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Chad Ryan | The Journal Gazette
The city’s riverfront development team, visiting Headwaters Park in December, will take another step when design consultants unveil ideas at public meetings this week.

Riverfront development is within reach

Associated Press
Jeff Sampson, 35, an astrophysics student at Butler University, is part of a growing demographic: working-age Americans not working. It’s especially prevalent in Indiana.

Join the walk toward riverfront development

Riverside strolls might seem like fantasy against the reality of another winter storm, but Fort Wayne’s long-awaited riverfront development project – like spring – is within reach. Presentations this evening and Thursday will allow residents to offer their own ideas for shaping the project.

SWA Group, an international design firm based in California, will lead the session. The city of Fort Wayne has dedicated $500,000 from the Legacy Fund – money from the lease and sale of its former electric utility to I&M – to hire the company to prepare a plan for developing the Fort Wayne riverfront.

SWA is the lead consultant, but its team includes Fort Wayne-based MKM Architecture + Design; Market Feasibility Advisors; Biohabitats; Moffatt & Nichol; Empower Results; and AMEC. The final plan is expected to project goals, a timeline and guidelines for financing the work. An economist is part of the group to help ensure the proposals are feasible.

The meetings today and Thursday will include a visual preference survey, asking residents to respond to various designs and ideas. The riverfront plan will be a realistic one: SWA Group will conduct a study of environmental issues, flooding and navigation to ensure the plan accommodates the challenges posed by the St. Joseph, St. Marys and Maumee rivers.

The meetings are from 5:30 to 7:30 this evening and 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Thursday. Both will be held in the auditorium of the downtown Allen County Public Library.

Fixing hotline good call

The Journal Gazette has been among several Indiana newspapers that have reported on problems involving the state’s Department of Child Services during the past few years.

One area of particular concern was the statewide “hotline” the DCS established in Indianapolis in 2011 to field reports about endangered or neglected children. Teachers, judges and police, among others, complained that it was difficult to get the hotline operators to respond quickly or pass on important information they’d received to local agencies.

Last year, the DCS’ new director, Mary Beth Bonaventura, promised changes to the system.

The South Bend Tribune reports that a plan to open four regional hotlines around the state is well underway. The centers are in South Bend, Evansville, Bedford and Hartford City, about 50 miles southwest of Fort Wayne.

Calls from any location in the state may be answered at any of the regional hotlines, which still leaves the possibility that people very far away from a problem are taking the information without any particular familiarity with the locality they’re dealing with.

But the central hotline’s biggest problems involved lack of follow-up and communications. Since Bonaventura has taken command, hotline reports have been systematically disseminated to local DCS offices and local law enforcement agencies if necessary.

Overhauling the hotline system, which sometimes handles life-or-death situations, was far overdue. Credit goes to Bonaventura, and the legislative study committee that brought the hotline problems and other child-welfare issues into the spotlight. Sen. Travis Holdman, R-Markle, was chairman of the committee, and its members included Allen Superior Court Judge Charles Pratt and David Judkins, a former director of Allen County’s DCS office.

Jobless rate misses holes in workforce

Thirty-eight percent of Indiana’s workforce isn’t working, according to a report by The Indianapolis Star. “Among Midwest states, only Michigan has a larger percentage of out-of-the-workforce residents,” The Star reported. The numbers, which are growing nationally, include students going back to school, a growing “gray market” of workers who do jobs for cash and don’t report it, the growing numbers of baby boomers reaching retirement and, of course, people who simply have given up even looking for work.

The phenomenon makes the unemployment rate look lower than it really is.

But there may be other factors involved, too. Scott B. Sanders, commissioner of the state’s Workforce Development office, pointed out in a follow-up letter that Indiana’s population grew faster than any other Midwest state, which helped drive the out-of-the-workforce number higher.