Cardinal Services Executive Director Vickie Lootens (L) speaks Tuesday to the Kosciusko County Commissioners on Cardinal Services’ request for $200,000 from the county’s American Rescue Plan Act funds. The ARPA Committee recommended the request. After the Commissioners’ approved it Tuesday, it goes before the County Council at their Oct. 13 meeting. Photo by David Slone, Times-Union
Cardinal Services Executive Director Vickie Lootens (L) speaks Tuesday to the Kosciusko County Commissioners on Cardinal Services’ request for $200,000 from the county’s American Rescue Plan Act funds. The ARPA Committee recommended the request. After the Commissioners’ approved it Tuesday, it goes before the County Council at their Oct. 13 meeting. Photo by David Slone, Times-Union
Five requests for American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds totaling nearly $400,000 were presented to and approved by the Kosciusko County Commissioners on Tuesday.

The county’s ARPA Committee recommended the requests. The County Council must also approve the requests at their Oct. 13 meeting.

Cardinal Services Executive Director Vickie Lootens had the largest of the requests at $200,000, followed by Combined Community Services Executive Director Randy Polston’s request for $100,000.

Lootens said Cardinal Services’ request is for the renovation of its current facility on Smith Street.

“We have been there since 1967. No major renovations have been done. We’ve put Band-Aids on the building, but it’s at the point that it needs that renovation, it’s not accessible,” she said.

Cardinal’s vision is to have an all-inclusive community center with RedBird Art Studio, which has evolved into several different clubs, including culinary arts, a technology lab, a garden club and a literacy club. Lootens said they’re partnering with businesses for employment opportunities and will be expanding its opportunity lab for certifications.

“Hospitality, healthcare and manufacturing are the three areas that we’ll be providing employment opportunities for the folks we serve, and right now we have 80% that are unemployed and that’s a pool of applicants that our businesses could tap into. There are a lot of gaps out there with the workforce shortage. We surveyed this area and those three areas were the greatest need and so that’s what we’re focusing on,” Lootens explained.

Commissioner Bob Conley asked if the renovation was for the property on Smith Street or for the former Marsh building on South Buffalo Street.

Lootens said it was for the Smith Street property. Asked by Conley what the status of the former Marsh building was, Lootens said they have a purchase agreement to sell it, with closing expected to be around Oct. 7, to Dean Avey. Avey’s company, Swift Group, owns CubeNow Self-Storage in the former Ace Hardware store at 1701 E. Center St., Warsaw.

She told the Commissioners Cardinal Services is currently at $6.8 million of the $8 million renovation cost of the Smith Street property.

“Another thing to consider is when we decided to go back to our current facility, that we nearing an $18 to $20 million campaign with inflation and all of those other things that were occurring at that time, so we’ve cut it more than half and so we’re very pleased with where we’re at. We’re at 87%. In May, we were able to break ground and we’re anticipating ribbon-cutting summer of ’24,” Lootens said.

Due to his connection to the project, Commissioner Cary Groninger abstained from voting on Cardinal Services’ request but it was approved 2-0.

Polston said the funds CCS was requesting was to address a couple projects they have a need for at their building.

“With this inflation going across our nation and our state, we are just getting slammed out there and, on top of all of that, taking a look at these projects, we’ve got to address these,” he said.

The CCS building is 12-13 years old and it has six HVAC units on the roof and they’re starting to show a lot of wear and tear, Polston said. Quine Freeman services those units. Two of them shut down earlier this summer and Quine Freeman took a look at them. Polston was told the units were starting to spring leaks and are getting toward the end of their lives.

Polston reached out to three groups to get quotes on replacing those HVAC units. Quine Freeman came back with the lowest quote of $77,543.

“That’s the first part of the application. Then the second part was a new truck,” Polston said.

He said he did write a grant last spring to the Frank Saemann Foundation and CCS was awarded $30,000 toward the purchase of a new truck.

CCS Director of Emergency Services Tim Frame said the van they currently use is a 2005 with over 200,000 miles on it. It’s rusted out and has a lot of mechanical problems. He said they use it quite frequently to pick up donations from local grocery stores, Midwest Poultry in North Manchester and from the Food Bank of Northern Indiana in South Bend.

“The vehicle is pretty critical for our operations. This would be the first time we would have an opportunity to purchase a brand new vehicle,” Frame said.

Lakeside Chevrolet offered to give CCS the vehicle at-cost for $48,000. So between the Saemann and ARPA funds, he said they should be able to purchase a new vehicle.

The ARPA Committee decided to make CCS’s request an even $100,000 so they would have extra funds in case there were any issues. Groninger said they have to turn in receipts for everything the money is spent for, so if costs come in under $100,000, they’ll only get what they actually spent.

Greg Steffe, director of Kosciusko County Historical Society, presented a request for $22,444.36. He said the money was being requested for a “multi-phase process. The main gist of this was the replacement of four aging HVAC units that we have over there at the Jail (Museum). All of them are over 20 years old.”

The first phase of the project has been completed and included replacing two units that were cooling the jail portion of the museum. One of the units had actually ceased to function, he said, so they were the most critical. There’s still two units to replace - in the genealogy and attic areas - but the Society is still waiting to see what funding is available to complete that project.

The second phase is to address a reoccurring leak in the building that they’ve been dealing with for a number of years, Steffe said. It’s in the reception area and whenever it rains “out of the east,” he said they get water coming in through the ceiling. They’ve addressed it a number of ways over the years but nothing seems to work.

On County Administrator Marsha McSherry’s recommendation, Steffe said he contacted Masonry Solutions out of Wabash and he was very impressed with them. They are trying to find a permanent solution for the leak.  

County Coroner Tony Ciriello requested $20,547.40 to update equipment in the coroner’s office, including a new autopsy table, new cooler body storage tables and a body lift.

The body lift can lift up to 1,000 pounds. “Unfortunately, we’re not dealing with small people anymore like we used to, and the risk of injury to us or them is now greater than it used to be,” he said.

The funding request includes shipping costs for the equipment.

“All the equipment we had when we started the building was donated to us used, and it’s kind of run its course,” Ciriello said.

While the old equipment is starting to rust and corrode, he said the new equipment is all stainless steel.

The last request was made by Sarah Lancaster, 911 director at Kosciusko County Communications, for $48,250.41.

“This is to upgrade our current physical phone equipment in dispatch. It has not been upgraded since March of 2015. This is the final dispatch piece for the radio project countywide. This is going to greatly improve our inoperability between the phone and the radio system, plus enhance our recordings that we provide to officers, prosecutor’s office and all that,” she said.

It’s all digital equipment.