Shirley leaders prepare for spring refinishing project

SHIRLEY — Shirley town officials are preparing to seek bids for a $166,000 road refinishing project.

Shirley received nearly $125,000 in funding — 75 percent of the project cost — earlier this fall from the Community Crossings Grant, a state program that helps Hoosier communities fund road projects. The town of about 800 residents in the county’s east side joined several towns and cities in Hancock County that received the state funding.

The project aims to refinish about a half mile of Shirley’s Main Street from the northern border at Half Street to South Street, said clerk-treasurer Teresa Hester.

The remaining $40,000 to complete the project, the town’s local match, will come from its local option income tax fund, Hester said.

The Community Crossings grant is the second grant Shirley has recently been awarded; town officials in October learned they’d received a $550,000 Indiana Office of Community and Rural Affairs Grant to be used toward a $2 million sewer project. Town officials plan to seek a $1.5 million Indiana State Revolving Fund loan to cover the rest of the cost of the project.

Both projects have been out of the town’s reach in the past because of the costs, said town council president Dennis Denney. The town budget decreased by some $60,000 from 2016 to 2017 as Hester took over the clerk-treasurer role, further tightening the town’s purse strings.

“The grant is what’s made it possible,” Denney said. “I’m pretty excited about all that.”

With a yearly budget of just more than half a million dollars, town leaders have to pinch pennies — or find alternate funding — wherever possible, said town council member Dennis Westridge.

Westridge, who joined the town council in January, said he’s grateful to the leaders who have been working to locate grant opportunities to improve their town.

“The blessing of that particular grant is the fact that we get to upgrade Shirley a little bit,” he said.

Hester and town maintenance manager Marty Ebbert are putting together the specifications in order to solicit bids, with a goal of publicizing the project this week, she said.

Shirley’s Main Street hasn’t been refinished for some 20 years, said Denney, who has served on the town council for 15 years. Because it’s been so long since Shirley has had a major refinishing project, Ebbert and Hester have reached out to other small Indiana communities to learn how to best craft their specifications and solicit construction companies to take on the work, Hester said.

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Rorye Hatcher is a reporter at the Greenfield Daily Reporter. She can be reached at ​317-477-3211 or rhatcher@greenfieldreporter.com.