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Stellar projects list continues to grow, change

By TRAVIS WEIK - tweik@thecouriertimes.com

Henry County, partnering with New Castle and Knightstown, could win $22 million if local leaders can show how “stellar” this region truly is.

Together, the cities and county make up the “Safe & Welcome” region and are in the running to be named the 2019 Stellar Communities Region, a designation that comes millions of dollars in state help to complete local projects.

The Stellar committees have compiled a list of more than two dozen projects that could have a big impact on the community.

For example, there’s the idea for a “Maker Space” inside Knightstown Town Hall and accessibility upgrades to the Knightstown Public Library. And the beautification of the corridor leading from U.S. Hwy 40 to the historic Knightstown Hoosier Gym.

The Stellar award could help turn the Knightstown Masonic Hall into create affordable, quality housing for senior citizens.

Young families in Knightstown could benefit from enhancements to Sunset Park and, possibly, a new park located by the Academy Place property.

In New Castle, there are plans to connect neighborhoods on the city’s north side to the local elementary school, the hospital, the local YMCA, the Wilbur Wright Trail, the soon-to-be-constructed Fitzgerald Trail and Osborne Park.

More sidewalks on the south side of New Castle could connect neighborhoods to the local elementary school, Baker Park, the City Aquatic Center, the City Skate Park, the local Little League and Babe Ruth Baseball facilities.

By winning the Stellar designation, funding could build new sidewalks along Trojan Lane, too, connecting Baker Park, trails in Trojan Woods, New Castle High School, and several businesses, restaurants, and attractions, such as the Indiana Basketball Hall of Fame, the Forest Ridge Medical Center, New Castle Careers Center and First Merchants Bank.

Leaders also hope Stellar funds will help relocate and remodel the New Castle Police Station and an EMS Training Center to the former REMC building on N. 6th Street.

Expanding the New Castle Skate Park could help athletes, while also attracting new visitors to town.

A partnership between New Castle schools and ICAP could bring about senior citizen apartments, a new senior center and a children’s daycare facility between Wilbur Wright Elementary School and Osborne Park.

Restoring the Murphy Building — the oldest building in downtown New Castle — also made the Stellar list, as did the idea of utilizing part of that building as a Maker Space where professional artists could mentor less experienced artists, providing materials and mentorship to the new creators.

The Stellar committee also identified some projects that would be great for the community but didn’t meet the state’s guidelines for funding.

That doesn’t mean the projects won’t happen; it just means local citizens and groups will need to figure out how to pay for them.

Some of these ideas include a canoe launch into Big Blue River in Knightstown, more security cameras at New Castle city parks, continued water infrastructure upgrades throughout the county, restoration of the Castle Theatre, expanded services at the Guest House, and more marketing of Henry County as a tourist destination spot.

These are only a few of the projects that have been developed over the past few months through public community meetings and leadership conversations.

The next community meeting is at 6:30 p.m. Monday, Aug. 12 at the Henry County REMC, 3400 S. Memorial Dr., New Castle.

The meeting is open to the public and people are encouraged to attend.