By Lucy Perry
The stretch of a busy city block near 13th Street and Wabash Avenue is about to get a dramatic makeover, as a nearly $10 million Terre Haute Police Department Headquarters construction project is now closer to ground breaking.
The Terre Haute City council voted six to three in favor of a special ordinance
authorizing the issuance and sale of bonds and bond anticipation notes, payable from City EDIT proceeds, to pay a portion of the cost of construction of the police station.
There was a lengthy discussion during the meeting tonight about the city's financial situation and whether it is appropriate to use EDIT money to finance the police station.
Following up on a request for more informaton on the budget from the last meeting, Mayor Duke Bennett explained pooling funds and cash flows to the council. He stated that a five-year plan is financially sound, considering major projects (Margaret Avenue overpass and Hulman Center renovation) in the works.
Bennett said there will be a $3 million cash balance at the end of each year in the EDIT fund, even with multiple projects underway. He stressed the use of EDIT funds for the police station is not outside of the scope of its purposes.
"Bonding is the way you go out to be able to do a project and to do multiple projects,"he said, "That's what these funds (EDIT) come in for, to be spent on economic activity."
Voting in opposition to using EDIT funds: Neil Garrison, John Mullican and Todd Nation.
"I have concerns about the city's financial health," Garrison said, noting there is a $7 million deficit.
Mullican agreed with Garrison, saying it has been "financially tough year,' and he's concerned about vendors who are saying they're not getting paid.
Voting in favor of using the EDIT funds: Amy Auler, Jim Chalos, Bob All, Don Morris, Norm Loudermilk and George Azar.
In other business:
Before the meeting, several members of the audience voiced concens about sewage bills and possible liens. Bennett noted that the number is around 700 out of 30,000 that are considerably behind in payments and the city has worked with some individuals who've approached them at City Hall.
By Lucy Perry
The downtown structure at 1211 Wabash Avenue in Terre Haute is considered by many to be a typical blighted property, with the roof said be in disrepair. Maintenance costs are escalating, as issue after issue springs up.
In fact, the building is slated for demolition, once plans for the new Terre Haute Police Station construction move along again. The progress has hit another bump along the road to groundbreaking, as was confirmed when several resolutions at Thursday night's City Council Sunshine Meeting sparked a discussion on the budget.
Although most agree that the police have served their due time in the present station, the city’s financial situation has some questioning the ability to pay for the estimated $10.7 million headquarters and its related plans.
“I 100 percent believe we need a new police station, no doubt,” Councilman George Azar said during the meeting. “The question I want to ask is, how do we address this when our constituents come up to us and say,’Well, we read the other day that at the end of the year you’re going to be $7 million negative, and some of the vendors haven’t been paid?’”
Mayor Duke Bennett replied that explaining the financial breakdown involved to residents can get complicated. He assures the council that the station plans will further the community without impacting salaries.
“This isn’t going to be a big burden on the EDIT fund,” Bennett said.
Reportedly, when the city Redevelopment Commission met in special session one day before the council meeting, the redevelopment members opted to table a resolution for the sale of bonds for the new headquarters. The plans that had finally seemed to be moving forward, were thwarted heading into its second phase.
Gary Malone, an accountant from Umbaugh & Associates, explained during the city council meeting that an interest rate for a 25-year plan for the bonds is six percent -- more than anticipated. He also detailed the various phases of the project, noting that construction bids came in below estimates.
financing for the station includes a combination of Tax Increment Financing (TIF) and Economic Development Income Tax (EDIT) funds. He suggested the deed of the station would go to a holding authority because of a constitutional debt limit, which he noted is “very, very common.”
“I’d wager to say that almost all school corporations in the state of Indiana have some type of leasing corporation in place,” he said, adding that is how they do financing for building schools to put the concept into perspective.
In order for construction to begin in a timely manner, Malone said a bond anticipation note needs approval. The two parties, city council and city redevelopment, need to agree to move forward.
“Structurally -- there is no way we can rehabilitate that structure,” THPD Assistant Chief Shawn Keen said, pointing out that the $240,000 construction bids are good until mid-October. Meanwhile, he added that possible building design alternates for value engineering considerations are under discussion with the project manager.
In other business:
Further dialogue about the city’s finances took place with many of the councilmen noting unpaid bills. Council President John Mullican asked if the bills are caught up. Leslie Ellis, city controller, stated there is a backlog and is trying to get caught up. Ellis added that the vendor issue has to do with time rather than money.
Appropriations and resolutions for the council to consider in regular session next Thursday at 6 p.m. at City Hall: