including a table with Madison Mayor Bob Courtney and Jefferson County Commissioner David Bramer.

Beginning this Wednesday, at a special meeting at Hanover College’s Ogle Center, OurSIRDA will issue a call for projects from local governments, developers and private entities to be submitted by July 20. On Aug. 6, the five-member Board of Directors will meet to prioritize those projects and approve a draft of the Regional Development Plan with the board approving the plan on Aug. 20. On Aug. 31, the RDA will submit its plan with IEDC expecting to finalize funding recommendations before the end of 2021.

Wasky said READI is based the idea that “promoting collaborative, long-term strategic planning for regions focused on quality of place, quality of life, and beyond ... play a role in someone’s decision to locate or stay in a community. So, the objective of this is to help grow the state’s population.”

He said the state wants to invest in regions that create long-term, strategic plans that do just that with a focus on leveraging state dollars to attract private funding to create more development and jobs.

“We are going to invest in plans that you put together that include items, initiatives, plans and projects that are important for your region to grow and be prosperous,” Wasky said. “We can’t from Indianapolis tell you in southern Indiana what barriers you have to your growth or what opportunities you see for us to be able to invest. We are looking for you to tell us what you need and provide us the opportunity to come alongside and invest in your plan.

Wasky noted the state is also looking for plans that can provide a level of sustainability beyond the initial influx of cash and stressed “the need to continue this effort even beyond or the absence of state’s money.”

“It was fantastic to see this region come together doing just that. Not having any guarantee that the state is going to have any resources available,” Wasky said of OurSIRDA, noting he was impressed by the group’s cooperative efforts to developed a plan with regional vision, goals and objectives.

He said IEDC is looking for regions committed to continued implementation once the state’s money has been invested, and to thinking creatively of continuing to deploy those funds to see there opportunities to invest them to return those funds to the region.

“Once this initial investment is made the region will continue to find ways to advance their plan,” Wasky said, describing the scenario the state hopes to develop.

The IEDC funding formula has been outlined to consist of 20% from READI, 20% from local government, foundations and entities, and 60% from the private sector but on Friday, Wasky indicated some flexibility in those percentages.

“Depending on the project program we’re going to be investing in, that could be split differently, but we still want to be sure that the majority of the investment of the plan is coming from private sector” because the IEDC believes that will help drive additional investment. “It shows the commitment of the private sector and provides some skin in the game for them to take ownership of the plan to be sure it is to continue to be implemented.”

Courtney said the City of Madison plans to submit “multiple projects” that fall into four categories ranging from Housing and Quality of Life to Infrastructure and Education.”

He said it’s still “a bit early” to disclose the projects until OSIRDC releases the submission template at the upcoming meeting Wednesday at Hanover College.

Road repairs more complicated that anticipated
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Federal funding is coming in 2026 to fully mill and repave Madison’s Main Street from Jefferson Street to Old State Road 56 at the top of Hanover Hill, but until then the City of Madison is doing its best to maintain the useful life of the roadway.

At Monday’s Board of Public Works meeting, Deputy Mayor and Chief of Staff Mindy McGee explained that additional work and money will needed to extend the useful life of that stretch of roadway until that funding becomes available.

Earlier this year, Madison City Council approved spending $500,000 to patch and seal the highway with the solution, TopShell, a cement-based microsurface that bonds with asphalt to provide a tough, smooth surface.

However, McGee said more extensive deterioration of the roadway, particularly on the Hanover Hill area where trucks now are being directed to the center lane because the right lane going up the hill is “quite bad,” will make that project more complicated than planned.

McGee said originally the plan was to do a rejuvenation process which “didn’t take a lot of patching and paving just to keep the road surface drivable and safe and do the bigger project in a few years” but the deterioration of the roadway is more advanced than anticipated so “there is some patching that is going to have to happen.”

She said the city’s engineering firm is working with INDOT, which is allowing modifications to be made, on how they will reprioritize their funding for the work.

“When they went through the stretch of road, they found 200 (patches) that needed to done,” McGee said. “I don’t know that we’ll be able to do all of them, but we’re going to do as much good work as we can before we put the surface on top of it.”

McGee said the change will also require more “crack and seal” because while the TopShell product “makes it look pretty... it’s only going to go over what’s already there. We want to make it look a little better and more structurally sound before we do it.”

In other business:

• Granted Utilities Manager Brian Jackson permission to submit an application to the Drinking Water State Revolving Fund Loan Program. “We want to get our application submitted so we are on the list,” said Jackson, who noted the existing storage facilities are past due for a complete rehabilitation, and system controls are in need of upgrade. “Nothing has been done for 20 years,” he said.

• Approved a petition to vacate a right-of-way at 1708 Cragmont Street owned by Johann Enterprises. Realtor John Demaree said it was discovered last week that the building, constructed in 1975, had been inadvertently built on the right-of-way because Washington Avenue, the roadway behind the building, had been measured off-center. Demaree said the request is to basically tidy up the property deed to ensure its done correctly. City attorney Joe Jenner said there are likely other properties in the city with the same issue.

• Approved traffic improvement recommendations from Madison Police Chief John Wallace. At the southeastern corner of Fourth and Jefferson streets, the yellow no parking zone line will be extended one extra parking space because drivers turning south on Fourth Street are unable to see northbound traffic if vehicles are parked there. At First and Cragmont streets the yellow no parking zone will be painted consistent with the rest of the intersection where new sidewalks were installed at the Riverside Tower Lofts.

• Approved street closures for the Broadway School Reunion on Saturday, Sept. 18, from the alley north of Presbyterian Avenue to Fifth Street from noon until 10 p.m. Event organizer Floyd Gibson Jr. noted a bit nervousness for safety and health reasons as the event returns after being canceled last year due to COVID-19. Madison Mayor Bob Courtney said he wants them to feel safe to enjoy the reunion, calling it “a fantastic event, and we want to make sure it’s successful again.”

• Approved street closures for the Historic Broadway Hotel and Tavern’s block party Wednesday, June 30, on Broadway Street running south from Main Street to the north side of Second Street from 3 p.m. to 11:30 p.m.

• Approved street closures for Wine, Stein and Barrel, an fundraising event for Madison Riverfront Development Corporation, on Saturday, June 19, from 2 p.m. to 11 p.m. on Vaughn Drive between the west side of West Street and the east side of Poplar Street. Nearly 700 participants are expected, according to MRDC representative J.D. Webster.

• Received a mid-point PACE update from Nicole Schell, director of planning, on a property at 2042 Wilson Avenue. The windows and roof have been completed to the house, which was a dilapidated structure. “I’m glad to see it getting new life,” Courtney said. The board also granted two-month extensions to three PACE projects including: Marcus Gray at 928 Park Avenue, Derek Hughes at 411 Jefferson Street, and Eric Dodge at 518 Jefferson Street.

Jefferson's COVID death toll increases by 2
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Jefferson County’s death toll from the COVID-19 pandemic grew by two over the weekend based on information released by the Indiana Department of Health. To date 84 local deaths have now been related to the pandemic.

Jefferson County has had a total 3,340 confirmed cases of COVID-19 — an increase of three from Friday — and the county’s current seven-day average positivity rate is 2.9% while the seven-day positivity for unique individuals is 8.5%. Jefferson County’s metric level remains in “Blue” for low community spread.

Switzerland County has had a total of 805 positive cases during the pandemic with no increase during the weekend. The county’s total deaths during the pandemic in remains at 8 while the county’s current seven-day average positivity rate is 3.9% and the seven-day positivity for unique individuals is 7.4%. Switzerland County’s metric level is “Yellow” for moderate community spread.

In Jefferson County, 13,067 have been fully vaccinated with 13,039 receiving the first of a two-dose series. Switzerland County has 2,313 fully vaccinated with 2,310 receiving the first of a two-dose series.

In Kentucky, Gov. Andy Beshear announced Friday a new vaccine incentive drawing, called a “Shot at a Million.”

Two types of drawings are available for permanent residents of Kentucky. In one drawing, Kentuckians 18 years and older who have received at least their first dose of a Moderna or Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine, or the one-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine, may enter to win one of three $1 million drawings. The other drawing, for Kentuckians 12 to 17 years old who have received at least their first dose of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine, may enter to win one of 15 full scholarships to a Kentucky public college, university, technical or trade school, which includes tuition, room-and-board and books.

“This is a lifesaving and now possibly life-changing opportunity,” Beshear said. “You can get your shot of hope and then enter for a shot at $1 million or a shot at one of 15 full scholarships — both protecting you from this deadly virus and possibly transforming your future.”

On Monday, 2,104,696 people have received at least their first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine in Kentucky with 1,749,836 fully vaccinated.

On June 5, the Kentucky Department of Public Health reported 369 new cases of COVID-19, bringing the overall total during the pandemic to 460,412 positive cases overall. The total known deaths from COVID-19 in Kentucky is now 7,091 deaths, an increase of five from the previous day.

In Indiana, 2,589,796 have been fully vaccinated with 2,690,103 receiving the first of a two-dose series. The Indiana Department of Health announced Wednesday that 275 additional Hoosiers have been diagnosed with COVID-19, bringing the total to 747,083 the number of Indiana residents now known to have had the novel coronavirus. To date, 13,269 Hoosiers are confirmed to have died from COVID-19, an increase of two from the previous day.

In information from the North Central District Health Department, Trimble County has reported 729 cases of COVID-19 with three active cases and overall seven deaths during the pandemic. The incidence rate in Trimble County is now at “Yellow” at 5.1% for community spread.

There have 1,033 cases of COVID-19 in Carroll County during the pandemic with total of 20 deaths. The incidence rate in Carroll County remains at “Orange” with 10.8% for accelerated community spread.

COVID vaccines are continuing to be administered Monday through Friday at the Jefferson County Health Department for those 12 years of age and older. Appointments can be scheduled by visiting www.our shot.in.gov or by calling 211. Walk-ins are welcome Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday from 2 p.m.-5 p.m., and Thursday and Friday from 10 a.m.-2 p.m. Everyone 12 years of age and older is eligible. An adult must accompany a child 12 to 15 to the appointment; parental consent is required for minors.

Switzerland County Health Department is operating a vaccine clinic at the Switzerland County Technology and Education Center, 708 West Seminary Street, Vevay.

Kentuckians should visit vaccinemap.ky.gov to find a COVID-19 vaccination site near them.