News and Tribune

February 21, 2013

Bond resolutions for aquatic center, paving to get vote

Measure calling for the reopening of the K and I Bridge also on council agenda

By DANIEL SUDDEATH
daniel.suddeath@newsandtribune.com

NEW ALBANY — The New Albany City Council is slated to take the preliminary steps to issue bonds for $5.7 million for paving as well as $16 million for recreational projects this evening. 

On the agenda are two resolutions that lay the framework for the Mayor Jeff Gahan-backed proposals. 

The first resolution establishes a lease agreement between the New Albany Redevelopment Authority and the New Albany Redevelopment Commission. It would allow the redevelopment authority to foot a bond for an aquatic center, multiuse recreational facility and new soccer fields with tax-increment financing revenue and lease the properties to the commission. 

Tom Pittman, a city-hired attorney with the financial firm Barnes & Thornburg, said during a Tuesday work session the lease agreement would allow the commission to take on the projects without threatening the body’s debt limit. 

A public hearing will be held next month regarding the TIF bond if the council approves the measure. Since the redevelopment commission oversees the city’s seven TIF districts, it is considered the primary authority on the bond instead of the city council. 

The second resolution on tonight’s docket would establish a preliminary determination for the city to issue an Economic Development Income Tax bond worth up to $5.7 million for the purpose of paving. The administration presented its plans for the paving and recreational efforts during the Tuesday work session, and Economic Development and Redevelopment Director David Duggins said he expects the discussion to continue this evening. 

“We gave them a lot of information [Tuesday], and we went through a lot of details and I expect a good dialogue to follow up on some questions after they digest the information we gave them,” he said Wednesday. 

An important change in the recreational proposal now has the former Hoosier Panel property off Silver Street being used as a multipurpose facility instead of a baseball park. The New Albany Little League is pursuing its own park off Charlestown Road, so instead of just being a baseball complex, the Hoosier Panel site could include an indoor facility as well as field turf spaces that can be used for a variety of sports. 

Beyond the $1.3 million asking price by Jeff Eastridge for the property, firm costs to construct the indoor facility and fields weren’t announced by the administration during the work session. 

Councilwoman Shirley Baird said that information is needed not only by the council, but also the public. 

The details about the Silver Street project were “vague” and today is too quick of a turnaround for the council to vote on the resolutions, Baird said. 

“What I would like to do is have some public hearings and even go out into the neighborhoods ... so we can meet with people and get their reactions,” she said Wednesday. The public doesn’t know a lot of what’s going on, and they need to. It’s their money.” 

Councilman Bob Caesar said he, too, would like to hear input from the public, but added he hopes people will approach the projects with an optimistic outlook. 

“We are literally 30 years behind on doing some of these projects,” Caesar said. “Some of these should have been done without question a long, long time ago.” 

An enticing part about Gahan’s proposals is that the administration has vowed no taxes will be raised, and projects already in the works won’t be sacrificed, he continued. 

“I know sometimes as a community we’re slow to change, but there’s a lot of this I think could be very beneficial to the community,” Caesar said. 

The aquatic center would be located at the former Camille Wright pool property off Daisy Lane under the administration’s proposal. A conceptual rendering of the aquatic center calls for additional parking to be added on the site, as the facility would extend beyond the current property. 

Cost estimates for the aquatic center are between $7.2 million and $8.3 million. 

The public can address the council on the resolutions during the meeting, which will begin at 7:30 p.m. in the third-floor Assembly Room of the City-County Building. 

 

ALSO ON THE AGENDA

Councilman John Gonder is sponsoring a resolution in support of efforts to open the K and I Bridge — which connects New Albany to the Louisville neighborhood of Portland — to pedestrian traffic.

U.S. Congressman Todd Young was in New Albany this month to meet with Norfolk Southern officials about the railroad bridge, and Gahan has stated the administration is willing to expend effort and resources into reopening the span for pedestrian use. 

Norfolk Southern has cited safety and liability concerns as reasons for not reopening the bridge, which still carries trains. There is a separate area that used to carry auto traffic.

Gonder’s resolution states that the K and I would serve as an important link on the Ohio River Greenway and could serve as an emergency backup if there’s another bridge closure in Southern Indiana.