News and Tribune

January 11, 2013

New Albany mayor requests Horseshoe funds for aquatic center, baseball fields

2012 Horseshoe board still seated as dispute continues over appointments


NEW ALBANY —  New Albany Mayor Jeff Gahan has requested funding grants from the Horseshoe Foundation of Floyd County that would be used to foot an outdoor aquatic center and Little League complex.

Though not detailed plans in terms of locations and exact costs, the administration submitted the two proposals for Horseshoe grants prior to a Dec. 31 deadline for major projects.

Rough estimates provided by the administration put the cost of the aquatic center between $8 and $9 million.

Phase one of the Little League complex would cost about $5 million, and would include 5 baseball diamonds as well as dugouts, parking lots and restrooms.

Phase two of the facility, if funded, would include softball fields and other amenities.

A specific site for either project hasn’t been released, as Gahan said multiple sites are still being considered. As part of its agreement with Floyd County when the two sides ended the operation of a joint parks department late last year, a portion of Sam Peden Community Park has been reserved as a potential site for the aquatic center.

New Albany Little League officials have sought a new complex for several years due in part to the cramped conditions of the fields off Mount Tabor Road.

Gahan said the New Albany Little League has outgrown its current facility, and there are traffic, parking and safety concerns associated with the location.

“During the campaign for mayor, that was a concern that was brought up on a regular basis,” he said.

However, there’s no guarantee the Horseshoe board will agree to fund the grant requests, as more than a dozen major proposals were submitted to the body for review.

City officials have said there’s about $20 million in the Horseshoe Foundation of Floyd County’s coffers, however, a portion of those dollars are encumbered.

Next week, the Horseshoe Foundation will make the 11th of 20 payments of $1 million toward the bank note on the Floyd County branch of the YMCA of Southern Indiana, leaving the organization on the hook for another $9 million.

In addition to the 4-year scholarships awarded annually by the Horseshoe Foundation, the organization is also still making payments on a $500,000 grant to Hosparus for a new building, a $400,000 grant to Ivy Tech Community College for its capital campaign and a $400,000 grant to BridgePointe Services.

The Horseshoe Foundation also approved $150,000 this week to be spent on safety speaker systems for the New Albany-Floyd County Consolidated School Corp.

Board dispute

The funding request also comes while the makeup of the 2013 Horseshoe Foundation board is still being determined.

On Monday, New Albany City Council President Pat McLaughlin appointed Democratic Councilman John Gonder and independent Councilman Scott Blair to the Horseshoe board.

McLaughlin said Horseshoe board officials had indicated that he must appoint one Republican and one Democrat to the body, but that he was still choosing Blair for one of the positions.

The Horseshoe Foundation board met Thursday, but McLaughlin’s selections weren’t allowed to participate.

“Since it has been requested that the board review the by-laws establishing appointments to the board of directors, the decision was made to not ratify any new board members,” Mark Seabrook, president of the Horseshoe Foundation said in a statement released Friday.

“Until that is resolved, the 2012 board will continue to serve and govern the foundation.”

Seabrook represents the Floyd County Commissioners on the board. The board is established to include the mayor, two city council members, one county commissioner, the general manager of the Horseshoe Casino of Southern Indiana and two of that person’s designees.

The city council appointments are the only two positions that are required to represent different political parties according to the Horseshoe Foundation’s bylaws.

However, there’s disagreement over what the rules actually mean. McLaughlin agrees that the bylaws state the council appointments must represent different major political parties, but added it only states in parentheses and as an example Democrats and Republicans.

“In a way, that is a little confusing,” McLaughlin said Friday.

He doesn’t plan on rescinding Blair as one of his two choices for the board.

“I hope it gets resolved and we get past this,” he said.

Blair’s status as an independent has been recognized by the city council, and he has just as much right to serve on the Horseshoe Foundation board as any other member, McLaughlin continued.

Since City Councilman Kevin Zurschmiede is the only Republican on the council, McLaughlin said there’s no real choice for getting other members on the Horseshoe board.

“The independent party has as much representation as Republicans” on the city council, he continued.

The council’s 2012 Horseshoe Foundation board members were Diane McCartin-Benedetti and Zurschmiede.

The Horseshoe Foundation’s bylaws were established in 1999, and were formed with input from the city and county. Officials said there hasn’t been an issue in the past with appointments from the city or county government.

Other funding sources

The aquatic center and Little League complex will also be presented to the city council and New Albany Redevelopment Commission for funding, Gahan said.

Private funds could also be raised to support the projects, he added.

“The city of New Albany, with the financial tools we have available to us, is in a strong position to move forward on both these projects,” Gahan said.

The administration will have direct talks with the redevelopment commission and city council about funding once more of the details of the projects are finalized, he continued.

McLaughlin said the council would be open to a dialogue with Gahan about footing a new Little League complex and aquatic center. With no outdoor public pool in New Albany, McLaughlin said the city has been “behind the times” on such quality-of-life projects.

“The community — we’re definitely due some recreational facilities,” he said.