Hamlet Council Joins Starke County’s Stellar Communities Application

The Town of Hamlet is joining Starke County’s effort to become a Stellar Community. The county government plans to team up with the county’s three incorporated municipalities to apply for a regional Stellar designation in 2019. The Hamlet Town Council voted Wednesday to move forward with the process, along with the rest of the county.

Council member Brian Earnest said he read about the program and discussed it with community members, as well as Knox Mayor Dennis Estok. “It seems to be that every town and even some of the different people are going forward with this within the community,” Earnest said, “and I think it’s something that the whole county should be behind, honestly.”

A Stellar Community designation would likely bring millions of dollars in state funding to the county, through grant opportunities with a smaller local match. Before joining the application, though, Hamlet would have to complete a five-year comprehensive plan. That’s expected to cost the town about $5,000.

Meanwhile, the Starke County Economic Development Foundation plans to hold a second informational session for local officials on August 15, according to Special Projects Coordinator Ron Gifford. “Gerry White from OCRA, our representative there, is bringing somebody else from OCRA that deals just with Stellar Communities to talk about what the next steps are, what to expect, what’s needed from each one of the communities that’s involved,” Gifford told the Hamlet Town Council. “And we’ll just talk about where everybody is in the process.”

In addition to Hamlet, the Starke County Commissioners and the North Judson Town Council have also taken action to join in the application. The Knox City Council has not taken a formal vote yet.