By GAIL ROACH
For The Times
The Harmony Town Council held a special meeting on Aug. 9 in the Van Buren Township Firehouseto give residents a chance to see drawings of the Proposed Community Center/House. This was the second public hearing.
Debbie Bennett, grant writer, distributed a project budget and a reasonable timetable for completion of the structure. The grant will be submitted in September and should receive word of its acceptance or rejection by November. If approved, the town would then have to get building permits, advertise for bids, and complete other required paperwork to possibly begin construction in March 2006. Tentative completion date would be November 2006 at the earliest.
Erny and Associates of Vincennes presented the final drawings and floor plans complete with parking areas. The structure will be 4,800 square feet with a banquet hall capacity of 153 with tables set up. Seating capacity is larger when no tables are used. The building will have a kitchen with pass-through windows to the banquet hall and smaller meeting room. The meeting room will have a capacity of 23. The banquet hall will feature a cathedral ceiling and fireplace. The center will also have storage, an office, a covered entrance, and adequate restroom facilities. A paved parking area will accommodate 24 cars and additional parking area will be rocked to provide for a total of 40 spaces. A large wrap-around deck is planned for a later stage of the project. This would allow for the overflow of guests at large wedding receptions or fundraiser dinners.
The Harmony Community Center will face the U.S. 40 and Border Street intersection with the main entry on the west side. The building will set approximately 40 feet back from the sidewalk area along the highway.
Event attendees will be able to enter the community house from either the west or south parking lot. Cars will exit from the back of the building to be able to follow streets to the east, south, or west rather than creating a traffic tie-up onto U.S. 40.
An earlier drawing had gone beyond the budget the Council members had hoped to keep. Bud Erny subsequently made changes for the first public meeting to keep some of the nicer elements but pare down some of the square footage to fit into the current budget.
Bennett cautioned against assuming the grant would be approved on the first try. The award committee reviews all the grant applications, estimated to be around 80, and then approves about 40. They assign numerical values to the town's statistical data and to the grant itself. If it does not meet the desired value on the first round, Harmony can then add to the grant application and continue to raise the score until it is approved. Letters from residents and groups explaining the need for the community house help to raise the chances for grant approval.
Funds to build the community house are being sought from the Community Focus Fund, through the Federal Department of Housing and Urban Development. The funds are awarded and administrated in this state by the Indiana Department of Commerce. The town of Harmony has to have a 10 percent matching which is partly made up of in-kind services and donations of land, time and services. Harmony is seeking a grant of $480,000.
Some small towns have a school where everyone gathers and it brings unity to the community and keeps everyone informed. Other cute little burgs have a large firehouse for various events. A town where everyone attends the same church can act as a meeting place for the area as well as a religious center. In a small town, it might be a business like a convenience store, that becomes the central meeting place. When the small schools and corner groceries disappeared so did the identity of many of Indiana's small towns. Residents never see each other to talk about what the town needs.
Harmony has three churches, several large businesses on its fringes and small businesses within its limits but Harmony does not have that one special place where everyone gathers for the news and happenings. It is hard to get Harmonites together for any cause or event because no large space is available for everyone. The annual Fish Fry can't even be held in Harmony because there is no space for it. It is great fun going to Carbon and they have a terrific site for the event but it is sad that Harmony has no space to hold its own events. The churches are very accommodating to small groups but larger groups, special meetings, big events need more space and facilities. Harmony is a great little town and it needs its Community Center.