ALBION — The Noble County Commissioners got an update on the progress being made by Noble Trails during their regularly scheduled meeting Monday — and the process gave some insight on how groups might apply for American Rescue Plan monies.

The county has received the first of two $4.6 million in installments of the federal ARP money. The county can disperse the money only to groups who show a direct tie-in to their request to the coronavirus pandemic.

With trail usage up in the wake of the pandemic, according to organizers, that tie-in may exist for Noble Trails.

Noble Trails has a trail which connects Kendallville to Rome City, but there are two sections where hikers, runners and bicyclists have to go out onto county roads. The group is currently in the process of constructing a trail which would make a 1/2-mile detour onto county roads in the area of C.R. 450E and C.R. 800N unnecessary.

“We want to make sure we’re keeping people off the road,” Noble Trails representative Jenna Anderson told the commissioners.

The $70,000 project is being subsidized by a 50% matching grant, and Noble Trails has so far raised nearly $28,000 of the $35,000 it needs to raise on its end.

Anderson said the group would welcome any assistance Noble County government could supply through the ARP funds.

“If you find that would be suitable for trail building… we would love that,” Anderson said.

Noble County Commissioner Gary Leatherman said once the county formally opens up the process, the group could send a request letter. County attorney Dennis Graft said it was important that the group tie the project directly to one of four areas allowed for funding according to criteria set up by the federal government.

Those criteria are:

• to respond to the public health emergency or its negative economic impacts, including assistance to households, small businesses and nonprofits, or aid to impacted industries such as tourism, travel and hospitality;

• to respond to workers performing essential work during the COVID-19 public health emergency by providing premium pay to eligible workers;

• for the provision of government services to the extent of the reduction in revenue due to the COVID-19 public health emergency relative to revenues collected in the most recent full fiscal year prior to the emergency; and

• to make necessary investments in water, sewer or broadband infrastructure.

Leatherman said an exact date has not been set for when the county would begin taking requests, but hinted it would be sooner rather than later.

Dr. Terry Gaff, who is also a member of Noble Trails, said along with the C.R. 450E and C.R. 800N project, the group is in negotiations with property owners to fix a similar situation near the Limberlost Golf Course in Rome City.

Those construction costs aren’t cheap, according to Noble Trails.

“We’ll continue to raise funds,” Gaff said. “This is an ongoing process.”

Commissioner Anita Hess applauded the group’s efforts.

“The trail is beautiful,” Hess said. “We can’t thank you enough.”

Noble Trails is also in the process of raising $2,000 to purchase three counters which would be able to show how many people are using the trail.

Also at Monday’s meeting:

• The commissioners approved the Noble County Highway Department’s request to purchase a 2021 John Deere loader for $188,000. The price includes the trade-in of the county’s current loader, which is a 30-year-old Case model.

• The commissioners announced that the Indiana Department of Transportation would be holding a hearing a 5 p.m. on Thursday at Rome City School to discuss roadwork planned for S.R. 9 and Northport Road.

• The commissioners granted four requests for variances involving driveways to rural homes.

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