‘Abundant with opportunity’

Improving one of the county’s main east-west routes and preparing land along Interstate 65 for development will be two key focuses for Whiteland in future years.

Franklin and Greenwood continue an aggressive approach to growth and development, and Whiteland should do the same, town manager Norm Gabehart said.

At Friday’s State of the Town speech, Gabehart emphasized how important it is for Whiteland to rebrand itself through continued growth, progress and improvements throughout the town, he said. He noted upcoming projects, such as the roundabout at Whiteland and Graham roads and the site of a former grocery store that will soon become a Johnson Memorial Health building.

And with the announcement of Interstate 69 passing through the county, along State Road 37, the town should focus on Whiteland Road and its potential to be the east-west route residents have been talking about for more than 20 years, he said.

“2016 is abundant with opportunity,” Gabehart said. “It’s a great time in Johnson County. Johnson County has put us in a good position. As we sit in the middle of (the county), we have the best east-to-west route taking motorists from I-65 to U.S. 31 to State Road 135, and in the future, to I-69.”

With improvements to the road already made further west, such as roundabouts at the intersections with Morgantown Road and County Road 144, Whiteland Road is a no-brainer for what route should be the county’s primary east-to-west corridor, Gabehart said.

In the next several years, Gabehart wants to eliminate entrances and exits into businesses along Whiteland Road to cut down on the amount of slowing and stopping, creating a better flow of traffic through Whiteland on the way to I-65, he said.

The east side of the town is also a key area for future development, he said. Town officials are planning to extend water service to the area near I-65 to allow for more development. A 105-acre piece of land on Whiteland Road, just west of the interstate, recently sold and is planned to be developed into an auto mall, with a used car retailer and several other dealerships, Gabehart said.

This year, the town is also planning to install decorative signs with a new town logo along Whiteland Road and at key intersections, welcoming motorists passing through, in an effort to change the impression of the town, Gabehart said.

But service for local residents is also important, he said. In 2015, the town began a leaf and limb pick-up service that kept streets and roads clean and free of debris.

And in the last year, the town has installed new drainage pipes near Main and Pearl streets to solve issues with flooding east of the railroad tracks after a heavy rainfall, Gabehart said.

Next up: a regional drainage project with Clark-Pleasant schools building a retention pond that would help with drainage if the school district were to add on or build new facilities in the future, Gabehart said.

And working with New Whiteland will be just as important for continued progress, Gabehart said. Families from both New Whiteland and Whiteland send their children to Clark-Pleasant schools, and that’s why working as one big community is important, Gabehart said.

In the next year, Gabehart wants to add two full-time police officers, and those hires, along with drainage improvements and the purchase of leaf collection equipment, are affordable with a balanced budget, Gabehart said.

In January 2015, the town’s general fund had a balance of about $11,000. By December, that balance increased to about $105,000, Gabehart said. He attributed the added cash to the town no longer using consulting firms and, instead, doing most planning in-house, Gabehart said.

“I am excited for the opportunities that are there for us. We’ve laid a good path for ourselves,” Gabehart said.

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Corey Elliot is a reporter at the Daily Journal. He can be reached at celliot@dailyjournal.net or 317-736-2719.