SHIPSHEWANA — For nearly two years, Shipshewana let more than $4 million sit in the bank while the members of its town board thought about just what they could do for the town with that money.

The money came from the sale of the Hostetler Hudson Auto Museum and the cars that made up that collection. The funds raised by that sale were then placed in an unrestricted gift fund and left alone while the town board members thought about what they could do with those funds.

Now, after having a couple of years to think about it, the town board members have come up with a list of potential projects they think are important enough to dip into that account and fund. The goal of the board is to help better position Shipshewana as it moves forward.

Shipshewana Town Manager Bob Shanahan said each board member narrowed down a list of ideas and ranked each idea as to how important they thought it was to Shipshewana and then the board compared their notes. Not surprisingly, the most important project, according to the board, was to improve its digital footprint.

“The first thing the town board looked at with real interest is bringing high-speed internet to the corporation,” said Bob Shanahan, town manager. “This would be 5G fiber.”

Shanahan said access to high-speed internet is often one of the first things a firm will look at when it is trying to decide where to locate a new facility.

The second most important item on the board’s list is expanding the Pumpkinvine Nature Trail, which deadheads on Shipshewana’s west edge. That trail leads from Shipshewana to Middlebury, to Goshen where it intersects with two other existing trails.

Again, Shanahan said that community amenities like bike trails are another aspect companies consider when choosing where to locate new facilities.

Next, the board suggested the town set aside a minimum of $500,000 to be used for economic development.

That money, Shanahan said, could be used to help entice a business to come to the community. It could be used to help that business or a manufacturer retrofit an existing structure, or build a new facility. However, the fund would come with few strings attached to it.

“There would have to be provisions in place that it would have to bring high-dollar jobs in manufacturing of at least $20 an hour to the corporation,” he said.

The fourth item on the board’s wish list is placing $500,000 into a town fund that would be used only to help it secure other funding for large scale infrastructure projects. Many of those projects are funded through state programs like the Community Crossings Matching Grant program and require towns and municipalities contribute a percentage of matching funds to such projects. Shanahan said having the money on hand might help speed up that process.

Tied at number five on the list is helping the Shipshewana Fire Department purchase a new ladder truck and creating a local scholarship fund for area students.

Finally, the last item on the list is setting aside some of that money to help fund the possible expansion of the town’s sewer plant.

Shanahan said, unfortunately, there’s not enough money in the fund to fund all of the proposed projects. Now it’s up to Shanahan to look carefully at each proposed project and assess those suggestions.

Shanahan said it will be at least several months before he finishes that study and reports back to the board members.
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