Huntertown’s unprecedented growth isn’t likely to stop as plans for a sanitary sewer force main will allow for more residential growth to occur on the north and east sides of Cedar Canyons Road extending east to Coldwater Road. More trail projects and downtown improvements, including streetscape work and public benches, will add to the changing landscape as the town looks beyond 2020.
However, plenty of headway has already been made over the course of the past year, despite the COVID-19 pandemic.
In January, the Huntertown Town Council and Utility Service Board worked with consultants to determine how to implement capital surcharges to recoup costs associated with future sewer and water improvements, which will eventually allow for new residential construction on the northeast side of town. The town planned for a $5.5 million long-term investment for sewer projects, and $4.7 million in upgrades to the water utility, town engineer Derek Frederickson said. The $5.5 million in sewer improvements would add enough capacity for 2,011 new sewer customers.
Later that month, council voted to annex the Copper Creek subdivision currently under construction on the east side of S.R. 3, which will bring nearly 700 homes and 250 rental units into the town. Later annexations would include sections of Twin Eagles and Rolling Oaks and the Allen County Fairgrounds, among others.
“The Fairgrounds does not pay property tax, so it is going to be increasing the overall assessed value for the town but it’s not generating additional tax revenue … so it is a positive impact on the town,” Town Manager Beth Shellman said.
Town Council member Brandon Seifert also joined the All In Allen Comprehensive Plan Advisory Committee, representing the town in the group’s new plan guiding land use, housing, transportation, parks and more around Allen County, including Huntertown, Grabill, Monroeville, Woodburn and unincorporated areas of the county. Seifert also represented Huntertown in its new partnership with Great Fort Wayne Inc.
In May, council weighed in on findings from a water and sewer rate study, determining the utilities “are in great shape,” Shellman said, noting that there was no need for the town to consider increasing the current rates, which have been in effect since 2014.
“The financial report card for the utilities is excellent,” consultant Stephen Carter, of O.W. Krohn and Associates, told town council members during a remote meeting May 4.
In early June, the town hosted a drive-through signing event at Town Hall to help Fort Wayne Trails secure enough signatures from Twin Eagles residents to complete a section of trail that will connect Huntertown to the Pufferbelly Trail system. Less than five months later, Fort Wayne Trails Executive Director Megan McClellan announced that the organization had secured enough signatures to begin the project. The trail will eventually connect to a spur at Payton County Park, 13928 Dunton Road, Huntertown, as part of a larger project being completed by Allen County Parks and Recreation. That project, which is expected to be completed in spring 2021, will include a half-mile paved loop within the park that will connect to the Pufferbelly Trail, as well as a new parking lot, a playground and a taller gazebo.
“Everything is moving now,” McClellan told council members in November. “For a long time, it was sort of stuck, but now it’s all moving.”
The town’s downtown area received a facelift in June with the addition of new “Hometown Heroes” banners along Lima Road, honoring past and present residents of the town serving in the military and public safety.
“We’re getting a lot of positive responses to them,” Shellman said. “The council did a great job supporting that program.”
In late July, Town Council passed a resolution affirming its support for law enforcement officers following a wave of protests in the wake of the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis, including demonstrations in downtown Fort Wayne.
“Huntertown Town Council members are grateful for the Allen County Sheriff’s Dept. Officers, including our own town Resource Police Officers, who protect the community and put their lives on the line for not only our community but for all of Allen County,” the resolution reads. “We as a community know that the Sheriff’s Dept. is grounded by the rule of law and we believe the vast majority of law enforcement officers are conscientious, civic-minded professionals, that strive for excellence in their service to the community.”
Earlier in the year, the town added a second resource officer position to address the needs of its growing population.
“Especially in a small community, you don’t want the morale of the officers — whether they’re resource officers or your own police department — you don’t want the morale to be low,” Seifert said. “And that’s something that I wanted to get out in the forefront, especially locally, to let them know ‘Keep your heads up high’ and ‘You’ve got the community behind you.’”
In September, community members, town officials and local business owners banded together to welcome Sheets and Childs Funeral Home to Huntertown.
“The community has been very welcoming, and we’re excited to be a part of it,” owner Miles Wilson said.
In October, the town adopted a 2021 budget of $2.4 million, representing a more than $90,000 increase from 2020, including increases in five different funds. Huntertown’s total estimated civil max levy was $249,377, with an estimated property tax cap of $230.
“We’re a very lucky community that the property tax caps only hit us for that low of an amount of money,” Huntertown Clerk-Treasurer Ryan Schwab said.
Huntertown advertised the lowest property tax cap of any community in Allen County, with Leo-Cedarville’s $1,530 cap being the closest of any other town in the county.
The following month, council members met with representatives of Rotary District 6540 to discuss plans to establish a Rotary club in Huntertown.
“We make a big difference in our communities, but it’s also bringing together those people in the community, and we’re there and available to leaders in the community for needs that come about, so I think that’s a big thing,” Jane Roush, the governor elect for District 6540, said.
Some other accomplishments by the town this year included several new annexations; implementing an in-house construction inspection; installing a Safe Haven Baby Drop-off Box at the Huntertown Fire Department; earning grants for construction on Lima, Bethel and Hathaway roads, and the Kell Road Bridge; updating minimum standards for utility construction and adopting a meter replacement program; creating a 5-year sidewalk repair, improvement and construction program, as well as a 5-year asset management program for street improvements; purchasing a salt sprayer and tank for liquid de-icing on main roads prior to a large snow event; starting a vehicle replacement program to routinely replace aging vehicles and equipment; installing additional welcome signs at the town limits; rezoning property along S.R. 3 by Empowered Sports Club to promote commercial development; adding two outside utility employee positions; and implementing a department head-style approach of managing utilities.