Vaccinations reach 3.5% of local residents
INDIANAPOLIS — More than 5,700 residents in the four-county area already have received their first shots of the COVID-19 vaccine, including just over 900 who have received both shots and now are considered fully immune.
The region has a long way to go, but local clinics are getting shots into arms as quickly as they receive them.
As of Friday morning, a total of 4,741 residents in the four-county area had received only the first shot of the two-shot COVID-19 vaccine regimen, according to data from the Indiana State Department of Health. There also are 981 people who have received both shots.
With approximately 165,000 residents in Noble, DeKalb, LaGrange and Steuben counties, that means about 3.5% of local residents have received at least the first shot so far.
Vaccine eligibility currently is limited to specific people, as manufacturers continue to make and distribute vaccines to states, who then distribute to their individual counties.
Right now, health care workers, first responders such as police, fire and EMS medics and people age 70 or older can sign up to get vaccinations by visiting ourshot.in.gov or calling 2-1-1 for assistance with getting signed up.
Donor gives $50,000 for new sidewalks
AUBURN — An anonymous donor is giving $50,000 to Auburn’s new sidewalk replacement program, Mayor Mike Ley said Thursday.
“His intention is for it to be there for people who cannot afford to put the sidewalks in themselves,” Ley told the Auburn Board of Public Works and Safety.
“I’m going to issue that to the community as a challenge to match that gift dollar for dollar,” Ley said at the meeting in City Hall.
“We’re just very, very excited and pleased” by the gift, Ley said. The city now will begin developing standards for people to qualify for sidewalk grants.
The city’s new program replaced sidewalks at a discount for 21 homeowners in only two months of operation this fall. It ended the year with a waiting list for 2021.
At Ley’s urging, the city council last year agreed to hire two city employees to install sidewalks with essentially no charge for labor. The price of $12 per lineal foot of concrete approximately covers the cost of materials.
City officials say the $12 price represents a savings of up to 75%. On Thursday, Street Department Superintendent Bill Brandon recommended continuing that price for 2021, and the Board of Works agreed.
Auburn Main Street chooses new leader
AUBURN — The Auburn Main Street board of directors Tuesday announced that Andrea Kern is the organization’s new executive director.
The Mission of Auburn Main Street is to collaborate with the community to promote, advance and preserve a vibrant downtown, the organization said.
Before joining AMS, Kern served as the northeast community liaison for the Indiana Office of Community and Rural Affairs. During her three years with OCRA, she helped numerous communities in 16 northeast counties to accomplish individual goals, receive grant funding, grow local capacity and community development.
“The downtown’s growth over the last several years is due in large part to the dedication and passion of Auburn Main Street. As a lifelong Auburn resident, I’m excited to apply my experience with networking, project development, nonprofit experience as well as the Main Street Approach to growing the AMS organization,” Kern said. “I’m thrilled to join this devoted team and help it achieve even more.”
Hamilton needs to spend down school fund
HAMILTON — While a healthy rainy day fund is a good thing, it shouldn’t be too healthy, Hamilton Community Schools Superintendent Anthony Cassel cautioned the school board Monday night.
“Obviously you want a healthy rainy day fund, but you don’t want it too healthy, because the state is looking at that number and they’re looking at how much cash you’re sitting on, and at some point they’re going to encourage you to utilize some of that cash. We’re probably well beyond that point,” Cassel said.
He noted that the district’s rainy day fund is almost $2 million. He said the state likes a school district’s rainy day fund to be around 25% of its education fund.
“Twenty-five percent of our education fund is about $500,000. We’re almost at $2 million,” Cassel said.
“We don’t want it down to $500,000, because what they don’t understand is if we have to do a referendum again and a referendum would fail, we need money to help us in that transition.”
Cassel said the district’s administrators will look at priorities in the school building to spend down some of the rainy day fund.
DeKalb leaders begin discussing new jail
AUBURN — DeKalb County leaders took their first serious step toward building a new jail by meeting with architects Monday at the courthouse in Auburn.
Representatives of the DLZ firm met for 90 minutes with the three DeKalb County Commissioners, a representative of the DeKalb County Council, Sheriff Dave Cserep II and two members of his staff.
Commissioners plan to hear from a second architectural firm next Monday at 1:30 p.m. in the courthouse.
The existing county jail, which opened in the mid-1980s is overcrowded and plagued by structural issues caused partly by settling.
DLZ representatives said.described their completed project in Perry County as “an absolute gem” of a small jail.
Commissioners President William Hartman showed the architects his sketch of footprint for a building that “mimics” the Perry County jail, he said. The rectangular design includes a two-story cell block, he added.
Residents want to opt out of trash service
KENDALLVILLE — After the second week in a row of getting requests from residents to opt out of trash service, Kendallville officials have vowed they’ll make a decision and develop an official policy in two weeks.
Two weeks ago, the Kendallville Board of Works received a request from a Mitchell Street resident who wanted to opt out of monthly garbage service, claiming he was an extreme recycler and generated only about two plastic grocery bags of trash per year.
This week, another resident asked for the same, seeking a waiver for both his home and his nearby mother’s home since he collects their trash and takes it to his business, where he pays for monthly dumpster service
Kendallville contracted with Noble County Disposal in 2020 for citywide weekly trash hauling and every-other week recycling. Service started for residents the first week of this year and properties are being charged $13.38 per month for that service, which also includes two bulk items pickup days per year.
Board of Works members, who had a cool reception to the request last month, now realize they’re going to have to make some kind of official declaration because it’s likely opt-out requests aren’t going to stop.
Noble County begins COVID-19 vaccinations
ALBION — The first COVID-19 vaccines in Noble County began going into arms Monday morning.
They’ll be the first of many over the coming weeks and months as Noble County opened its clinic at the Noble County Public Library branch in Albion on Monday.
A group of about a dozen volunteers are joining Noble County Health Department staff to begin administering the first of a two-dose vaccine regimen to Noble County residents.
Noble County isn’t getting much vaccine to start — the county has been promised just 100 doses per week for the immediate future — with the first 100 doses arriving last Friday and more expected to show up this week, Noble County Health Officer Dr. Terry Gaff said Monday.
That allotment count could change in the future, but right now the county will be giving out as much vaccine as quickly as it can.
MSD Steuben looks at school upgrades
ANGOLA — The Metropolitan School District of Steuben County is thinking about the district’s future.
During the MSD’s board of trustees meeting on Tuesday, board President Cory Archbold used the occasion to float the idea of possibly upgrading some of the district’s facilities.
“There’s been some talk out there about some facility upgrades at the high school and middle school,” Archbold said. “I just want to start a conversation on whether down the road we want to do any type of athletic facility upgrades.”
“Granted, we are in the middle of COVID-19,” he continued, “but generally when things are bad you really kind of hunker down and look forward to what you’re going to be doing in a business sense coming out of this.”
Archbold, who was reelected president during the board’s formal reorganization Tuesday, explained that his introduction of the topic wasn’t meant as an immediate business item, but rather a starting point for an evolving discussion on what improvements, if any, the district should consider.
Steuben EDC project nearing completion
ANGOLA — Isaac Lee refers to Steuben County Economic Development Corp.’s growing hub at 907 S. Wayne St. as a campus.
“Maybe that’s not the right word,” says Lee, who has served as the organization’s executive director since 2016, “but what we’re trying to build is a one-stop shop for workplace development.”
Last summer, Steuben County EDC broke ground on a new, 6,000-square-foot facility nestled within the organization’s overall development at South Wayne Street. Located to the north of the Enterprise Center, the new building will contain office space and a coworking incubator.
Lee says most of the 2,800-square feet of office space in the new building should be completed sometime next month, barring any unforeseen delays.
The back half of the building, where the coworking incubator will go, will take longer to finish. That’s because Steuben County EDC wants the coworking incubator space in the new building to be designed in a way that allows it to be reconfigured for other uses.
DeKalb vaccinations to ramp up next week
AUBURN — The DeKalb County Health Department gave its first COVID-19 vaccinations Wednesday with a “soft roll-out” at Middaugh Hall on the DeKalb County Fairgrounds.
With a successful first day in the books, the vaccination site is about to get much busier next week.
Wednesday’s shots of the Moderna vaccine were available to health care workers, first responders and county residents age 80 and older.
Next week, the county will receive an expanded allotment of 500 shots, and people age 70 and older will be eligible for vaccinations.
“We will go from doing eight hours a week to doing 27 hours a week” at the vaccination site, Lynch said.
Hours for shots next week will be: Monday 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.; Wednesday 10 a.m. to 7 p.m.; Friday, Jan. 22 — 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.; and Saturday, Jan. 23 — 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.