Leaders from all over Wabash County came together at the Honeywell Center on March 14 to celebrate the progress they’ve made and to reflect on what still needs to be done during the Wabash Business Alliance’s State of Our Communities.
Wabash County Commissioner Brian Haupert’s primary focus was the overpopulation of the Wabash County Jail. He explained that the need for space continues to grow as the jails in surrounding counties are also filling up, but that they didn’t have a way to pay for a new, bigger jail that wouldn’t result in increasing taxes across the county. As a result, according to Haupert, the county will have to work harder in addressing the issues that lead to incarceration, namely the opioid crisis.
“How we resolve the overpopulation problem still remains to be seen,” Haupert said. “But we know that something is going to have to be done very soon.”
Mayor Scott Long from the city of Wabash gave a breakdown of what each city department had been up to over the past year or so and the projects in store for the future. Connecting back to Haupert’s concerns about the opioid epidemic, Long reported that the local drug task force was hard at work investigating drug-related crimes and getting the substances off the streets. Long also stated that over the last year, 12 new homes were built as well as a few commercial buildings including the new Parkview Wabash Hospital and a Lutheran Health clinic.
“We can’t just sit around and talk about what we want to do or think about it,” Long said. “We have to actually get out and do it. The vision we possess is, in the end, what we will accomplish for the betterment of the community as a whole.”
North Manchester Town council member Chalmer “Toby” Tobias credited the town’s staff and leadership for economic growth and a perceived bright future. In addition to welcoming Precision Medical to town, and the estimated 60 jobs brought by the company, Tobias said that North Manchester’s “biggest undertaking,” as of right now is a housing development to provide more options for people seeking to build a life there.
“The work is never done,” Tobias said about building up Wabash County for the future. “I think everyone knows that. We are going to get bombarded by negativity a lot and we knew that going in, but the important thing is to keep doing what (we’re) doing. It’s working.”
The smaller towns of Wabash County –Roann, Lagro and LaFontaine – were all excited by the recent improvements made to their communities and had goals of expanding their efforts to bring in more economic prosperity. Road repair and resurfacing were made possible through INDOT grants and historic buildings could receive new life in coming months through private investors and restoration grants intent on building up these towns who have for years allowed time to take its toll.
Large businesses like Family Dollar as well as family-owned operations are also starting to pop up in the area; the first buds of a potentially flourishing small-town rebirth.
“We are pleased with what has transpired and we look forward as people gain more and more interest in our small towns and we can maybe get back on course to a thriving community,” Richard Monce, Lagro Town Council member, said.
The common thread tying all of these communities together was the emphasis on teamwork. While each town or city’s goals differed slightly, they all recognized that they couldn’t move forward as a county unless they lent a hand to their fellow communities.
“With all the economic and political challenges applied on cities, counties and towns, working together makes more sense now than ever,” Haupert said. “Working together, we can make our towns, our cities, our county grow and be prosperous as a benefit being not only for ourselves but for the future generations.”