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Grant to give Laconia a boost

Not much has changed in the southern Harrison County town of Laconia in the past several years, but that may be altered in the next year or so.
The town’s population has held steady at about 50 (the total number of residents according to the 2010 U.S. Census). However, once a year, on a Saturday in October, the town’s population swells as people flock to the heart of the town, the four-way stop where S.R. 11 and Tobacco Landing Road intersect, for the annual Celebrate Laconia festival. The day-long event includes a parade, a variety of games and contests, craft and other vendors, food booths and yard sales hosted by many of the residents.
On one corner of the four-way, is the Laconia General Store, which was originally built in 1927 and renovated several years ago. Nearby is the old high school, which was given new life as a community center and a few apartments after a renovation project in 2008.
Now, the town has a chance to do something else, thanks to a $40,000 planning grant. (Laconia has to provide a $4,445 match.)
‘We hope something good will come out of it,’ Tom Huckaby, president of the town council, said last week.
Most of the money for the grant is provided by the Community Development Block Grant program, a federal program that, in this case, will be administered by the Indiana Office of Community of Rural Affairs.
‘Planning grants are an important tool as communities consider the best way to attract new businesses and increase prosperity in their town,’ Lt. Gov. Sue Ellspermann, whose office oversees the Community Development Block Grant program, said in a news release. ‘We are pleased to support the grant request from the town of Laconia as community leaders and residents explore ways to improve their community.’
One of the first requirements the town has to meet is to form a steering committee to oversee the process.
Huckaby said that is nearly complete, but they are looking for a few more members.
On Thursday, Jan. 23, the public is invited to a meeting, billed as a ‘visioning workshop,’ at 7 p.m. at the town hall to learn more about the grant and the process involved in developing a plan.
‘We need people to participate,’ Huckaby said.
The town has a three-phase process outlined for executing the planning grant. Phase 1 looks at existing conditions; phase 2 will be for strategic planning and plan development; and the final phase will be for the implementation of strategies. After that, the OCRA will review the final plan.
The public will be kept abreast of the process through additional meetings periodically.
‘It’s an eight- to nine-month process,’ Huckaby said of the timeline to develop a workable plan that could possibly help Laconia establish goals and policies to fulfill a vision for community and economic development.
‘I am excited about the possibilities that this comprehensive plan offers us down south and hope that what benefits us will also benefit the larger community that we share,’ he said.
For more information, call Huckaby at 737-2480.

Editor’s note: Since the story published, the Laconia Town Council has decided to have the meeting at the town’s community center. The start time, 7 p.m., will remain the same.