TIPTON — It took the politicians convincing themselves to not worry about politics for the Tipton County Council to endorse shovel-ready status for Northgate Business Park

Vance Voorhis, chairman of the Tipton County Economic Development Corp.’s executive committee, approached the council at its meeting Tuesday, asking for the members’ support of the shovel-ready project.

“I have yet to hear any arguments that shovel-ready is anything bad,” Voorhis said to the council.

The Tipton City Council wrote a letter of support in May for the Tipton County EDC’s shovel-ready proposal.

The organization tried to obtain shovel-ready status for the industrial park last year, but the Indiana Economic Development Corp., which grants the status, turned it down. The Indiana EDC told the Tipton County EDC the project did not have adequate community support.

The only necessary letter of recommendation needs to come from Tipton Mayor Dan Delph, who submitted a letter of support for the first proposal.

The EDC has also been seeking support from other government offices.

“The EDC is trying to go above and beyond to make sure we have the public support we need,” Voorhis said.

Councilman Scott Friend raised concerns about the EDC’s relationship with other city offices and possible political motives.

In January, the city pulled funding from the EDC and created the Tipton Economic and Community Development department.

Voorhis credited the rejection of the first shovel-ready proposal to a letter a commissioner wrote to the state saying the city pulled funding from the EDC, and it is no longer recognized as a government office.

Friend said he was concerned about the EDC’s decision to seek support from offices other than the mayor’s.

He said he remembered a similar situation five years ago in which a group sought support from government entities that did not need to formally give their support to a proposal.

“It splintered groups of people, and it really created some adverse feelings,” Friend said.

Voorhis told the council politics are interfering with the decision to approve the shovel-ready project, and it would be in the best interest of the city and county to have the status obtained for the industrial park.

Councilwoman Beth Roach brought up during the meeting that Vickey Van Sessen, the new director of Tipton County Economic Development, has openly stated she wants to work with the EDC and obtain shovel-ready status for the site.

Council President Brad Nichols said the shovel-ready project could bridge the gap between the EDC and the city and county offices.

Barbara Cardwell, a Tipton City councilwoman who attended Tuesday’s meeting, mentioned she and councilwoman Shay Dell have been appointed to the TAC and are also members of the EDC. Cardwell said she and Dell could also help bridge the gap.

“We’re a bunch of politicians in here,” Cardwell said, “and we’re all being political.”

Friend asked Voorhis if the state rejected the EDC’s current proposal, would he be willing to drop any disputes between the city and the EDC and “be part of the solution” by letting Van Sessen try to obtain shovel-ready status.

“As a minimum, if we do not achieve the letters of support we need, it will be a dead issue,” Voorhis said in response to Friend’s question, adding it would be a “travesty” if the proposal was not accepted.

The council agreed that it would draft a letter of support for the shovel-ready project. The deadline for the EDC to get a letter of support from Delph and submit it to the state is July 17.

• Daniel Human is a Kokomo Tribune staff writer. He can be reached at (765) 454-8570 or at daniel.human@kokomotribune.com.

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