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Council gives initial nod to Legacy panel

At times, it took as long as two years for projects to move from idea to completion, and those ideas were brought forth only by Fort Wayne City Council members or the mayoral administration.

A new committee, though, will not only quicken the pace at which projects using Legacy money are finished, but also open up funds from the sale and lease of the city’s old electric utility to private businesses and nonprofit groups.

At Tuesday night’s City Council meeting, city officials presented the idea of a seven-member committee that would review applications for Legacy money.

While council members had some concerns about the committee and suggested some changes to the mayoral administration’s proposal, a resolution adopting the committee was approved in a preliminary vote and could be formally adopted next week.

Mayor Tom Henry would appoint three members of the committee, the City Council would appoint two more, and the mayor and council then would each appoint a resident.

City planner Sharon Feasel said the committee will be looking for projects that are well thought out, with a business plan in place and ­already shovel-ready – or close to it – while adhering to Legacy’s mission.

According to the Legacy website, those projects will have “catalytic investment, leverage additional resources, and directly benefit residents of Fort Wayne.”

“We’re looking for projects that are ready to go,” Feasel said.

Previously, council members or the Henry administration provided ideas for Legacy usage.

Some of these ideas were vetted by a task force that consisted of several subgroups, which played a part in an idea taking a long time to reach completion.

The council ultimately had to approve ideas with at least six votes for those projects to come to fruition, and that will not change.

“This will set a precedent for future councils,” said Tom Smith, R-1st.

“Legacy could last decades, and we don’t want people chipping away at it easily.”

So far, Legacy money has been used for riverfront improvements, the lighting of the Wells Street Bridge and the Indiana Tech Academic Center.

According to projections from the mayor’s office, the Legacy Fund will have $34 million in it next year and could have as much as $55 million available by 2019.