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Clock tower project progresses

BERNE, Ind.-News concerning the construction of the Muensterberg Plaza and Clock Tower was released in the spring of 2005. Since that time, steady progress has been made toward the completion of the project.

Pledges in excess of $1.7 million have been received from businesses, alumni, Berne residents and interested individuals from outside the community. That amount represents more than half of the needed funds-all from private donations.

Berne businessmen and women have expressed excitement about the potential for economic growth from the clock tower. Businesses that have endorsed the tower include: Habegger Furniture, Clauser Furniture, Yager Furniture, First Bank of Berne, Lehman & Bixler, Dr. Robert Judge, Dr. Edward Fisher, Baumgartner & Beitler, Bank of Geneva, Miz Lehman Realtors-Auctioneers, Berne Ready-Mix, richard's jewelry, Elkhart Products of Geneva and several others.

Individuals have also pledged their support. Former residents Keith Reinhard, Erv Inniger, Jerome Lehman, and many others have said that the clock tower will be good for Berne. A number of families are honoring their parents and other relatives by making family pledges.

Other advocates for the project include Indiana's Lt. Governor Becky Skillman and past Secretary of Commerce for the State of Indiana, Pat Miller. To date, nearly 150 individuals and businesses have made financial pledges to the project, and many more have expressed interest and are planning to pledge.

With thousands of potential donors in the fundraising database, and with an all-volunteer fundraising committee, it will take time for all of the potential donors to be contacted. Individuals and businesses who have not yet been contacted, but who wish to pledge, should contact Jim Beitler or Roger Muselman, co-chairmen of the fundraising steering committee.

David Baumgartner, president of the Berne Community Development Corporation and a member of the clock tower steering committee, echoed the sentiments of the committee when he said, "We believe the clock tower and plaza will attract many people to Berne. When that happens, new stores and restaurants will sprout up, and entrepreneurs will be inspired to bring new businesses to the area. In fact, people are already contacting us and talking about starting new businesses that will profit from the tourists attracted by the clock tower and plaza."

When the former Shell gas station and nearby house were razed in the spring, the intersection of US 27 and State Route 218 changed dramatically. The CDC invested a large sum of money for the removal of the structures and underground storage tanks, but the investment was seen as a positive improvement for Berne that also moved the clock tower project forward.

In June, the Berne City Council agreed to vacate State Street, which had been the subject of Council discussion for some time. The street was vacated at the request of the CDC to allow for the construction of the clock tower and the Muensterberg plaza. In the near future, the street will be closed, the asphalt and concrete removed and the area leveled and planted in grass.

Statewide, there is now a push to designate US 27 as a historic highway. Craig Parrish is working with State Representative Dick Dodge and State Senator Dennis Kruse on that proposal. Combined with the construction of the clock tower, the historic designation could have a huge impact on the economy of Berne.

"We need to make Berne a thriving hub of small business," said Jim Beitler, steering committee co-chairman, "and it all starts-not ends-with the Muensterberg Plaza and Clock Tower."

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