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City, county plan projects for 2014

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While the cold winds of winter have slowed the pace of activity in Jennings County, community leaders are busy laying plans for spring and summer.

North Vernon will resume city improvement projects. The county will focus on improving the conditions at the Country Squire Lakes subdivision. The town of Vernon plans to increase tourism.

More Stellar projects

North Vernon was selected in 2011 as a Stellar Community in the federal and state program designed to upgrade deserving rural communities.

As a Stellar Community, North Vernon has received grants and financial aid to repair and remodel buildings and areas throughout downtown North Vernon.

As soon as the weather breaks, construction will start again in downtown North Vernon, City Council member Dave Shaw said. This summer, construction on storefronts and a park area will swing into full production. Construction on 27 storefronts will begin as soon as the weather permits. Also, the city is trying to work on getting the two railroad crossings repaired, he said.

“It will be one brutal season for drivers throughout the spring and summer. A big concern of the council is to plan traffic patterns and so on to make it easier on everybody, but it is going to be hard,” Shaw said.

He added the Stellar program has been great for North Vernon.

“Everyone is going to love it when it’s all done, but first we have to do the work; and now we are planning ways to help get the town through it,” Shaw said.

Country Squire Lakes fixes

Jennings County Commissioner Matthew Sporleder has been looking at ways to increase the county’s revenue.

“Money is tough right now. In order to continue providing a high level of county services, we have to find ways to get more revenue without raising taxes. When I came in as commissioner, the county had a $900,000 budget deficit. We have fixed that, and that taught us how to be smarter with managing county assets; and we need to use that experience to build revenue now,” Sporleder said.

Because collecting delinquent taxes is a means of increasing county revenue, Sporleder said improving conditions at County Squire Lakes is a key to improving county revenue.

“Right now, the county holds 950 properties at CSL that are delinquent. We have the right to sell those in order to collect the taxes owed, but we can’t because nobody wants to buy the properties because of the conditions at CSL. That has to change because right now CSL is a tremendous drain on Jennings County economy,” he said.

“There are many good people who live at CSL, and they have expressed gratitude for the recent improvements,” he added. “We have already made improvements like road repairs, cleaning out burned-out trailers and also the police presence. But there is much more to do. If we improve the conditions at CSL we improve the property values, which will make tax collection possible.”

Bicentennial planning

Vernon Mayor Dan Wright said he is working to celebrate the town’s early history in order to increase modern-day tourism.

Vernon became a town in 1815, one year before Indiana became a state. Vernon will celebrate it bicentennial in 2015, and Indiana already is working on state bicentennial celebrations.

“Vernon’s bicentennial celebration will lead the state’s celebration. We have much to do to get things ready,” Wright said.

Currently, Wright is working with local artists and teachers to organize the painting of a mural on an outside wall at the northern edge of Vernon. Wright plans to involve Vernon residents in painting the 10-foot-by-60-foot work, which will depict notable events in the town’s history.

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