Mayor Damon Welch said during Tuesday’s  (March 22) City Council meeting that the city will submit a letter of interest for the “Stellar Community” designation through the Indiana Office of Community and Rural Affairs at the end of April.

The Stellar Communities Designation Program is a multi-agency partnership designed to recognize Indiana’s smaller communities that have identified comprehensive community and economic development projects, the Indiana Office of Community and Rural Affairs website stated. The program was launched in 2011.

“The road to reach this point has been years in the making,” Welch said. “We look back at the beginning of ENVISION Jefferson County. That Vision & Action Plan began the conversation about the future of our community. It involved hundreds and hundreds of residents giving their thoughts and ideas which became a vision and laid the groundwork for our next steps.”

Welch said the city’s participation in the America's Best Communities competition also helped to create the “One Madison” Revitalization Plan, along with the city’s comprehensive plan, which was approved last September. The comprehensive plan noted a redevelopment project and areas that will serve as the foundation of the Stellar Communities application.

City officials will form a Stellar Advisory Team before submitting the letter of interest, as well as get feedback from groups, organizations and individuals. Welch said the community will be involved in the process beginning in early April when residents will again be asked to rank projects identified through ENVISION, ABC and the comprehensive plan. Additional projects also may be added during community input.

After submitting the letter of interest, state officials will notify designation finalists in May. A strategic investment plan from the finalists would need to be submitted in August, and state officials will conduct site visits for finalists in September.

Designees will be announced in October, the state website said.

“I believe everything that has happened over the last four or five years has brought us to this point where we’re finally ready to pursue this designation,” Welch said. “While I am confident that we will succeed in this effort, our conversations with many other communities around the state who have been through Stellar told me that even going through the process will help take us to a new level of success. So over the next few months, I look forward to working with City Council, our team and the entire community to show that we aren’t just one of America’s Best Communities, we’re a Stellar Community.”
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