There will be some minor changes in the way the state operates the Stellar Communities grant program.

Local officials learned about the changes last week during a training session in Indianapolis.

“The last application we tried to narrow it down and focus on stuff that we thought they would want,” said Bill Konyha, who is heading the local Stellar Grant committee. “They expressed an interest for us to go ahead and name as many projects as we wanted, whether they were supporting projects, or projects we’re specifically seeking funding for, or anything consistent with our plan.

“After a Stellar Community is designated, the staffs of each agency can sit down and identify point by point by point projects in which they can participate in and help us find ways for them to participate.”

Wabash – along with Decatur, Huntingburg, Marion, Mount Vernon and Nashville -- were selected from 14 applications by the staffs of the Indiana Office of Community and Rural Affairs, the Indiana Housing and Community Development Authority and the Indiana Department of Transportation. If selected as a Stellar Community, Wabash could receive up to $23 million in grants and other incentives for a variety of projects around the city, concentrating primarily on the downtown area.

“I heard a lot more about the partnership,” Mayor Robert Vanlandingham said, echoing Konyha’s comments about officials pinpointing which projects they would be able to help with. “I didn’t hear quite as much about that partnership last year.”

Konyha, President and CEO of the Economic Development Group of Wabash County, believes the change is a beneficial one.

“That’s a big help,” he said of the change. “That will be a real help. I know we started last year with over $30 million in projects and narrowed it down to $22 or $23 million.

“That means we can go ahead and open up all kinds of supporting projects and a wish list, if you will, to see if there’s a way we can tie it in.”

Vanlandingham said he also enjoyed being able to sit down with representatives from the remaining six communities during a discussion period.

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