Greg Beumer, grant administrator with Kleinpeter Consulting, offered updates at Union County Commissioners' March 19 meeting on a series of grants in the works.

Commissioners opened the meeting for the public hearing on the Indiana Office of Community and Rural Affairs COVID-19 Response Program grant to fund coronavirus testing in the community. Union County Health Department public health nurse Kim Klein reported the testing program funded by the OCRA grant went well and allowed for a smooth transition into the testing funded by the Indiana State Department of Health starting in the fall.
Commissioner Tim Williams asked if Reid Health assisted with the OCRA testing. Klein replied in the affirmative.

Beumer brought the discussion to the Wi-Fi hotspots, also funded through the first phase of the OCRA COVID-19 Response Program. Union County Development Corporation executive director Melissa Browning reported Jeff Mathews has been working on setting the hotspots up and expects them to be operational soon.

The next grant on Beumer's agenda was the work on the county's comprehensive plan. Phillip Roth of American Structurepoint, the contractor developing the plan, addressed the board. Roth reported once commissioners approved the plan, the resolution would be incorporated into the finalized document and shipped.

“It's been a fun process to work on … this has been a great county to work in, we've been working here for about a year,” said Roth.

He went on to explain the content of the plan, which will influence other regulatory decisions such as zoning ordinances. The plan will help guide infrastructure development and provides guidance on revenue generation tools.

“The overall emphasis of the plan was to maintain the rural character of the county but support existing centers like Liberty and West College Corner, and then promote the development of quality places within those communities,” Roth explained.

Commissioner Howard Curry asked about the potential to change the text in the future. Roth replied there is an amendment process to make changes and comprehensive plans are typically updated once or twice a decade and amended, as necessary.

Browning noted the comprehensive plan is hosted on UCDC's website and is available for review at unioncountycompplan.com.

Union County Foundation executive director Danka Klein spoke in support of the comprehensive plan: “I'm happy the plan is here, and I'd like to see us continue working together.”

Curry made a motion to approve the OCRA COVID-19 Response Program grants, which was approved by commissioners. Curry then made a motion to accept the comprehensive plan prepared by American Structurepoint; commissioners voted to approve.

Also discussed:
-Klein offered an update on the state of vaccines in the county. At the time of the meeting, the UCHD had administered close to 2500 doses of the COVID-19 vaccine. Klein warned the current stage of vaccines is just the starting point and expects the vaccine program to continue into the summer, if not early fall.

Klein reported community spread is under control and expects a “bright future here for Union County.”

UCHD staff is performing approximately 120 inoculations daily on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays. On Mondays and Fridays, the staff is completing their regular health department tasks and helping residents sign up for the coronavirus vaccine, which continues to be a problem.

Klein warned the health department typically gets busy with back-to-school vaccinations in May and is concerned about juggling student vaccinations along with COVID-19 vaccines. She is working with school nurses to try and encourage parents to get their students' vaccines taken care of in a timely fashion.

-Commissioners signed an agreement to accept the OCRA COVID-19 Response Program phase three grant, in the event they are awarded the $250,000 grant applied for by UCDC. If selected, the grant program will offer small business grants to local businesses up to $10,000 each. Beumer explained the awards will be announced April 15.

-Union County Sheriff Dale Dishmond reported he has changed some procedures at the jail as they continue to adjust to COVID-19. The department has been trying to get rapid testing capabilities promised through the state but has been waiting for months. Dishmond plans to reach out to Reid Health for assistance.Commissioner Paul Wiwi asked Dishmond if he had any feedback on Reid's ambulance service, since taking over the county's contract at the beginning of the year. Dishmond replied Reid is working out well, he has not heard any complaints and has been pleased with the coverage offered to the county.