(ORLEANS) - The Orleans Town Council members conducted two separate public hearings last Thursday relating to current town projects being undertaken with the assistance of Indiana 15 Regional Planning Commission.
The group's Executive Director Lisa Gehlhausen conducted the two public hearings concerning the council's intent to seek state planning grant money to assist with the updating and revising of the town's Comprehensive Plan. The present plan was developed in 1994 by the Cordino Group of Jeffersonville and is now out of date.
Orange County Economic Development Partnership Executive Director Judy Gray spoke in favor of the project and the importance of having a current plan for future growth and development within the corporate limits.
Gehlhausen said the planning grant applications are accepted on a rolling basis by the Indiana Office of Rural and Community Affairs (OCRA) with the town required to commit some money in part towards the project. The town's application will be submitted to OCRA on January 24th.
The second public hearing focused on the town's on-going efforts to secure grant money to assist with the building of a new fire station to house the Orleans Municipal Fire Department and emergency services. Several audience members commented on the need of a new fire building and encouraged council members to proceed with seeking funding for the vital community project.
The current aging structure housing the fire department is located behind town hall and is actually a converted garage area constructed in the mid to late 1940s and is no longer feasible to properly house the town's emergency services. Due to a lack of space some fire equipment is being stored off site in separate town owned buildings.
In addition fire and rescue vehicles must exit and enter the fire building from an alleyway, which poses several safety concerns not limited but including to the vehicle traffic parked along the street in front of town offices and the safety of patrons, many of them children, walking to the library building nearby.
Gehlhausen says the town could seek up to $400,000 with matching money in part being required to be used towards the fire station construction. Proposals are due February 14 with the town's formal application due April 11. Award announcements will be made on or about June 27.
In other matters, Gehlhausen reported that the town's White Castle Clearance project was monitored by (OCRA) on January 10 and that the town will receive a report from the monitoring and closing out in the next few weeks.
Council members also gave their stamp of approval for the town's Economic Development Plan which had been developed and presented to council members for their review by the newly established Orleans Redevelopment Commission (ORC). The formal approval of the town council was the third step in the statutory approval process for creating an Economic Development Area (ED Area), and the possible collection of Tax Increment Financing (TIF) revenues by the Town.
As a result of the approval of the Town Council, the ORC will now proceed with advertising for a public hearing on the ED Plan to allow additional citizen comments before taking final action. In addition to this final public hearing, the ORC conducted two Public Workshops last November to discuss the purpose of creating an ED Plan, and for the purpose of discussing what land should be included in the ED Area. Public input from these Workshops was used to shape the ED Plan.
The parts of Orleans which are proposed for designating as an ED Area include the Historic Downtown central business district, the abandoned former White Castle site, land controlled by Hoosier Energy/OC REMC, Wash World, a section of the former Orleans Industrial Park, and the new Dollar General site.
The public hearing is scheduled to be held on February 6, 7 p.m.at town hall. After receiving public input, the ORC will make any final adjustments to the ED Plan and then decide whether to approve the ED Plan.
Council members learned the town's two new tornado sirens had been installed successfully and were now being tested on a regular basis every Friday along with the third one installed by the town several years ago. Appreciation was expressed to Duke Energy for their invaluable assistance with the project.
Several town departmental heads submitted their annual year end summaries and reports to council members during the meeting.
Town Supt. Mike Dixon reported on a number of seasonal matters including the town crew's battles with the recent intense subzero weather which resulted in a number of meters freezing and main breaks. A discussion was also held concerning the possibility of adding on to the town's current garage and shop area, located on South Franklin Street as well as pursuing plans for the proposed Splash Park in conjunction with the town's upcoming Becennential celebration in 2015.
In a related matter, it was reported that a working group, formerly known as "Imagine Orleans," consisting of various community representatives and interests will be meeting monthly beginning later this month to discuss ideas and formulate plans for the town's 200thbirthday observance. Council members earlier appointed Orleans Town Clerk Robert F. Henderson to chair the town's Bicentennial activities. The first planning meeting is set for Jan. 30th 6:30 p.m. at town hall. Anyone interested in helping or assisting with the celebration is encouraged and urged to attend.
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