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Riverfront study 1st to get capital board’s OK

IPFW request held; Indiana Tech law school’s denied

– The Allen County Capital Improvements Board approved its first request for funding Wednesday, turned down another and put a third request on hold pending more information.

The relatively new board collects some state income and sales taxes from IPFW, Grand Wayne Center, Memorial Coliseum and the Holiday Inn near the Coliseum. But the bulk of its funding comes from any county food and beverage tax revenue that is not needed to finance Coliseum debt.

The board received $3.1 million in early 2011 and $1.1 million this year. It is expected to accumulate up to $85 million over the next 17 years. The revenue the board controls is intended to pay for large, capital projects in the community. Requests for funding began in August with the launch of the board’s website, www.allencountycib.org.

In October, officials were asked for $200,000 for equipment for a wireless technology center at IPFW and for $1 million for the $16 million law school at Indiana Tech. More recently, the city of Fort Wayne asked for $50,000 toward its planned riverfront development study.

The City Council has approved spending up to $500,000 from the Legacy Fund, created by the lease and sale of the old City Power & Light, to examine the downtown riverbanks to see where and what kind of development is possible and makes economic sense.

On Wednesday, board members voted unanimously to approve paying for 10 percent of the study, up to $50,000.

Board member Steve Brody, who served on the committees that helped choose Legacy projects, said the riverfront was “clearly” the top recommendation.

Officials noted that while most of the money is intended for capital projects, there is also money earmarked for “due diligence” in investigating proposed capital projects, and officials fully expect that once the study is done, they will be asked to help pay for projects along the riverfront.

Member Ben Eisbart noted the huge effect Headwaters Park has had on the city, saying the rivers have “always been an unutilized asset.”

The proposal from Indiana Tech did not fare so well. The university just east of downtown had asked for $1 million toward its $16 million law school, but board members said that rather than their money being a catalyst, the project appears to be going forward with or without the board’s contribution. Officials praised the application and the project but could not support funding it.

“The project is fantastic. What the university is doing is great,” board President Ben Campbell said. “But the project is up and running without us, and the money is not needed for the project to occur.”

A request from IPFW, meanwhile, will wait for more information. The university has partnered with the local defense communications industry on a wireless technology center and would like $200,000 to help pay for equipment for its lab.

Board members said they want to fund the proposal but need to better understand what the budget for the center will be, how its operations will be funded and what its business plan is.

In other business, Campbell’s banking job is taking him to Indianapolis; board members voted unanimously to keep him as president while they try to find a replacement.

dstockman@jg.net

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