Fort Wayne City Council members fast-tracked approval for five projects that will kick-start a record construction season all over the city.
Using money from the recently increased local income tax, city officials are planning about $60 million worth of street projects in the next five years in addition to the annual maintenance projects they would be doing anyway. That means dozens of projects are in the pipeline and neighborhoods across the city will be beset by orange barrels as soon as the weather warms up.
Council members voted unanimously to approve two separate sidewalk and curb-ramp projects that will rebuild 109 corners in the north half of the city and 145 more in the southern half. Crews will replace deteriorated sidewalks, curb ramps, curbs and driveway approaches where needed.
The northern package is worth $268,184, the southern package is worth $251,920; both contracts are with low-bidder Malott Contracting.
Another contract, this one with Key Concrete, will repair the bricks on Fourth Street between Barthold and Wells streets. The contract also calls for sidewalk and curb repairs.
“I can tell you this street needs help badly,” said Tom Didier, R-4th, who represents the area. “There’s a lot of patches, there’s black top in there, there’s concrete patches. This is very welcome.”
Also welcomed by council members were contracts for concrete street repairs in the Crown Colony neighborhood and on Airport Drive.
The projects also come at a time when some neighborhoods are complaining that too much money is being spent downtown while their infrastructure deteriorates.
“Some neighborhoods feel they’re being short-changed by downtown,” said Tom Smith, R-1st. “It’s probably not as imbalanced as people think, but I think we need to address that. We don’t want it to fester.”
Others agreed, but disagreed with Smith’s proposal to discuss it at a Fifth Tuesday meeting in July. The council generally does not meet on the fifth Tuesday of a month, but sometimes uses them for big-picture discussions on specific topics. John Shoaff, D-at large, said the discussion should be held as soon as possible, such as Tuesday – which happens to be a fifth Tuesday.
Glynn Hines, D-6th, said it is ironic that the assertion is being made now, just as the city is preparing to spend record amounts of money on neighborhood projects. Officials already plan to double the amount of asphalt resurfacing this summer and may do even more than that.
“The marshalling of resources for the neighborhoods is greater than it’s ever been,” Hines said.
Smith said it may be that people see work downtown that is already under way, while work in the neighborhoods has yet to begin.
“I think it’s a perception problem,” he said.
Council members also voted unanimously to introduce bills to purchase the southwest water system of Aqua Indiana and borrow $63 million to pay for it. A public hearing and debate on the issue is set for May 6.