related story- using cedit cash for smaller "honey-dews" around town..like they used to do..scroll down for text
Last updated: Tue. May. 12, 2015 - 09:11 pm EDT
Council defers Legacy-riverfront vote, but city acquires key property anyway
"Ground zero" Smurfit building donated; Pepsi plant, Rescue Mission eyed
Deputy Mayor Karl Bandemer, who outlined the need for Legacy dollars in general terms, told council members Tuesday that Real America Development, which is converting a vacant warehouse at Calhoun and Superior streets into the "Superior Loft" apartments, has donated the adjacent building at 102 W. Superior St. -- in the heart of the area Bandemer called "ground zero" of development plans -- to the not-for-profit Downtown Development Trust. The building will probably be razed because it is in the floodplain and has some physical problems, but the property itself is key piece of the development puzzle, said Bandemer, who noted that the trust may also seek to acquire the Pepsi distribution center north of the St. Marys River on Harrison Street and the Rescue Mission on Superior. The mission reached out to the trust about possible relocation, Bandemer said.
Paying for those or any other properties will have to wait, however, because council wants more information from the administration of Mayor Tom Henry before deciding whether to tap the fund created by the sale of the former city electric utility. As The News-Sentinel reported Tuesday, council members hope the delay will allow the city to provide more information about how much more than $12 million might be needed, and where the money might be found.
"Council's responsibility is to have an actionable plan that can succeed," said Russ Jehl, R-2nd. "The public believes Legacy will pay for everything."
The city is also seeking $3 million from the Capital Improvement Board, which could decide next week, and expects $3 million from the Community Foundation of Greater Fort Wayne. The capital board and foundations may provide even more, and Bandemer confirmed that the city hopes to secure some of the $84 million expected to be available through the state's new "regional cities" program. The city must have its application ready by July 1.
And more money will be needed, Bandemer said, noting that $12 million would last only about 2 years and would not be enough to complete the so-called "promenade," although city Planner Pam Holocher insisted the riverfront walk will be built, possibly within three years. In addition to paying for land, the $12 million would also fund studies, some construction and also allow the hiring of a program manager. Although the city could use its power of eminent domain to acquire land for public use, Bandemer said he hopes that's not necessary because it would limit the use of any property acquired through condemnation. Bandemer said he hopes additional owners are willing to give property to the trust or sell at a below-market rate, claiming a tax break in the process.
City Controller Pat Roller assured council that the Legacy fund will not be overly depleted even if it grants the $6 million. The fund has a cash balance of about $40 million and could contain $88.1 million by 2025 even after the $6 million is deducted.
Last updated: Wed. May. 13, 2015 - 04:12 pm EDT
Neighborhoods propose using CEDIT money for fund for smaller infrastructure projects
The city says it's already addressing needs in neighborhoods, pumping at least $20 million in CEDIT and other funds into streets, sidewalks, curbs and other work last year and this year. The city plans to continue investing about $20 million in neighborhood projects yearly through 2019, spokesman John Perlich said.
NUG members will discuss the situation during a meeting at 7 p.m. Monday at Anchor Community Church, 1529 Third St. They have invited Fort Wayne City Councilman Tom Didier, R-3rd District, and Allen County Councilman Robert Armstrong, R-at large. State Sen. Liz Brown, R-15th, has a prior commitment but may try to make it to the end of the meeting.
Along with money for projects, neighborhoods' other big concern is having input on what work gets done. NUG leaders believe the city has shifted its focus to almost solely on downtown, leaving older neighborhoods to deteriorate.
“Let's get away from their (the city's) pet projects and start putting money back in the neighborhoods,” said Bud Mendenhall, assistant director of NUG and president of the Bloomingdale Neighborhood Association, located just north of downtown.
From the 1990s until 2010, City Council members each received CEDIT funds — at one time $450,000 a year — they could use to pay for projects in their district.
Deciding what projects to complete with the money promoted a close working relationship between City Council members and leaders of neighborhood associations in their district, Mendenhall and Didier said.
“The neighborhoods were stronger, they were more active and they were more inclined to call me about projects,” said Didier, who said he has asked the city numerous times to restore a portion of CEDIT money to City Council members.
NUG leaders have proposed the city allocate a set amount of CEDIT money annually — or between 5 percent and 15 percent of the total — to a fund to be overseen by the Division of Public Works. Neighborhoods could submit requests for repair or improvement work to the fund. Decisions about what projects to fund would be decided by a committee of Public Works staff and neighborhood leaders.
This year, the city expects to receive about $23 million in CEDIT funds.
Didier agrees the city is doing great things now in neighborhoods with the $20 million annually in infrastructure projects. But some small projects may not get done, and completing those can “add up to make neighborhoods feel more vibrant and livable.”
City Councilman Tom Smith, R-1st District, believes the NUG proposal would help the city address the small projects that often fall through the cracks. Smith, who has had talks with NUG leaders, believes the NUG plan would be “very warmly received” by City Council.
“I'm glad there are some squeaky wheels out there,” he said. “It's important.”
The city declined to comment on NUG's proposal or how diverting money to such a neighborhood improvement fund could impact other public works projects.
“That request has not been communicated to us,” Perlich said of the NUG idea. “Without a detailed proposal of what this might look like, it's premature for us to say what impact that could have on other projects.”
But the city believes strongly in neighborhoods, Perlich said
“We have been and will continue to be strong advocates for neighborhood investments,” he said. “Neighborhoods are the backbone of our city.”
The city completed infrastructure work in more than 140 neighborhoods last year and plans to do work in more than 150 neighborhoods this year, he said.
“Every quadrant of the city is seeing significant investments in neighborhood infrastructure improvements,” he added.
In addition, a sidewalk improvement plan the city began last year dedicates $500,000 per year for sidewalk and curb ramp maintenance and for small sidewalk “trip hazard” repairs, Perlich said.
Neighborhood residents also have the option of using the Barrett Law process to make sidewalk repairs, said Frank Suarez, public information director for the city's Division of Public Works and City Utilities. Under the process, residents would pay 60 percent of the project cost, and the city would pay 40 percent.
Each year, the Division of Public Works also invites neighborhood association presidents to submit a list of the top three infrastructure projects they would like to see done in their area, Suarez said. Those nominations are considered when deciding what projects will get done.
The biggest factor in the decision, however, is how poorly a street, sewer or sidewalk scores on public works staff's rating of its condition, Suarez said. The worst areas get top priority.
In the weeks ahead, it will be up to neighborhood and city leaders to determine whether they can bridge their gap.