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Editorial:Small town accomplishes big goals with odd resources

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For a community of only 504 residents (2010 census) and an extremely limited economic base, Elizabethtown already has gotten the new year off to an exciting start with a promise of even better things to come.

What the town might now lack in such areas as business development, basic infrastructure and quality of life benefits, it more than makes up for in the initiative demonstrated by its people.

It is this can-do spirit which has precipitated a number of recent developments that bode well for the community’s future.

Instead of accepting a fate of rustic stagnation into which many similar-sized communities fall, Elizabethtown and its leaders have taken often creative approaches to improve the town’s standards of living and even enhance such mundane aspects of community life as stormwater drainage.

Absent any significant industrial or commercial base, the town has turned to alternative funding sources — a number within state and federal government and some from the public sector.

Most recent achievements include:

n A $29,160 planning grant for a drainage assessment through the state’s Office of Community and Rural Affairs. “Certain areas of town have no functioning storm drainage, and residents have seen standing water in their yards and across the road at times,” said Fred Barnett, a member of the town council. Once a study is completed evaluating how to improve drainage, the town would have to seek funds to build new or replace aging drainage systems, Barnett said.

The town made a matching grant of $3,240 to pay for the study.

n Elizabethtown also secured a $19,100 Indiana Department of Homeland Security grant for a tornado warning siren that will tie into and coordinate with the Bartholomew County alert system.

“The town of Hope had donated a used siren to us in the spring, but we learned it wasn’t compatible with the county’s system,” town activist Rebecca Barnett, who is married to Fred Barnett, said, adding that the Homeland Security grant was a potential lifesaving project.

A $15,000 grant offered by Kaboom of Washington, a national nonprofit dedicated to helping fund play spaces for children. Kaboom provides training to local volunteers who install playgrounds after buying equipment at a discount from vendors approved by Kaboom, she said.

The Kaboom offer requires Elizabethtown to secure matching funds of $9,000, and local officials have only $1,000 in hand. They hope to raise the rest via donations being solicited through Heritage Fund — The Community Foundation of Bartholomew County.

Of major assistance to the community in securing these and other grants has been the Administrative Resources Association, which has acted as a clearing house in applying for the assistance. So far it is an investment which has yielded impressive results for $3,000 a year.

Early last year the town launched other promising initiatives.

Volunteers created a small children’s library in the Town Hall, the reading materials donated by residents and nonresidents alike.

Workers at Cummins Inc. came together to help out on a number of cleanup and repainting projects. The town has beefed up its neighborhood watch with the cooperation of the Bartholomew County Sheriff’s Department, and there are plans to start a community garden.

The town was awarded $203,500 (coupled with a $25,000 match from Cummins Inc.) by the Indiana Housing and Community Development Authority to rehabilitate homes of residents with low incomes.

Elizabethtown is still somewhat limited in its own resources, but the initiatives that have been undertaken in recent years demonstrate that those limitations do not have to be hindrances.

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