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April 20, 2013

The fight to fund 10th Street in Jeffersonville

Council and mayor clash over TIF money

JEFFERSONVILLE — Another round of verbal sparring broke out between Jeffersonville’s mayor and City Council as a revised Redevelopment Commission project list was presented earlier this week.

A joint work session between the city council and the redevelopment commission was called to discuss a shorter, revised list of projects that the administration would like to see completed. The administration had previously presented a list of 25 desired projects to the council, after meeting with the redevelopment commission, that would be funded by the city’s Tax Increment Finance districts. The list had been revised down to 11 total projects, three of which are tied together creating an arts and cultural district in downtown Jeffersonville.

But the project that created the most fireworks was one that has also been discussed for years.

TIF FOR 10TH

Jeffersonville Mayor Mike Moore has asked the city council to approve a plan to use TIF dollars to pay for the widening and reconstruction of 10th Street, a request he has made previously.

The council — after receiving an update from City Engineer Andy Crouch and hearing that some federal funding had been designated for the project — agreed that they would like to see it move forward.

According to city officials, the project is slated to receive $5.5 million in federal funding through Kentuckiana Regional Planning and Development Agency — KIPDA. The remainder of the funding, $12.6 million, has been requested to be paid out of the city’s Inner City Road TIF.

Moore explained the KIPDA money will carry the project through right-of-way purchasing and utility relocation in 2015, and requested the TIF money for construction in 2016.

But before construction begins in 2016, the council said it would want to see if it could secure additional state or federal funding to pay for the project.

“It’s always been supported by the city council,” said Council President Connie Sellers of the 10th Street project. “We are willing take it through to ... construction. Tenth Street is going to get done, whether we get more money from the state or not. It’s going to have to be completed.”

Moore pressed the council to commit to using the TIF funding to complete the project.

“You can’t put projects off like this,” he said. “You either commit to them or you say, ‘no.’”

“There’s nothing being put off,” Sellers responded. “I want to try and get as much money that is not TIF money from the government as possible if we can.”

Councilman Dennis Julius added that if Jeffersonville keeps advertising that it’s going to pay for the project with cash — via TIF dollars — there is no way it will be able to secure additional funds.

Moore argued that any wait in trying to secure the funds through KIPDA would delay the project for years and there is already a line of projects seeking limited local funding.

“There is another very important project right behind 10th Street that I am trying to save for — the widening of Holmans Lane,” he said. “Our goal is to get KIPDA dollars for that project in 2017. We can’t wait three years to try and get 2017 dollars, we’ve got to fight for them now,” Moore said.

After debating back-and-forth about the project, Councilwoman Lisa Gill attempted to clarify, at least, her position on the project.

“I support this project,” she said. “There’s no way in the world that I, personally, want to hold up this project. All I’m saying is I would like to keep the communication open with KIPDA, actually go after that money and try and get that money. If we cannot get that money, then we’ll just keep on going with his dollars,” she said referring to Moore and the TIF funding.

“We’re doing that,” Moore said in response.

“If we both agree with that, then what are we arguing about?” asked Councilman Zach Payne.

The 10th street widening project is being viewed with great importance because it is a main thoroughfare through the city. Interstate 65 exit and entrance ramps will remain at 10th Street even after the completion of the downtown portion of the Ohio River Bridges Project.

On the opposite end of the city, where 10th Street turns into Ind. 62, it will also act as a main connector near the new east-end bridge when it’s completed. The road will also carry traffic from River Ridge Commerce Center toward downtown Jeffersonville.

“The project is something that really needs to happen,” said David Strong, with Eastside Animal Hospital and a member of the 10th Street business association. “However it gets done it needs to be a priority. People think of it as a corridor, but we think of it as a destination as well.”

Redevelopment Commissioner James Lake said he was also leery of committing too much TIF funding to projects like 10th Street.

“We need to make sure we take advantage of as much KIPDA funding as possible, or any other funding sources,” he said.

He added that regardless, the project will move forward.

“I don’t think the city can afford to pass over 10th Street,” Lake said.

Councilman Matt Owen provided a synopsis of the council’s position before moving on to the next project that it would move the project forward, in phases, and if the funding is not available through other means when construction is slated to start, TIF money would be used to pay for the construction of the project.

Councilmen Ed Zastawny, Brian Glover and Nathan Samuel were not in attendance at Wednesday’s meeting.

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