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City street workers Keith Burns, left, and Mo Mrozinski patch potholes in the 3800 block of Maplecrest Road on Jan. 31 as snow started falling again. The street department had 10 crews out responding to 311 calls.

City Council OKs $30 million for roads

8-year loan begins 5-year plan that was ‘promise to citizens’

– When City Council members voted to increase local income and property taxes in June, they promised to use the money to increase the number of police and firefighters, maintain city parks and repair the city’s streets.

Police and fire academy classes are under way, and $3 million a year has been added to the Parks Department budget. Tuesday, City Council members gave preliminary approval to a five-year plan to catch up on the $50 million backlog of road projects.

Members voted 8-0 to approve a $30 million, eight-year loan to kick-start the construction projects. Councilman John Crawford, R-at large, was absent. A public hearing on the bond will be held next week, after which the council is expected to give its final approval.

The spending is in addition to the approximately $13 million a year in annual road maintenance projects – itself an increase from about $5 million a year.

“We are fulfilling our promise to citizens,” said Tom Smith, R-1st.

The loan was a compromise involving council members’ wish to move to a pay-as-you-go philosophy and their desire to fix the streets as fast as possible. The city administration had proposed a 10-year loan.

“I stated I would not perpetuate the cycle of tax and spend, bond and borrow,” said Russ Jehl, R-1st. “This is a good-faith effort to do so. …It’s an intermediate step to get us to pay-as-you-go.”

Some council members had asked whether it would make more sense to use Legacy Fund money instead of borrowing, but Controller Pat Roller said the Legacy Fund – money from the lease and sale of the city’s old electric utility – has been gaining about 6 percent a year, while the interest rate on the bond will be about 2.14 percent. The loan will be repaid using County Economic Development Income Taxes.

Roller said the loan, along with $1 million already dedicated from the Legacy Fund, will enable $11 million worth of road projects this year. Next year, with the addition of $3 million in CEDIT money, that will jump to $14 million. Over five years, the city plans to repair 73 miles of concrete streets and resurface 75 miles of asphalt streets, as well as replace miles of sidewalks and install curb ramps.

A proposal to spend $600,000 to help attract daily airline flights to the East Coast from Fort Wayne International Airport, however, never left the ground.

The proposal was criticized last week when it was introduced, and this week the administration asked that it be held indefinitely. Council members immediately voted 8-0 to hold the measure, then spent at least 30 minutes attacking it.

The measure being considered did not state a source for the money, but several members said the proposal was to use Legacy Fund money. The $600,000 over two years was to help create a Minimum Revenue Guarantee for whichever airline begins operating daily flights to an East Coast hub such as New York, Washington or Philadelphia. If the route was at first unprofitable, the Minimum Revenue Guarantee would ensure the airline did not lose money.

But members said they did not think the Legacy Fund was an appropriate source for the money, and others said they would only consider the measure if it was a loan that would be repaid.

A proposal to rezone 24 acres at Wheelock and Stellhorn roads to allow a 137-unit senior apartment complex, hotel and two restaurants won approval over concerns from neighbors the development would increase flooding in the nearby Hacienda Village neighborhood.

JR Parent wants to build another Yellow Retirement community on the site, but neighbors fear it will add more water to an already overwhelmed Bullerman Drain. After officials from the city and the developer promised the project would not worsen the existing problems, council members voted 6-2 to approve the zoning change. Members Marty Bender, R-at large, and Mitch Harper, R-4th, voted against the change.

dstockman@jg.net

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