FORT WAYNE – Much of the city will be a construction zone next summer, and officials couldnt be happier.
For years, all of us on the City Council have been hearing complaints about how bad the roads are, said Tom Smith, R-1st. So Im looking forward to hearing complaints about all the construction and how people cant get around because of all the streets being repaired. That will be the best complaint Ive ever received.
There may be a lot of those complaints: Mayor Tom Henry and city officials announced Monday that the citys higher income tax approved this summer will pay for 50 miles of asphalt resurfacing, 10 miles of concrete street reconstruction, repairs to brick streets and dozens of other improvements next year.
On June 25, the City Council voted to raise the citys income tax from 1 percent to 1.35 percent, part of a package of tax increases and spending cuts that will create about $13.5 million in new revenue for the city.
Officials said $3 million will go toward city parks, $2.8 million to hiring new police and firefighters and the rest to streets and roads.
Poor (Public Works Director) Bob Kennedy has really had to run around the city trying to fix only the most dire streets, Henry said. Hes going to be able to sleep at night.
This year, with falling revenues from declining gas tax revenues and property tax caps, the city was able to pave about 20 miles of asphalt streets and repair about two miles of concrete streets. As revenue has fallen, the backlog of projects officials couldnt afford to fix has grown to an estimated $60 million worth.
Even with the increased revenues, it will take years to catch up on the backlog, officials said, but now they will have millions of dollars more a year to address it.
Our transportation system is critical to meeting the needs of citizens and businesses, Henry said. By maintaining streets and roads, were showing a strong commitment to being a growing community that values quality of life, great neighborhoods, and a thriving business climate.
Kennedy said the city has concentrated on keeping up its arterials, because those carry most of the traffic, but that has come at the expense of the neighborhood streets, a fact city councilmen cited over and over in their debate on whether to raise the income tax.
Were going to be investing millions of dollars back into the neighborhoods, from resurfacing to ADA curb ramps to sidewalks, Kennedy said. Were really excited about being able to rebuild the core of the city.