Busy 2018 ahead of Ligonier

Article by Steve Garbacz of KPC Media

Mayor’s State of the City address highlights projects, challenges ahead

LIGONIER – Train workers, get housing, and build, build, build.

That’s the gist of what’s coming up for Ligonier in the rest of 2018, Ligonier Mayor Patty Fisel said during in her State of the City address Tuesday evening.

“Our challenge for 2018 is we’ve got to provide housing, we have to train qualified employees and we have to continue to work on our downtown,” Fisel said.

In a 45-minute, casual address, Fisel highlighted numerous projects the city tackled last year, then turned focus to the plan for this year and challenges the city is facing.

In a short recap of 2017, Fisel highlighted a few major projects the city has set up and projects that are going to continue throughout this year.

At the top of that list was planning for the Strawberry Valley Cultural Trail, a loop through the city that will connect Ligonier’s many murals, bronze statues and parks. Eventually, those trails will also connect into countywide and inter-county trail systems.

That project clinched about $250,000 from the northeast Indiana Regional Cities initiative, along with grants from the Noble County Economic Development Commission and Ligonier Redevelopment Commission.

“It is a very important piece of the fabric of our community and we know that the trails are the things that are going to bring all of our communities together,” Fisel said. “You’re going to find that it’s going to help to retain our youth in our community and that’s important. And I think it’s going to meet the need for people who want to live a more healthy lifestyle.”

Ligonier also annexed 126 acres of ground onto the south end of the city, undeveloped land that the city is hoping will become space for new commercial and, especially, residential development.

New businesses have also opened up in the city, including the opening of the Riverside Villa apartment complex, SeeMeCNC, a new coin laundry Soap and Suds, manufacturer Forest River and downtown additions E&S New Merchandise Warehouse and Hosler Realty.

Fisel then turned toward the meat of her speech, looking forward to what’s up this year.

“I’ve got a whole list, OK?” Fisel said.

She wasn’t kidding. As she flipped through pages of her notepad, Fisel checked off projects including the first phase of the Strawberry Valley Trail project, installing new entrance signs at the city’s gateways, replacing the Pigeon Street bridge, completing a county-wide housing study, updating the city’s comprehensive plan, establishing a veterans’ memorial in Pettit Park and installing a new decorative sign at the intersection of Lincolnway West and Cavin Street.

Ligonier isn’t without challenges, however, and those problems are issues the city needs to tackle sooner than later in order to keep growing.

Workforce is at the top of that list. As Ligonier’s industry is booming, it’s become apparent that there are not enough skilled workers to fill those jobs. Hooked into that problem is the city’s housing shortage, meaning there’s no room for people who may want to live and work in Ligonier.

“Knowing that our industry has 430 jobs available and Forest River is coming in and needing 400 people and knowing that our housing stock is zero almost, we have got to concentrate on the fact that we have got to get trained workers. We have to get housing in this community. That was the factor that drove us to annex the 126 acres,” Fisel said.

That new ground – which the city doesn’t own but wants to work closely with whatever developers might come in to build it – is a key focus of Fisel’s administration.

Ideally the city will be able to add new businesses along S.R. 5, then use the ground further back off the highway for new residential development. The good news is that two residential developers, Granite Ridge and Ideal Suburban Homes, are already showing interest in some available space.

Ligonier’s downtown is also a continuing focus and while the city is providing façade grants to help owners fix up their buildings, the city will need to continue to work with owners to take a more active role in filling and maintaining their buildings.

For example, some buildings have second-floor apartments filled, but not much is being done to get a shop into the first-floor commercial space, Fisel said.

“It is so difficult and part of it comes down to the owners of the buildings. We’ve got to get owners in there that care about the city and want to see the city look nice,” Fisel said.

It’s going to be a busy 2018, but Fisel noted that the city’s team is ready for it. She took time to recognize any city employees or board members who were in attendance and praised their efforts on behalf of the city and its citizens.

“This is our team. This is my team and I’m really proud of these guys. They do an awesome job and every one of them will go above and beyond the responsibilities that they have. They’re always positive. We focus on the positive and we work together and everyone of them understands they work for the citizens of this community,” Fisel said.

The city’s motto – “One city, one purpose, one team” – continues to guide its leaders.

“I have to let you know that God has blessed Ligonier, Indiana, and its people very richly. And I think we would be very remiss if we didn’t thank Him for all the blessings He’s bestowed upon this city,” she said in closing.