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December 4, 2012

Jeffersonville approves audit for court funds

$10,000 for bridges suit approved, with restrictions


JEFFERSONVILLE — City again stalls on money for tolls suit

Legal concerns of the city pledging public funds to a private entity to help pay for a lawsuit again kept the council from pledging $10,000 outright to an effort fighting tolling on new bridges planned over the Ohio River.

The city council had heard the request previously from Councilman Dennis Julius to offer $10,000 to a group fighting the inclusion of tolls on the downtown portion of the Ohio River Bridges Project, but balked at approval to investigate the legality of pledging public funds to go toward a private, nonprofit entity heading up the suit — Organization for a Better Southern Indiana.

The town of Clarksville and the Clark-Floyd Counties Convention and Tourism Bureau have already pledged $10,000 to fight tolls on the downtown corridor because of the anticipated negative economic affect it will have on Southern Indiana.  

An economic impact study conducted by the Indiana Finance Authority as part of the process to enter into a public-private partnership cited tolling would negatively impact employment by 1,578 jobs, negatively affect personal income by $2.2 billion and negatively affect business output by $5.58 billion over 30 years.

Julius offered a solution with City Council Attorney Scott Lewis to pledge the money to the tourism bureau, which would then dole out the money.

However, Lewis said restrictions would still apply to the money, keeping it from going to a private entity for a lawsuit.

But questions from the council persisted including, if not being donated to a lawsuit, what would the money be used for.

Julius said the funding could be used for promotional tools against tolling the downtown corridor or to question, and examine, the economic impact study and the speed at which it was conducted to seek a remedy.

“I think it’s very important Jeffersonville shows that we are opposed to the tolls and the injustice that the economic study showed ... on our city,” he said.

Councilman Mike Smith made a motion to allow Lewis to seek an interlocal agreement with the tourism bureau and to dedicate $10,000 out of the city’s gaming fund, subject to another approval of the agreement by the council.

The motion was approved 6-3, with Councilmen Brian Glover, Matt Owen and Nathan Samuel voting against.

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