Last week the Plymouth Common Council was asked to consider a Resolution that would pledge financial support for the Marshall County Blue Zones Project.
The Marshall County Crossroads Regional Planning Team in cooperation with the Marshall County Community Foundation is pursuing a large-scale Blue Zones Project implementation in Marshall County. Blue Zones is a nationally recognized and tested public health program designed to improve the quality of life for everyone in Marshall County. Through community collaboration and empowerment, Blue Zones ensures the healthy choice is the easy choice, making improvements targeted at the following areas: People; Places; and Policy. The Blue Zones Project will unfold over an approximately 4-year period and will require an investment of up to $6.1 million in resources.
Far beyond the initial investment and implementation period, Blue Zones communities have seen significant positive increases in their residents’ well-being, and measurable savings in healthcare costs, productivity, and economic development.
The purpose and intent of the resolution are to pledge financial support to the Blue Zones Project, utilizing up to 25% of the funds that the City of Plymouth is receiving through the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 which equals $520,000.
Linda Yoder from United Way was on hand to answer questions on the request and explain their plan to take the funds gathered from the various governmental agencies and private donations that will position Marshall County from the READI Grants submission.
Yoder said working with the Troyer Group, the submissions for the READI Grants in the county will be under the umbrella of the Blue Zones. This includes projects that are related to increasing physical activity and promoting health and wellness.
Councilman Jeff Houin motioned to approve the resolution as presented for the purpose of bringing it to the floor for consideration and discussion.
City Councilman Greg Compton said the city has already pledged about $500,000 of the ARPA Funds for the solar project at the wastewater treatment plant and discussions of purchasing a Fire Truck for $784,000 and an ambulance for up to $350,000. Compton said, “The total investment over 3 years is $6.1 million. It will hire 3 consultants to come in and spend a year in Marshall County. It will hire 5 individuals, an Executive Director, and 4 support individuals and pay for marketing costs. It’s going to pay for an office and equipment in the office, but what it doesn’t do is go toward extending sidewalks or building additional trails.’
Councilman Duane Culp questioned if the city had received its total amount of $2.26 million. The Clerk-Treasurer said they had received half and anticipate the second half in July or August.
Councilman Jeff Houin compared the request to various other projects the council has significantly supported including the Boys & Girls Club and the Hunter Tennis Courts. He said the $6.1 million is the total cost over 4-years Countywide. It’s not just governmental funding there are major private donors, but they are waiting to see how much the City of Plymouth will support Blue Zones. Houin said, “I am convinced that it has not only an immediate impact but a life-long and generations-long benefit to our community. It will start the right work of creating the right policies and programs that will increase the quality of life in Marshall County for generations to come.”
Mayor Senter asked Yoder if the fund ($520,000) were needed now or over the next several years and she said over the 3-4 years. The first funds will be needed in the 3rd or 4th quarter of this year.
Councilman Don Ecker said he supports the concept but is questioning the dollar amount. He proposed using $300,000 of the APRA funds and some of the remainder for improvements in the community including sidewalks.
Councilman Robert Listenberger asked about being able to attract other grants with the Blue Zones certification. The Indiana State Department of Health will bring other funding opportunities to the county. Listenberger said Blue Zones is evidence-based and measurable and is something that should have happened 30 years ago. He said the benefits from the program will be our children and grandchildren and he is supportive of the $520,000.
There was a motion to amend the resolution to take the ARPA funds designation out and allow the city to use any funds they want to support the project. The motion to amend was made by Robert Listenberger and 2nd by Jeff Houin.
With more discussion, the Clerk-Treasurer, Lynn Gorski said the council is pledging to spend funds they don’t even have on hand yet. She also noted the cost of living and supplies for the city has increased. A citizen requesting a sidewalk improvement project was told it would be 5 to 7 years before the city would be able to complete it.
The motion to amend the resolution passed along party lines with the Democrats Robert Listenberger, Jeff Houin, and Shiloh Milner voting in favor of the amendment and the Republicans, Duane Culp, Don Ecker, Greg Compton, and Randy Longanecker voting no on the amendment although the initial Resolution is still viable.
Don Ecker made an amendment to Houin’s motion to approve the initial resolution from $520,000 to $320,000 but his motion died for the lack of a second.
Councilman Ecker asked Mayor Senter about his position on the Blue Zones program. Mayor Mark said he had some concerns after talking with the clerk-treasurer and commented on tabling the discussion for a broader discussion.
Councilmembers unanimously tabled the Blue Zones discussion for additional information and research.