Union County Commissioners discussed potential economic development opportunities spurred on by state and federal grant funding programs at its June 4 meeting.

Commissioner Tim Williams brought up a proposal submitted by RQAW, an Indianapolis-based engineering and architecture firm, for engineering studies on two potential water/sewer expansion projects on the outskirts of Liberty. RQAW quoted $3,500 to study the feasibility of expanding service on S.R. 44 east of Liberty and $1,500 to study a service expansion along U.S. 27 north of Liberty.

Reid Health has floated the possibility of installing a water main north of Liberty to connect its facility to the town’s utilities, but has not committed to the project. Commissioner Howard Curry was concerned about spending money to study the expansion to the north only for Reid to back out of the project; he supported the study along S.R. 44.

Curry motioned to hire RQAW to perform the study on S.R. 44 for $3,500, Commissioners voted to approve.

RQAW presented a retainer contract to provide up to $20,000 in services up to the end of the year. Union County auditor Cheryl Begley noted it is not a pre-paid contract, RQAW will bill the county as work is requested. Union County highway department head Jeff Bowers suggested the county will save money with a contract. Commissioner Paul Wiwi made a motion to sign the retainer contract; commissioners voted to approve.

Williams moved the discussion to the growth that has been realized in Rushville recently, attributed to the city and county working together and securing grant funding to finance community projects. Williams and Union County Foundation (UCF) executive director Danka Klein determined the grant coordinator position shared between Rushville and Rush County may be the key to bring similar growth to Union County.

Klein proposed UCF, Union County and the Town of Liberty all work together to hire a grant coordinator for the Union County community. The cost of the position would be split evenly between the three entities and hire the position as a 1099 contract worker with a proposed annual pay of $60,000 and would not be eligible for benefits.

UCF had already discussed the proposal and agreed to move forward. Williams noted they are not signing anything, only agreeing to move forward in the process. If Liberty is on board, representatives from the three entities will schedule a work meeting to discuss specifics of the position. Curry made a motion to move forward; commissioners agreed.

Also discussed:
-Commissioners discussed the need to establish a cemetery board to ensure the maintenance of the county’s historical burial grounds. Commissioners agreed to seek a representative from each of the county’s townships to serve on the board.

-Highway department’s sign printing system has been down after being damaged in a lightning strike; the county municipal computer technician Jeff Mathews explained to commissioners the software that had been used was lost and replacement will be costly. The software previously used is not longer available and all current software packages are only available on a monthly subscription. Mathews estimated new software to allow the county to continue production its own roadsides will cost approximately $1,200 annually. He contacted neighboring counties seeking software recommendations, but he could find no other counties that print their own signs. A request for information from the Indiana Department of Transportation returned the same result.

Bowers replied most highway departments order stockpiles of common signs, but preferred the convenience of being able to produce custom signs on demand. He also stated despite the cost of the software, the county will still save money by printing signs in-house. Commissioners agreed to allow Mathews to seek a one-year software contract.