NEW ALBANY — Mayor Jeff Gahan and his administration laid out their plans for an aquatic center, multi-use recreational facility and a substantial paving campaign before the New Albany City Council during a work session Tuesday.
The projects have been on the table for weeks now, but a substantial change to what had been proposed as a youth baseball park was announced during the meeting.
Last week, New Albany Little League confirmed it would press ahead with its own baseball and softball park off Charlestown Road. Instead of building another baseball park on the former Hoosier Panel site off Silver Street, Gahan is now seeking to construct a multi-use sports complex on the property.
It would include two sizable lots consisting of field turf that could be used for youth football, baseball and soccer. In addition, the administration is also considering building an indoor facility on the 15-acre site that could be utilized for a variety of sports.
Floyd County retained the primary indoor recreational facility, the Southern Indiana Sports Center, when the city ended the joint parks department last year.
The park would also include walking trails, a skate park and possibly a water fountain. The exact cost of the project wasn’t announced, but Economic Development Director David Duggins said the price to purchase the Hoosier Panel property would be $1.3 million.
The council is slated to vote Thursday on an agreement that would allow the New Albany Redevelopment Authority to pay for the proposed recreational projects with tax-increment financing revenue and lease the facilities to the New Albany Redevelopment Commission.
“If the redevelopment commission is allowed to carry out their mission, it will transform the entire city,” Gahan said.
CAMILLE WRIGHT SITE TARGETED FOR AQUATIC CENTER
Details of the proposed aquatic center were also released during the work session, and the location was the major announcement.
The former Camille Wright pool property located off Daisy Lane was discussed as the primary site for the aquatic center by the city-hired design firm The Estopinal Group.
The city reached an agreement that would allow New Albany to lease a portion of Sam Peden Community Park from the county for the aquatic center, but Camille Wright is a site that’s more accessible to pedestrians and drivers, an official with the firm said.
“It’s centrally located to New Albany and Floyds Knobs,” Duggins said.
The Camille Wright site had also been discussed by the city as a location for a new fire house.
Depending on features, the aquatic center is estimated to cost between $7.2 and $8.3 million. Duggins said there have been discussions with YMCA officials about the organization operating the aquatic center, though he added no agreement has been reached.
An official with The Estopinal Group estimated, based on 66,000 visits annually, that the aquatic center would garner $932,000 in revenue each year versus $700,000 in operating expenses.
If the council and redevelopment commission approve, bids could be accepted for the aquatic center in July with construction to start by September.
In addition to the multi-use park and aquatic center, a portion of the TIF bond could be used to improve drainage and structures at Binford Park, primarily to incorporate soccer fields on the property.
As with the Silver Street project, Duggins and Gahan said the spruced-up fields at Binford Park could also be used for football and other recreational activities.
Several financial advisors hired by the administration were on hand for the work session. The bond language would allow the city to borrow more than $19 million for the projects, but advisors said funding is likely to be closer to $16 million.
Like the Scribner Place project that brought the YMCA to New Albany, the bond would be backed up with property taxes if TIF funds couldn’t cover the payments. However, administration officials and the financial advisors stated their confidence that the city has an ample TIF revenue stream to pay back the bond if it is approved.
PAVING AND THE NEXT STEP
A separate bond to be paid back with Economic Development Income Tax revenue was also addressed during the work session.
The administration is proposing a $5 million bond to foot a sizable paving effort. The council has appropriated additional funds for paving in recent years, but never an amount approaching $5 million.
Previous Mayor Doug England’s administration proposed a massive paving effort that would have been paid for with a bond, but the idea never received traction from the council.
The initial suggestion is to spread the bond payments out over 20 years, with the city paying about $400,000 annually. Councilman Scott Blair said that’s too long of a time period.
“You can’t bond for 20 years for road paving,” he said, as Blair added the roads resurfaced by the bond would again be in need of paving by the time the bond is paid off.
Duggins said the proposal is simply a starting point, and that council input regarding the length of bond payments will influence the final suggestion.
“We can do different terms based on the appetite of the council,” he said.
Street Commissioner Mickey Thompson referenced a study that was conducted about four years ago that cited a need for $8.1 million in paving for city streets.
He said only about half of the resurfacing called for in the study has been funded.
“For all the work that we’ve done, we still have $4 million in streets” that need to be paved, Thompson said.
He added the administration would favor the implementation of a maintenance plan to keep streets in good order after the initial paving.
Though they would be separate bonds, Councilman Dan Coffey said the paving and recreational proposals are linked.
“I do believe the two will be linked together [in terms of] whether they pass or not,” he said.
The council will meet at 7:30 p.m. Thursday to vote on the leasing agreement by resolution. The bond ordinances have yet to be slated for a vote.
The public will be allowed to address the council on the resolution prior to the vote.
While the council collected quite a bit of information Tuesday, most were limited in their statements about the actual projects.
Gahan said the recreational facilities should have been built previously, and that the projects can be accomplished without a tax increase.
“These efforts are about making the city of New Albany competitive,” he said. “We have a duty to reinvest in ourselves.”