News and Tribune

June 12, 2013

Commission approves firehouse deal

Coffey calls for audit of NSP project

By DANIEL SUDDEATH
daniel.suddeath@newsandtribune.com

NEW ALBANY —

An agreement to pursue a financial package to build a new firehouse and rehabilitate two additional stations was approved by the New Albany Redevelopment Commission on Tuesday. 

With Kroger and the city finalizing a purchase for the Green Valley Road Fire Station No. 4, New Albany will build a new firehouse off Daisy Lane near the site of the planned outdoor aquatic center. 

The deal would see Kroger pay the city $1.5 million for the Green Valley Road station and property in order to expand its State Street center. 

The money received from the deal will be used to help pay for the new Daisy Lane station, which will likely cost more than $1.5 million due to additional features that will be added. 

The additional expense would be covered by a financing package that would also see the Twin Oaks fire station off Charlestown Road and the Grant Line Road firehouse refurbished. 

David Duggins, director of economic development and redevelopment for the city, said the final amount hasn’t been established for the financing deal and will have to be brought back to the redevelopment commission once decided. 

A bond won’t be issued for the projects, Duggins said, but a bank loan will be sought to be repaid with tax-increment financing revenue. 

A cost estimate has been determined for one of the main features of the Grant Line fire station refurbishment. It will cost about $600,000 to install a five-storey training tower at the station. 

“We really haven’t had a place to train since 2006,” New Albany Fire Chief Matt Juliot said, as the prior training building used by the department was condemned. 

The refurbishment of the Twin Oaks and Grant Line Road fire stations will also save the city on maintenance expenses, Juliot said. 

Though the money Kroger will pay to purchase the Green Valley Road station won’t cover a new fire house, an appraiser said Tuesday during the meeting that the actual fire building is pretty much worthless to Kroger. 

He said the property was appraised at $350,000, but that the station would likely have to be razed to make way for the expansion. 

 

COFFEY CALLS FOR NSP AUDIT 

City Councilman and redevelopment member Dan Coffey requested and had approved a resolution requesting a state audit of the federal Neighborhood Stabilization Program. 

The $6.7 million NSP project has led to the rehabilitation of 32 properties in the Midtown neighborhood. 

Recently there have been some issues raised about the project, and the state has received a request from the city to review a potential conflict-of-interest issue regarding the purchase of a NSP house by Councilwoman Diane McCartin-Benedetti’s niece. 

Coffey said he just wants to see transparency in the program. 

“I don’t want anybody thinking this is a witch hunt,” Coffey said. 

However, administration officials said the NSP program is regularly audited by the State Board of Accounts. 

Duggins and other administration officials said they didn’t have a problem requesting another audit, though some commission members objected to the proposal as a duplication of services. 

Commission member Adam Dickey finally seconded Coffey’s motion as he labeled it “a reaffirmation of our commitment to transparency.” 

As for the conflict-of-interest probe over the potential house purchase by Benedetti’s niece, the minutes from the meeting in which the commission requested the review were approved Tuesday. 

The action now allows the city, in accordance with state procedure, to send the matter to the Indiana Housing and Community Development Authority for review.