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City Council preliminarily approves $30 million in bonding for road, sidewalk repairs

Wednesday, February 19, 2014 - 6:12 am

Fort Wayne residents are one step closer to having tens of millions of dollars made available to address an infrastructure backlog that plagues streets, sidewalks, alleys and other aspects of travel in the city.

By an 8-0 vote at Tuesday's City Council meeting – Councilman John Crawford, R-at large, was absent – council members gave preliminary approval to an eight-year, $30 million bond proposal that will provide more than half of a $50 million infusion for that backlog to be addressed by 2018.

The ordinance, S-14-02-02, will be subject to final approval Feb. 25, after a public hearing scheduled for 5:30 p.m. at Citizens Square as part of City Council's regular meeting.

The backlog consists of $9 million for asphalt and $41 million in concrete work for the $50 million in total, according to City Controller Pat Roller. The Legacy Fund – proceeds from the sale of the rights to the long defunct City Light – is being tapped for $1 million in each of 2014, 2015, 2016 and 2017, while County Economic Development Income Taxes, or CEDIT funds, will provide $3 million in 2015, $3.5 million in 2016, $6 million in 2017 and $3.5 million in 2018. The bonding would provide $10 million in each of 2014, 2015 and 2016.

The city will pay about $4 million in interest on the bonds, according to Roller.

Many council members lauded the coming infrastructure work, including Councilman Russ Jehl, R-2nd, who said he appreciated the city's willingness to pare an original request for a maturity date of 10 years for the bonding to eight years, a move that he feels is a good-faith effort to attempt to pay-as-you-go, instead of a tax-and-spend, bond-and-borrow model.

Bullerman Ditch problems explained as zoning ordinances pass

While the potential for a cash infusion was hailed, another item on the council agenda, a seemingly harmless set of zoning ordinances set for the northeast corner of Wheelock and Maysville roads, was met with outright skepticism and, after passage by a 6-2 vote, disappointment from the neighborhood association president for Hacienda Village.

Richard B. Duke, the neighborhood association president, as well as homeowner Roger Johnson, expressed to council that the Bullerman Ditch is already a flooding concern for residents in Hacienda Village and that further development in that area – a hotel, retirement community and restaurants are all possibilities for the site – could exacerbate those existing drainage issues. Duke, for his part, consistently questioned whether the tributaries that are connected to the ditch have been cleaned adequately over the years, despite homeowners paying a $10 yearly fee for that purpose.

The ordinances -- Z-13-12-28 and Z-13-12-29 – came to council with a "do pass" recommendation. The city and a developer reiterated, under questioning, that the development would not make existing problems worse and so the measure did pass, with Council President Martin Bender, R-at large, and Councilman Mitch Harper, R-4th, dissenting.

The passage did not sit well with Duke, who found the logic behind approving the zoning ordinances baffling.

"This is totally unacceptable," Duke said. "I want to be proactive, not reactive, but what are we supposed to do, here? It passes because the developer says it won't make it worse? How do you know that? It's already a problem. I guarantee you, that's what somebody like that always says. But here's what has happened: There was no problem with Hacienda Village (with Johnson adding that residential knowledge dates back to 1964) and the Bullerman until there was (more development in the area)."

"If they even cleared the tributaries, that might help," Duke said. "We're saying, 'holy cow.' We shouldn't be alarmed because someone says it can't get worse? And yet, here we are, at the last minute now because we didn't even know about this process until we saw it in the paper, saying it is a problem and could get worse, and it passes anyway?"

"I don't understand that, at all," Duke said.

Other notes

Bill Brown of the Downtown Improvement District presented that entity's annual report to council, pointing to successful event programming such as the Night of Lights, Fright Night and Last Saturdays, while reiterating that the group's focus for 2014 will be what it calls "Clean and Green," which is a phrase describing the ongoing beautification of downtown, including numerous planters in the area...A held measure, R-14-02-05, generated lengthy discussion as Councilman Tom Smith, R-1st, expressed frustration at the process of requesting Legacy funds that were not part of the stated goals for the funding, as determined by an exhaustive process meant to distill the type and number of potential projects. The measure that was held would have provided $600,000 to the airport authority, in $300,000 installments over two years, to provide assistance in landing direct air service from Fort Wayne International Airport to another northeast hub.