Tayler Bryson of the Union County Parks Board gave an update on the status of work at the new park south of Liberty to Union County Commissioners at their April 23 meeting.

The Indiana Department of Natural Resources has finalized plans for the facility and the project is moving along. The survey has been completed to put the whole property onto one parcel, opening the way to begin putting up a fence and signage along the walking trail. Bids will soon be sought to perform excavation work for the site of the future basketball courts.

The parks board has partnered with Purdue University to rehabilitate the pond on the property. Purdue will host quarterly workshops to educate the public on building a healthy, self-sustaining pond. Once the pond at the park has been rehabilitated, it will be stocked with tilapia.

The next hurdle for the project concerns electrical service to the site. Overhead lines currently run to the groundskeeper's house; those lines will need to be buried along with the new service to the park facilities. Bryson hopes to obtain a grant through Duke Energy to fund the utility relocation work; however, because the current service is in the groundskeeper's name, it will need to be put in the name of the parks board. The groundskeeper's grant will be rewritten to state the service is in the name of the board, but paid by the groundskeeper.

Bryson has tried to do this, but cannot finalize the board as a separate entity with the Indiana Secretary of State without a registered agent.

Commissioners suggested it should be set up the same way other county departments, such as the highway department, are. Commissioner Tim Williams suggested contacting county attorney Jim Williams for guidance.
Bryson clarified she can get the service buried, but she would prefer to be able to access grant funds for the project. Regardless, work can proceed on other parts of the project such as the basketball courts. The next issue to be dealt with is the driveway, which the survey revealed is currently located on the property line.

Resident Jim Crouch suggested the board focus on the amphitheater at the park; if done well, it could draw more events and be a big benefit to the community. He suggested seeking funding through the county's innkeeper's tax.

Also discussed:
-Union County Development Corporation executive director Melissa Browning announced the county has received a $250,000 small business grant from phase three of the Indiana Office of Community and Rural Affairs COVID-19 Response Program. UCDC sent out pre-applications to local businesses in February and sent those responses to OCRA to show need; Browning explained Union County's application was the only one in the state to submit pre-applications.

Despite having received 27 pre-applications, OCRA has mandated UCDC re-open their application window for another week. Williams and commissioner Paul Wiwi voiced hesitancy to reopen the applications, but Browning responded OCRA is requiring it. She added while the program will offer $10,000 grants to local businesses, not all the pre-applications she received requested the entire $10,000. It is possible they will have enough funding to cover all the pre-applications and still have money left for new applications.
-Union County Bicentennial Planning Committee chair Melissa Spillers provided an update to commissioners. They have used funding from local corporate sponsors to begin purchasing merchandise for the upcoming event. Spillers and Bev Wiwi presented examples of the souvenir shirts that are now available for purchase.

Woodruff's Supermarket has sponsored a hot-air balloon for one day of the event. If other local businesses are interested in sponsoring another day of hot-air balloon rides, they can contact Tim Woodruff.

-Commissioners discussed working together with the Town of Liberty to focus on projects to promote growth in the community with the upcoming American Recovery Plan Act funding. Commissioners were in agreement they wished to focus on growth; Williams informed his colleagues Liberty Town Council president Matt Barnhizer will take the matter to his board. There is a focus on communities working together, which is expected to impact future grant funding. If the county and town sign an inter-local agreement to focus on growth of the community, it will benefit both entities going forward.

-Union County Highway Department head Jeff Bowers reported the year's paving projects are underway, although the recent cold snap has delayed work. Williams asked if the snow affected the work; Bowers replied the cold temperatures were more of a concern.

-Browning notified commissioners UCDC is applying for a $3 million grant from T-Mobile, part of an agreement with the federal government related to its purchase of Sprint in 2020. The grant can be used not just for connectivity, but also for beautification of the community.

-Commissioners discussed options to remove the old radio tower at the Union County Sheriff's Department. After quoted more than $12,000 by the contractor that installed the new tower last fall, commissioners have sought a cheaper alternative. Bowers and commissioner Howard Curry decided to look at the site following the meeting.

-Williams suggested the need to beautify the courthouse grounds leading up to the bicentennial celebrations this summer. He received a quote from Ross Outdoors, who provided a quote of $1,460 to refresh the mulch and gravel at the site, but was concerned about being able to complete the work before the bicentennial. Curry asked why other landscaping companies were not consulted. Williams replied the county already has a contract for lawncare services with Ross. Commissioners voted to approve Ross for the work, if it can be done before the events commence.

-Commissioners discussed courthouse employee parking; while the building offers parking on all four sides of the lot, only one side faces a block with local businesses. They asked auditor Cheryl Begley to send a notification to county employees requesting they park on South Main, South Market or West Seminary streets.