News and Tribune

Clark County

December 13, 2013

New Albany may establish port authority

Gahan: Authority would aid in riverfront planning, development

NEW ALBANY — New Albany is set to take the first steps toward establishing a port authority — a move that could bolster the Ohio River Greenway and aid the city in constructing riverfront developments such as piers and a marina.

On Thursday, the New Albany City Council is slated to cast initial ballots on forming a port authority through legislation backed by Mayor Jeff Gahan. State statute allows local port authorities to construct facilities, improve canals and waterways and build dock lines and piers within its jurisdiction.

For New Albany, the port authority’s jurisdiction would be within the city’s corporate boundaries and over any facility owned or operated by the body.

“The establishment of the New Albany Port Authority is long overdue,” Gahan said Friday. “This is a tool that can be used by a river city to truly utilize the Ohio River as an economic driver as well as a platform for recreational use.”

The Port Authority of Indiana-Jeffersonville is the Clark County version of what the New Albany council will consider.

The measure is scheduled for two readings Thursday, and will require a third vote that could be taken in January before it can be passed.

If approved, New Albany could establish a channel maintenance fund. To provide for the fund, the city could levy a tax not to exceed .0333 cents per $100 of taxable property within New Albany. That would amount to a maximum tax of about $33 a year for a property worth $100,000.

The money collected can be used to dredge and clean channels as well as to purchase and develop land adjoining waterways. For example, the funds could be used to help pay for a bond to construct a marina.

The funds also could be used for maintenance expenses on the Ohio River Greenway, as there are no finances annually budgeted in New Albany for upkeep of the path.

But Gahan and the sponsor of the ordinance, Councilman John Gonder, stressed Friday that there are no pending projects or immediate plans to call for a tax to support port activities.

“It’s just getting the structure in place and going from there as far as using it as a vessel for maintenance work on the Greenway and to maybe look at any other issues related to the river,” Gonder said.

Beyond a marina or installing more docks, Gonder said the New Albany Port Authority can aid in the redevelopment of the riverfront as industries abandon that area. There also will be more opportunities for recreational activities on the riverfront with the establishment of the Port Authority, Gahan said.

“This will definitely allow for construction of docks, piers and marinas on our riverfront,” he said. “I think most people agree that the New Albany riverfront is currently not boater friendly.”

The Port Authority would consist of volunteers members, Gahan continued.

Gonder said the body could be relatively dormant for several years if established, but added it would still be wise to have the Port Authority in case an opportunity were to arise.

“It just makes sense to have it constructed and ready to go forward,” Gonder said.

If the Port Authority is formed and the decision was made to pursue a tax for a channel fund, the new levy would have to be approved by the council.

Gahan emphasized that if such a scenario were to happen, it would be a “completely different discussion and a separate vote” from what the council will consider Thursday.

“This vote is just to establish the Port Authority to make sure we have the right people in place to plan for the growth and development of the riverfront,” he said.

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SO YOU KNOW

• The New Albany City Council will meet at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 19, in the third-floor Assembly Room of the City-County Building.

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