By Keith Roysdon
Nearly 90 years after infamous outlaw John Dillinger robbed the Montpelier National Bank on Aug. 4, 1933, the Indiana city has taken other hits, including the loss of its elementary school, closed during the recent Blackford County schools consolidation, and the 2022 closing of the bank in the building where Dillinger pulled off his robbery.
The city’s population has dropped from 6,500 people during the natural gas boom of the late 1800s to 1,800 in the 2010 U.S. Census to just over 1,500 now.
But Mayor Kathy Bantz said the city is now on a roll.
“I said it in my 2022 State of the City address,” Bantz said. “Life hands you lemons, so you make lemonade, and ladies and gentlemen we just opened a huge lemonade stand in Montpelier.”
Good news comes as the city celebrates a $98,000 Indiana Rural Development Grant, on top of an earlier grant of about the same amount, and smaller grants.
The money will allow the city to redevelop two city-owned downtown buildings in the 100 block of South Main Street. One is likely to become a medical office, while the other could be home to a restaurant.
(A rendering of the 125 S. Main St. façade is used at the top of this release.)
The city’s recent successes and future plans:
- $98,000 grant for work on 123 S. Main Street, a former appliance store. Bantz said the city is negotiating with Bluffton Medical Group for a doctor’s office on the site.
- $98,000 grant for work on 125 S. Main Street, the former Chaney Hardware. “I’d love to see a restaurant move in there. We’re talking to a business about an Italian restaurant.”
- Acquisition of 116 S. Main Street, the recently vacated bank building. Appraisals are underway and a new building user might open an antique shop.
- Working with Star Financial Bank to locate an ITM (interactive teller machine), which will allow bank customers to face-to-face video chat with a teller during banking hours and use the machine as an ATM after hours.
The city’s financial picture has improved greatly since Bantz took office two terms ago. “We had $340,000 in the bank when I started and now we have $4 million, and we average over a million in our TIF district,” she said.
After the school was closed, Bantz said the city negotiated and acquired for free the former school building and a ten-acre athletic field. “It’s a huge, three-story building in good shape, and developers are looking at it. I’ve heard proposals for apartments, an adult daycare and nursing home, and a pre-school.”
Bantz said the city also has funding for ongoing stormwater and sewer projects. The city was awarded $4.5 million in a forgivable loan for the projects and will finance the balance interest-free, which translates into a $3 million savings on interest alone.
“We’ve got a lot of things going,” said Bantz, who is finishing her third term as mayor. “We’ll have a bank, doctor’s office, and an antique shop downtown by the end of the year.”
Montpelier is working with the East Central Indiana Regional Planning District in its recent progress.
Founded in September 2009, ECIRPD is a state-designated, multi-county regional planning district whose mission is to serve the economic development, planning, and grant development needs of Delaware, Grant, Blackford, and Jay counties. Our primary purpose is to help local governments advance economic growth and development in their communities. To do so, ECIRPD offers assistance with planning, strategic thinking, and securing grants to aid in the funding of projects that better the region. With our help, local governments can create effective solutions to improve blighted areas in their communities.