SIDNEY – The Shelby County commissioners met with Mick Given, the president/CEO of Ferguson Construction, and John Freytag, the principal of Freytag & Associates Inc., on June 21 to discuss the ongoing improvements to downtown Sidney.
These improvements are decided on by a committee called Sidney Focus, which is led by Given, and Commissioner Julie Ehemann sits on the committee. Their current goals are to enhance Piper Park and guide people from city parking into downtown safely.
Upcoming projects will include adding two brick patios with tables that will be wheelchair accessible and available year-round and bike racks on the courthouse square, adding and adjusting lighting around the square and in the alleyways, and building three arches welcoming people to downtown. This work will be done in phases, starting with the patios, tables and bike racks. The group would also like to paint the railroad bridge on state Route 47 leading into downtown eventually. Given said work will start either by the end of June or after July 4.
“Our private industry gifts are coming in fairly strong. There’s been great support, and a lot of the local industry is stepping up and being a part of it and are very excited about what it’s going to be like for downtown,” Given said at the commissioners’ meeting.
“This is just one piece of all the exciting things happening in Sidney,” Ehemann said. “It’s an important piece of bringing people to downtown Sidney.”
The commissioners also met with Leigh Anne Wenning, the superintendent of the Shelby and Champaign County Boards of Developmental Disabilities, and Tyler Davis, the business director for the Shelby County Board of Developmental Disabilities on June 21 to discuss the Board’s budget and other updates.
One issue that Wenning discussed was the shortage of direct support professionals, which are employees who work with people with developmental disabilities in their homes. She said that they lost around 25 percent of these individuals during the COVID-19 pandemic, and employees like case managers have had to do the job in emergency situations. The Board is trying to help with recruiting new employees for these positions.
Another issue that was discussed was the wage gap between Shelby County and other counties for developmental disability jobs. Wenning said that people will train with their organization and then move to another county for better pay. They are considering raising the wages and are making sure the culture of the organization is good.
The board will also be working with the Workforce Development Program and United Way in the fall to get involved in camps and education sessions these organizations host in local schools to show students what the positions they are hiring for would be like and to get them interested in the field. In this profession, people can start at 16 years old if they are working for an agency.
The board just took over the Special Olympics events, and they are working on recruiting volunteers for coaching teams. They also operate Shelby Hills Preschool, which has three classrooms, and there are four satellite classrooms in local school districts – Jackson Center, Anna, Fort Loramie and Houston. Russia might be expanding their school, and they are interested in incorporating a satellite classroom if that happens.
The commissioners’ other recent business includes awarding the bid for the new generator at the Arrowhead Wastewater Plant to Buschur Electric, Inc. in Minster for $70,325 on June 2 and approving the renewal of the ½ percent sales tax on June 9, which will be effective from April 1, 2023, to March 31, 2028. The sales tax will continue to be evenly divided between the capital improvement fund and the engineer’s fund. They also approved payment of weekly expenditures on June 2 totaling $324,049.70, and on June 9 totaling $1,641,178.71.