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Hoosier Heartland Corridor answers for Roanoke not likely to be clear

With the final segment of the Hoosier Heartland Corridor lying in Roanoke's back yard, some difficult decisions must be made in light of the new stimulus package recently signed by President Barack Obama.

Completion of the four-lane highway is at a standstill, awaiting an answer that will likely not present itself clearly.

Mark Wickersham, director of Huntington County United Economic Development (HCUED), says that because no decision has been made as to whether the new stimulus plan will include funding for the feasibility study, Roanoke must decide whether to go ahead with the project or await a congressional decision. That decision, says Wickersham, may still be months in the making.

"Efforts to find funding for (the project) are continuing," says Wickersham. "It was included in a list that the City of Huntington, the municipalities and the county made of 20 infrastructure projects totaling a little over $33 million for consideration as part of the stimulus project. It's been presented to legislature and planning agencies. The A-7 feasibility study was part of that."

The final segment of the Hoosier Heartland Corridor, a link from Roanoke to I-69, is officially known as A-7.

Even if the study is funded, the project is not guaranteed. Questions remain surrounding the existing U.S.-24. If it's up to the county or Roanoke to maintain the highway, "we may not be in a position to do that," says Wickersham.

At the Roanoke Town Council meeting on Tuesday, Feb. 17, President John Stoeckley stated that he would like Council Vice President Michelle Schwieterman to confer with Roanoke Utilities Superintendent Paul Swain to organize a list of projects that may also be covered by the stimulus package.

In other business:

• The council approved a request by Alice Eshelman, representing Joseph Decuis, to close Main Street for a total of 21 hours to host a wedding reception in October. The council granted her request after Eshelman received the approval of other Main Street business owners and addressed insurance and security issues.

• Roanoke Fire Chief Chad Taylor requested a fire department link on the Roanoke town Web site. Taylor also reported a fundraiser would be held for firefighter Todd Brundridge in March.

• Swain stated the utility department was picking up brush and cold patching as able. He was asked to get at least three estimates for Town Hall roof repairs.

• Clerk-Treasurer JoAnne Kirchner reported working with Comcast to do an address audit since the most recent annexations. The annual franchise contract amount increased by $630, she says.