Noble County begins annex construction

ALBION — Noble County Council President Denise Lemmon called Wednesday’s annex groundbreaking a “shining example of hope.”

When completed, the Noble County annex will house a majority of county government offices. With a footprint just over 40,000 square feet on two main floors and a partial basement, according to Noble County Highway Department Engineer Zack Smith, it will take up a majority of the existing prosecutor’s building and both the north and south parking lots.

The tentative construction schedule has a completion month of May 2022.

In total, Noble County’s annex will cost about $14.5 million.

The annex has been a project years in the making. Noble County Commissioner Gary Leatherman said he remembered it being discussed when he was the county’s sheriff 15 years ago.

The county has been operating a number of buildings to house local government operations. Most of those departments will call the annex home when it is completed.

Three local counties in red COVID ratings

INDIANAPOLIS — The spread of COVID-19 has hit very high levels across northeast Indiana, as numerous counties received red ratings from the Indiana State Department of Health’s weekly coronavirus county metrics.

LaGrange, Steuben and DeKalb counties are all in red this week, along with neighboring Allen, Whitley and Elkhart counties.

Noble County, by a narrow margin, held at the second-worst rating in orange for another week, although the situation has worsened there since the prior week, too.

Northeast Indiana is now one of the state’s worst regions.

Those red ratings trigger more restrictive gathering sizes and other measures by an executive order of Gov. Eric Holcomb.

Counties hit red status if they exceed both 200 new cases per 100,000 people and test positivity above 15% over the last seven days.

Region’s income growth lags behind average

FORT WAYNE — According to data released by the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis, per capita personal income for residents in northeast Indiana’s 11 counties grew by $1,009 in 2019, compared to the previous year. Average income for Northeast Indiana’s 11 counties was $45,914 per capita in 2019.

Nationally, the figure was $56,490 in 2019, compared to $54,606 in 2018.

The Northeast Indiana Regional Partnership is aiming to increase northeast Indiana’s per capita personal income to 90% of the national average by the year 2030. For 2019, northeast Indiana’s growth rate of 2.2% trailed the national growth rate of 3.3% and the state’s growth rate of 2.8%.

“The region’s growth rate is lagging behind the nation and the state, which means we must do more together to redouble our efforts as a region to increase prosperity,” said John Sampson, president and CEO of the Northeast Indiana Regional Partnership.

A breakdown of 2019 per capita income in local counties, with the change from 2018: DeKalb $45,324 +3.0%; LaGrange $43,275 +0.1%; Noble $40,799 +2.4%; Steuben $44,854 +3.1%; Allen $47,602 +2.1%.

Auburn gear on ‘accelerated growth path’

AUBURN — Growth is coming to Auburn Gear, with even more expected in 2021, the company’s new CEO said Tuesday.

Shane Terblanche spoke to an Auburn Common Council committee to request a property tax phase-in on six new machines.

Terblanche said he will be back, because “We’ll be buying a whole bunch of equipment next year.” He said the company on Auburn Drive is “on an accelerated growth path.”

Terblanche said the company plans to spend another $2.6 million on new machines next year, “and we’re going to create jobs at the same time.”

He said Auburn Gear employs 148 people, including three who were added Monday.

School board boosts employee bonuses

BUTLER — The DeKalb Eastern school board appreciates what its employees have done in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Board members made that clear by adding an extra $45,000 to employee bonuses Monday night.

Midway through their meeting, board members approved a bonus plan with an estimated cost of $90,000. Just before adjournment, board member Richard Musser wondered if the bonus was enough, given everything the staff has endured this year.

Musser made a motion to add $500 to every employee’s bonus. The extra $500 won unanimous approval.

Monster truck museum moving to Butler

BUTLER — Get ready to roll — the International Monster Truck Museum is coming to Butler.

Museum President Jeff Cook made the announcement Saturday during the organization’s 10th annual Hall of Fame induction ceremony.

The museum, currently housed at Kruse Plaza on C.R. 11-A south of Auburn, is moving to the former Butler Eagles lodge at 541 W. Main St.

“Our goal was to have our own permanent home, a place to call our own,” Cook said. “There will be a lot of big, exciting things happening” when the museum opens this spring, he added.

Credit union opens Kendallville branch

KENDALLVILLE — Local officials joined MidWest America Federal Credit Union employees in a ribbon cutting ceremony Wednesday afternoon at its newest branch in Kendallville.

Construction of the branch began in May on a vacant lot next to O’Reillly’s auto parts store on North Street (U.S. 6).

CEO Greg Mohr said the Kendallville location was chosen for its access to busy U.S. 6.

“We picked this location because we like higher visibility,” Mohr said. “We provide quality financial services to the citizens of Kendallville. We are pleased to be a part of the Kendallville community.

MidWest America currently operates 17 full-service offices, with 13 of them in northeast Indiana.

Noble County prosecutor’s office moves

ALBION — Noble County Prosecuting Attorney Jim Mowery finally can breathe a sigh of relief.

“Right now I’m back to being a prosecutor full-time,” Mowery said.

For perhaps the six months, Mowery was not only Noble County’s top law enforcement officer, he also was responsible the move of his entire office from its York Street site into the former Eagles building on Hazel Street in Albion.

Noble County is building a new, $14 million annex on the block which had housed the prosecuting attorney’s office.

In the last month before the move, Mowery estimated half of his time was spent preparing for the move.

“The move went much better than anybody thought,” he said.

Board doesn’t renew superintendent’s contract

ANGOLA — The Metropolitan School District of Steuben County Board of School Trustees voted not to renew Superintendent Brent Wilson’s contract at Tuesday night’s meeting.

The superintendent’s contract is set to expire June 30, after the board voted in August 2016 to end an automatic rollover provision that previously provided Wilson with a never-ending five-year contract.

March 3, Wilson filed suit against the board and the district, claiming breach of contract. That lawsuit is pending in Steuben Superior Court.

Tuesday, the board voted 5-2 not to renew Wilson’s contract.

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