By Sue Hughes | For The Times-Post
PENDLETON — Pendleton Business Association President Julie Schnepp knows that with all the growth around the Pendleton area residents have questions. With that in mind, she and the other board members assembled a group of town leaders from Ingalls, Pendleton and Markleville to answer some of those questions.
The public was invited to attend the State of South Madison County symposium on Wednesday, Sept. 21, at GVC Mortgage, 600 Corporation Drive. About 50 people came to listen to what the speakers had to say.
• Schnepp said the PBA is a nonprofit organization with 130 members, including members from Markleville and Ingalls. Its goal is to nurture an inviting atmosphere for civic cultural, social and economic activities in Pendleton.
• Tammy Bowman, executive director of South Madison County Foundation, said the organization has served the area for 31 years. “We need to keep our small town feel even as we grow,” she said. With that in mind, Bowman has formed focus groups of eight to 10 people to come up with ideas of what is best for the community. Fifty people what have taken community development training.
• Neil Stevenson, Ingalls town manager and planning director, reported that there has been a 2,500% increase in building permits in the past five years. He said he expects the population to grow from 2,500 to between 12,000 and 15,000 in the next 10 years. Stevenson also said Ingalls has its first sit down restaurant, Taylor’s Bar and Table, which opened recently at the intersection of State Road 13 and County Road 800 South. Another question Stevenson asked was “How do we bridge the gap between (Interstate 69 Exit) 214 and old Ingalls?” “My goal is to revitalize downtown Ingalls. Ingalls is really two towns.” Stevenson also reported that there are plans for a traffic signal at State Road 13 and County Road 800 South), possibly in 2025.
• Darlene Coverdale, two-year member of Markleville Town Council, said there are lots of changes coming to town. “We are very proud of Tim Basey, our town marshal.” She added that the council is coming up with a comprehensive plan to help manage growth.
• Pendleton town manager Scott Reske explained about how town government in structured. Department heads report to him, and he reports to town board president. He said it is important to handle growth wisely. “We want to grow smart and maintain our quality of living,” he said. In response to a question about heavy afternoon traffic in Pendleton, Reske said “we do not want a by-pass around Pendleton, those are bad for downtown. We are looking at expanding Heritage Way north to Pendleton Ave. That plan will be driven by development.” He also talked about Madson Avenue being closed at the railroad crossing because it does not meet safety standards. Crossings are supposed to drop no more than 3 inches, and that one drops 7 feet. Currently, Madison Avenue is open only to emergency traffic. Reske reported there are also plans for South Pendleton Avenue and Elm Street, another area that floods when it storms. The storm line is 120 years old and not big enough now. “We are waiting on state money to replace that line, put in new sidewalks and brick Elm Street.”
• Marc Farrer, Pendleton police chief for 18 years, talked about his department. Currently there are 12 officers and he is hoping to add two more in 2023. He also would like to recruit more reserve officers. He said, “We do mutual aid for Ingalls, Markleville and Lapel; we also patrol the interstate.”
• Pendleton Fire Chief Chris Nodine reported that the transition from a volunteer department to a paid fire territory is ongoing. Full-time firefighters will be hired, and current volunteers will be hired on a part-time basis. The fire department covers 65 square miles, including the interstate from Exit 214 to Exit 222. “We recently received a grant for more than $3 million to purchase a new truck and extraction equipment.” He also mentioned the department will be installing a Safe Haven Baby Box, a place where newborn babies can be left safely and anonymously.
• South Madison Community School Corp. Superintendent Mark Hall said he wanted to assure people that the schools are far from overcrowded and there is still plenty of room for growth. The three elementary schools are able to handle 2,950 students and currently have 2,390; the middle school capacity is 900 and enrollment now is 724; and the high school is also below capacity with 1,372 students and room for 1,600. “We are not at capacity,” Hall explained. “We have 614 nonresident enrollees; the state pays us $6,500 for each of them.” Hall said if the schools were to near capacity, it would stop accepting new nonresident students.
• Chet Babb, Pendleton Town Council president, said “We have a great town council. We get a lot done because of Reske, Nodine and Farrer.” He talked about finally getting the flooding problem on Water Street taken care of. He added “We can call it Dry Street now.”
• Last up was Falls Park Director Aaron Burris. “Our population is not getting smaller, we need to expand,” he said about the park. “We want to include something for each resident.”
At the conclusion of the meeting, Schnepp issued a challenge to each town leader: “When I look at you, you are connected and connecting with each other. If you make a decision for Green, Adams or Fall Creek township, talk with each other about it. Wouldn’t that be incredible? Keep conversations open, talk to your neighbor.”