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Council OKs 9 Legacy proposals

– The City Council approved all nine of Mayor Tom Henry’s proposals Tuesday for spending money from the Legacy Fund.

Henry had proposed spending about $20 million over the next four years; that was pared back slightly after some members suggested funding only the first year of some multiyear proposals.

Still, administration officials were jubilant.

“I feel good about it. Very good,” said Community Development Director John Urbahns, who presented the proposals. “It’s the culmination of a two-year process, and I think they recognized the unprecedented community input on this.”

The Legacy Fund is money from the lease and sale of the city’s old electric utility, City Power & Light. There is about $47 million on hand; an additional $28 million will come in over the next 12 years. The city is setting aside $30 million to be available for large projects in the future.

The projects came after nearly two years of developing recommendations for the money, sifting through more than 1,000 ideas from the community and creating the broad goals for how to use it.

The first project considered by the council – and the one that could be first to actually begin – was a study costing up to $500,000 examining riverfront development in downtown Fort Wayne. That measure was approved unanimously.

An $8 million Higher Education Opportunity Fund, however, was more contentious. The fund would be used as matching funds to help colleges and universities move facilities downtown.

“Good government does not give straight cash benefits to private entities,” said Russ Jehl, R-2nd.

John Crawford, R-at large, said he could not support spending money on projects that will likely happen anyway. Mitch Harper, R-4th, abstained to avoid a conflict of interest, as he and his wife teach college courses. The measure passed 6-2, just making the six votes required by rules the council put on spending from the fund.

The proposal to give $1 million to a trust that purchases or options downtown properties of strategic value passed 6-3, with Crawford, Harper and Jehl opposed.

Two of the proposals were modified slightly after Crawford proposed limiting multiyear funding to one year with approval needed for ensuing years. The amended proposals – $700,000 to beautify overpasses that would serve as gateways to downtown with unique signs and art light; and $500,000 for way-finding signs, corridor enhancements and interchange beautification along and adjacent to city’s major gateway corridors – passed unanimously.

The other four proposals passed unanimously and unchanged:

•$3 million to convert Ewing and Fairfield from one-way to two-way, plus a roundabout at Superior Street

•$1 million for the local match needed for previously committed federal dollars for several city trail projects

•Up to $200,000 for a study on becoming regionally/nationally recognized in youth/prep sports

•$2 million renovation of the former McMillen Ice Arena into a community center

In other business, the council voted unanimously to approve a new Tax Increment Finance district in Aboite Township to pay for a trail along West Liberty Mills Road.

dstockman@jg.net

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