GREENFIELD — 2018 will usher in changes across Greenfield local leaders hope will make the area more attractive to both residents and those considering making the city their home.

Community leaders expect the coming year to be an exciting, busy year for Hancock County, they told business leaders this week during the annual state of the community address. They’ll take the shape of new amenities and improvements to existing facilities.

Each January, the Greenfield Area Chamber of Commerce hosts a luncheon to update residents on public projects happening around the county, inviting experts from different sectors of the community to share what happened in the last year and what lies ahead.

Here’s a look at what’s coming up.

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Diving in

One of the most exciting city developments for families in 2018 will be the completion and opening of the splash pad at Riley Pool, Mayor Chuck Fewell told dozens of stakeholders who gathered for the presentation Tuesday at NineStar Connect in Greenfield.

For years, families have asked city officials to update the public pool on Apple Street just north of U.S. 40. The facility hasn’t been renovated in years, and residents have repeatedly pushed for features appealing to young children.

Next year, they’ll get their wish.

City officials worked on designing the project for much of 2017, and the splash pad should be ready for little swimmers before the pool opens this summer.

Easy street(s)

Other projects on the city’s docket aim to welcome visitors to Greenfield and help them travel through the area more easily.

That starts with a redesign to enhance the Interstate 70 exit into the city. The approximately $1.5 million project, including lighted towers as well as signage welcoming visitors to Greenfield.

The project, which finalized its design last year, will be installed along State Road 9, making the area more attractive in hopes of making a good first impression on visitors, Fewell said.

When motorists make their way through Greenfield, city leaders want that travel to be as smooth as possible. One road to the east, Franklin Street, also receives a makeover next year in an effort to alleviate traffic backups on one of the city’s main thoroughfares.

Franklin Street, which runs parallel to State Road 9, is the only city-owned thoroughfare that stretches from the north city limit to the south city limit, making it a busy street for commercial and residential traffic. The project to widen the street from U.S. 40 north to Seventh Street also adds a center turn lane.

City officials completed a similar project on the south portion of Franklin Street in 2015.

Classing it up

In the next year, Greenfield Intermediate School will finish nearly $2 million of renovations, Superintendent Harold Olin told stakeholders Tuesday.

The school, which serves fourth-, fifth- and sixth-graders, is undergoing updates it’s needed for several years, Olin said.

Until 2010, the building housed sixth-, seventh- and eighth-grade students. When the corporation moved to a four-tier system, those seventh- and eighth-graders were shuffled to a new junior high school.

Since then, portions of the building that housed athletic facilities for middle school sports have gone mostly unused by their younger counterparts, leaving a significant portion of the facility underutilized, Olin said.

The majority of the work focuses on two areas of the building: the south side of the school, where the front office is located now, and the north side, which houses a gymnasium and two locker rooms.

Contractors are building a new administrative office in the north end, a move educators said makes sense because that’s where the school’s largest parking lot is located and where parents pick up their children.

They’ll convert the current front office into a special education suite, equipped with restrooms and changing areas for students who need them.

On the job

Skip Kuker is excited to see a new manufacturer begin hiring in coming weeks.

The director of the Hancock Economic Development Council told the crowd BeijingWest Industries, a Chinese auto-parts manufacturer that chose Greenfield for its first U.S. facility, will likely begin hiring 50-60 employees sometime this month or early next.

By 2021, the manufacturer expects to hire 440 employees.

As part of that project, city officials will complete road and utility work in Progress Park that will give developers access to about 200 more acres of land in the business park, Kuker said.

Looking ahead

This month, the Daily Reporter tells readers what issues and projects county leaders expect to tackle this year. We’ll update you on everything from education to business and development. Watch upcoming issues of the Daily Reporter to learn more about what to expect in 2018.

Other goals

County officials also highlighted these projects as goals for 2018.

  • Hancock Health will continue to build its Healthy360 initiative, which aims to provide wellness opportunities to community members through activities and access to healthy food, Hancock Health CEO Steve Long said.
    Long also touted hospital-related development on the county’s west side coming in 2018 but did not share additional details.
  • Greenfield-Central leaders will spend part of the year preparing to implement new state graduation requirements and for a new statewide test next school year that replaces the ISTEP, Superintendent Harold Olin said.
  • 2018 should see the next steps toward creating a criminal justice complex to accommodate an overcrowded county jail, Hancock County Council president Bill Bolander said. County officials are weighing whether to build a new jail and renovate various county offices, a project estimated to cost about $55 million.
    This May, residents could weigh in on the project when they head to the polls to vote. In the next few days, county officials will begin collecting signatures to bring the issue before voters. Leaders must show 500 county voters or property-owners are in favor of putting a question on the ballot about whether the project should move forward.
  • Economic development leaders will market land Celadon was expected to build on. The company called off its Hancock County project in 2017, leaving behind a partially finished building.
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Samm Quinn is a reporter at the Greenfield Daily Reporter. She can be reached at 317-477-3275 or squinn@greenfieldreporter.com.