GREENFIELD — Community leaders say 2019 is shaping up to be a big year for Hancock County. Ground could be broken on a new jail. More homes and businesses are expected to arrive. The area could soon have more mental health treatment and preventive programs.
Several local stakeholders spoke about these ambitions and more on Tuesday to nearly 100 people at the annual State of the Community hosted by the Greenfield Area Chamber of Commerce at NineStar Connect. Here’s what they said:
City of Greenfield
Greenfield Mayor Chuck Fewell spoke about the multimillion-dollar impact expected on the city, Fortville and Hancock County through the region’s Stellar Communities designation. The area is expected to receive $15 million over the next five years from state agencies for quality-of-life projects, such as trails, parks and housing options.
Fewell said the city has for years been working on adding more amenities to attract people to Greenfield, such as the major renovations now under way at Riley Park Pool. He said the city also plans to focus on business retention in 2019.
“If you look around, we have no mountains, and we have no beaches,” Fewell joked.
Bill Bolander, president of the Hancock County Council, updated the crowd on the county’s long-standing jail project. The county, at this point, intends to build a new jail on farmland commonly called the county farm along U.S. 40 between County Roads 400E and 500E. The facility could house over 400 inmates.
The county plans to raise income taxes by 0.2 percent, which could bring in about $28 million to fund two jail pods. One section would open within a year to house inmate overflow, and the full facility should be operable in two years. The county could break ground as early as this summer.
Council members will vote on the income tax increase in February.
Bolander said part of the new jail would incorporate recovery areas for inmates seeking rehabilitation.
As the county continues to grow, residents, both old and new, will need more health-care options, said Steve Long, president and CEO of Hancock Health. Long said the hospital aims to focus on prevention for patients, while also increasing treatment options for mental health.
This will be the year Hancock Health’s “western strategy” picks up speed, with more construction of facilities in the townships adjoining Marion County. Long said Hancock Health is building a low-cost diagnostic center at Interstate 70 and Mt. Comfort Road. It could open in July. Hancock Health also is adding a new fitness center in New Palestine.
Hancock Economic Development Council
Randy Sorrell, the newly named executive director of the Hancock Economic Development Council, said 2018 was a fruitful year for the county. It added about 1,000 new jobs in 2018 and had a capital investment of over $300 million. BeijingWest Industries is ready to open its Greenfield plant, which will employ 450; and Avery Dennison, Mt. Comfort RV and a few other companies expanded their operations.
The county also had a record year for housing permits, as close to 600 were filed, Sorrell said.
“This is a hot place to be,” Sorrell said. “It’s all about our location, and we’re continuing the grow.”
Lori Katz, director of secondary curriculum, instruction and assessment for Greenfield-Central Schools, spoke about school safety, a hot topic due to recent school shooting across the country. The district hired a full-time school resource officer at the high school and also improved the building’s surveillance system. Katz said Greenfield-Central wants to be more proactive with safety measures.
“If you see something, say something,” Katz said. “You lose nothing for being proactive.”
The corporation has a safe schools link on its website for people to anonymously report any suspicious behavior, Katz said, which the district will share with their public safety partners.
Katz also said the corporation plans to look into facility updates in the 2019-20 school year.