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Council OKs contract for environmental cleanup at riverfront site

July 25, 2018

In a 6-2 vote tonight, the Fort Wayne City Council approved a $354,164 contract for environmental remediation at a riverfront site on Calhoun Street downtown. 

The funds, which Redevelopment Director Nancy Townsend said were previously allocated, will be used to clean up contamination from hydraulic oils, gasoline and underground tanks. The cleanup is necessary to clear the way for the planned mixed-use Riverview development, which will include 150 residential units, a 1,000-space parking garage and 20,000 square feet of retail space near Calhoun and Superior streets. 

Although the money was previously allocated as part of Community Development’s annual budget, Townsend said City Council had to approve the expenditure because it amounts to more than $150,000. The funds approved will come out of Fort Wayne’s portion of County Economic Development Income Tax funds. 

Councilman Paul Ensley, R-1st, questioned why the city plans to use CEDIT funds rather than money generated by the Riverfront Local Income Tax that council approved last year.

“It says on the digest sheet here that there’s an agreement pending with the county that the county will pay these costs upfront and be reimbursed by the city,” Ensley said. “So that, in my opinion, would make the cash flow implications of the riverfront LIT less of an issue.”

Reasoning that CEDIT money could be used for projects in other parts of the city, Ensley offered an amendment to the contract stipulating that the money to pay for the cleanup should come from the taxes earmarked for riverfront development. That amendment failed in a 4-4 vote. Ensley was joined by Councilmen Russ Jehl, R-2nd, Jason Arp, R-4th, and John Crawford, R-at large, in support of the amendment. 

“As we begin to look at phase 2 and phase 3, the riverfront budget is forming, it’s taking shape,” Townsend said. “As a division, we’re not in a position to fully understand that budget. There are a lot of partners in that budget, other divisions. So we’re not prepared to request allocation from that fund for this work.”

Ensley and Jehl voted against the environmental remediation contract. Crawford, Arp, Glynn Hines, D-6th; Geoff Paddoc, D-5th; Tom Freistroffer, R-at large; and Tom Didier, R-3rd, voted for it.

Councilman Michael Barranda was absent Tuesday. 

City officials are also seeking a Brownfield Grant from the state for cleanup at the former OmniSource site north of downtown. City Council approved purchase of that 30-acre site along Clinton Street north of the St. Marys River last year for $4.63 million. The city is “hopeful (the grant) will soon materialize in order to help offset remediation costs,” City spokesman John Perlich said Tuesday, noting that there is no definite timeline on when that decision would be made. 

Efforts to redevelop the site are moving forward, Perlich said, with four entities involved in an ongoing request for proposals process. Proposals from Biggs Group; Continental Property Group, which is developing Riverview; Great Lakes Capital, which is developing the Skyline Tower building downtown; and IU Health are due next month, Perlich said. 

“At this time, we do not have confirmation about how many of the four will submit proposals or what the proposals will include,” Perlich said. “It’s possible a team/project could be in place by the end of the year. We would anticipate that actual construction of a project could begin in the late 2019 timeframe.”

dgong@jg.net

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