News and Tribune

February 13, 2013

State of the city: Building on Jeffersonville's growth

By BRADEN LAMMERS
braden.lammers@newsandtribune.com

CLARKSVILLE — Jeffersonville Mayor Mike Moore offered his state of the city address to the members of Jeffersonville’s Rotary Club at the Holiday Inn Lakeview in Clarksville Tuesday afternoon.

Moore pointed to the growth in the city that has occurred during the past year and offered the administration’s plan on how to continue and capitalize on the influx of business.

“While other communities are struggling in the wake of the recession, Jeffersonville is busting at the seams,” he said. “Last year alone we saw more than 2,000 new, good-paying jobs come to Jeffersonville.”

Amazon.com and Advanced Metal Technology accounted for 1,400 of those new jobs. Amazon hired about 1,000 workers when its fulfillment facility opened in October and Advanced Metal Technology hired about 400 workers.

The expectation is that rapid growth will continue at River Ridge Commerce Center, especially with the development of a new east-end bridge connecting Utica to Prospect, Ky.

With the expected growth, Moore pushed his desire to see one of his priority projects move forward, to upgrade the city’s infrastructure, specifically pointing to the long-planned improvements on 10th Street.

He said he will ask the Jeffersonville City Council  — of which only Councilman Ed Zastawny was in attendance — to agree to fund the road improvements with Tax Increment Finance dollars instead of waiting for matching money to become available through the state. Moore said the city has already received $2.2 million from the Indiana Department of Transportation, but if Jeffersonville waited for the remaining $10 million it would be another 10 years before the project would begin.

While Moore agreed there are other infrastructure projects that need to move forward to prepare for the increased traffic that is anticipated with the east-end bridge completion and development of River Ridge, he said 10th Street is the priority.

“You better take care of the big problems first,” he said. “The big problem’s 10th Street. I’m not proposing doing anything we don’t have the money to build.”  

A number of additional projects Moore will be looking to accomplish will also require some level of city council approval.

Among those plans are a request to the council to make Veterans Parkway an economic development target area, approvals on bond amendments to property purchased by the city to allow for the development of an arts and cultural district, and to transfer a deed to allow the development of Colston Park.

“I’m asking the city council to transfer the deed of Colston Park to the Redevelopment Commission so that we can get some private development going there,” Moore said.

He explained that with the completion of the Big Four Bridge, Big Four Station project and Chestnut Street projects, Colston Park would be a attractive location for development opportunities.

However, to date the city council has not agreed to relinquish the deed and there are several issues that could impeded the property, one being that a portion of a Civil War-era cemetery is within the park’s boundary.

Moore said he does not believe that the cemetery would interfere with the potential development, but that the city won’t know for sure until a phase two and a phase three study are done on the property.

The redevelopment commission will need the deed in order to commission the studies.

“There’s been some talk the council wants to save that because they want to put a canal in there in four years,” Moore said. “If I can get a private investor to spend some money I’m going to go that route. This is valuable land here. We can’t do anything until the city council recognizes what we have there.”

At the city council’s February meeting several members offered their concern over another project that requires their approval. The administration’s plan to turn former properties along Spring Street into an arts and cultural district was questioned about why it had not been offered up to private developers and concern over 50-year $1 leases being discussed for the sites.

But if the plan moves forward Moore said Jeffersonville would be one of 90 cities in the U.S. with a dedicated arts and cultural district, a prospect he said nearby business owners are excited about.

“Most of that property down there has been sitting idle for years,” he said. “It is a low-lying area in the city that floods and that’s why we need to build Falls Landing pond.”

The retention basin planned for 9th and Spring streets was also offered as an area that could be readily marketed to a private developer to construct a hotel and restaurant.

Both the city’s administration and the city council have pointed to communication issues as being a deterrent to projects moving forward. When asked how he planned to improve the communication with all of the projects that require the city council’s approval, Moore said he is trying to reach out to them.

“I’m trying every day; if they don’t show, there’s nothing I can do,” he said. “I am continuing to work toward bringing us together. They need to stop worrying about the next election and start worrying about doing things right for Jeff.”

The city council has requested Moore attend their meetings in order to answer questions about a bond being sought for the Jeffersonville-Clarksville Flood Control District. The council has tabled approval of the bond four times asking that Moore attend.

Moore said he was not aware of the invitation until the most recent meeting and that he plans to attend the council’s Feb. 19 meeting to address answer their questions.