By GARY POPP
JEFFERSONVILLE — The Jeffersonville Redevelopment Commission agreed to pay up to $698,000 toward the Falls Landing Park in a 3-2 vote Wednesday, March 13.
The total project comes with a price tag of approximately $1.2 million, said Redevelopment Commissioner Rob Stevens.
While Stevens and fellow commissioner James Lake voted against the motion, he said the city is in a position to show a financial commitment to the project, so officials can begin the application process for a $500,000 grant from the Indiana Office of Community and Rural Affairs, or OCRA, to round out the project’s funding.
“We felt the figures that were used were not solid,” Stevens said. “I am not against the project, but the due diligence of coming up with those figures didn’t feel right to me.”
While the commission committed itself to funding up to nearly $700,000, it could be asked to dish out additional funds, if the project exceeds $1.2 million, at a later date.
Lake said he is concerned the funding mechanisms are “not completely thought through” and that the price of the project keeps rising.
“There are no safeguards in place to prevent us from these project overruns,” Lake said. “That is a question I asked, and the answer I got, basically, is we have to fund the money, or don’t do the project.”
Not all commission members share those hesitations, however.
The commission’s director, Rob Waiz, said he thinks the project is a great option to alleviate flooding problems in the low-lying areas of downtown Jeffersonville.
“It’s a great project for downtown,” he said. “We are looking forward to it.”
Redevelopment Commission President R. Monty Snelling said he can empathize with Lake and Stevens’ concerns, but said he wants to keep the focus on the larger issue of moving forward with the project.
Snelling said he didn’t have any problems with the organization of the funding, but said there are other factors that need to be handled carefully, although he said he didn’t want to discuss those factors at this time.
“I believe we can come together and look at this before another vote on it and get everyone to come to agreement,” Snelling said. “I am hoping we can do more compromising in the future.”
BOARD TO ISSUE RFP
The redevelopment commissioners unanimously approved a motion to start the process of accepting offers from developers for 38 properties in the commission’s purview in downtown Jeffersonville.
The commissioners went back and forth for a significant portion of the meeting to decide what would be the appropriate time to provide prospective developers to respond to the request for proposals.
They eventually agreed to give developers a 60-day window to enter proposals after the RFP is advertised.
Lake said a potential developer can submit a proposal on all of the 38 of the properties, or, hypothetically, developers could offer separate proposals on each of the parcels.
“The way it is written, they can submit on a single piece of property, any combination of groups of properties, or all of the properties,” Lake said.
He said he would prefer a single proposal that offers a holistic approach to the available lots.
During the meeting representatives from McDonald's restaurant made a presentation to the commissioners.
The restaurant’s representatives said the Ohio River Bridges project work is forcing them to relocate, and they are seeking a site at 10th and Spring streets.
The presentation included three large illustrations of how the fast-food eatery could put its footprint at the intersection.
The property which McDonald's is vying for is also part of the RFP district.
Jeffersonville Redevelopment Commission attorney Les Merkley said McDonalds’ presentation was futile, as the RFP has already been issued, and the business will have to offer a proposal for the commission to take its offer under official review.
CLARK COUNTY MUSEUM
The commission also retooled a lease for the Clark County Museum. The lease is for vacant properties located at 721 and 725 Michigan Ave. The commission previously approved a lease for the property, but it was denied by the Jeffersonville City Council. The new draft of the lease includes an out clause that gives the city the authority to remove the museum as lease holders, with a 90-day notice, as the property is also part of the RFP district, and could be purchased in the future by a developer.
“There is real conflict moving forward with uses on this property included in the RFP,” Lake said.
He added that he believes the museum is an important part of the community, but locating at that specific property may not offer maximum utility to the community.
Commissioners agreed to fund infrastructure improvements to a site on Veterans Parkway that is being eyed by Culver’s restaurant.
During Wednesday’s meeting, commissioners took another approach to facilitating Culver’s setting up business in Jeffersonville by offering $75,000 in TIF funds to make infrastructure enhancements, which could include stormwater improvements, Lake said.
He said if infrastructure improvements are made, and Culver’s decides not to move into the location, improvements to the site would still make the property more attractive to other businesses.
The commission also approved Jeffersonville Lions Club access to a Bales Auto lot to sell ticketed parking for Thunder Over Louisville festivities. The event is the primary fundraiser for the philanthropic group.