News and Tribune

April 2, 2013

Jeffersonville parks plan stalls

No vote taken to seek grant funds for joint drainage-park project

By BRADEN LAMMERS
braden.lammers@newsandtribune.com

JEFFERSONVILLE — Falls Landing Park, a plan to address drainage issues near Indiana Ave. and Eighth Street and beautify the city’s entrance, will not move forward.

The Jeffersonville City Council did not take a vote on the plan to seek a grant that would help pay for the project through the Indiana Office of Community and Rural Affairs. With no action taken and the Friday deadline to submit the application, the grant will not be secured.

The Jeffersonville Redevelopment Commission previously approved the plan by a vote of 3-2, with Commissioners Rob Stevens and James Lake voting against, to pay $698,000 of the city’s match to construct the pond and the park. The total price for the project is about $1.2 million, and the remainder of the cost is being paid for by the $500,000 OCRA grant.

Melissa Woods with River Hills Economic Development District and Regional Planning Commission said the city was not really in competition for the funds, which was being designated from a flexible disaster recovery fund. But what was required to receive the money was both the retention pond and the surrounding park.

“If you took the park element out of it, you wouldn’t be getting these funds,” she said.

Concerns about the cost and the potential for a combined sewer overflow to contaminate the pond were still among the main reasons the city council cited for not moving forward on the plan.

Mayor Mike Moore pointed to the plan as something that the city had agreed to move forward on under the previous administration. He added that the city’s engineers, engineering firm and sewer supervisor — who worked under the previous administration — are in favor of the project.

“We’re never going to fix everything, but when somebody offers you a half-a-million dollars to fix a problem, take it,” he said.

Jorge Lanz, president of Jacobi, Toombs and Lanz Inc., the engineering company working on the project, added that the only reason why it wasn’t built by a contractor under the previous administration was because the city was building it in-house to save money.

“The retention pond is an integral part of the overall project that needs to be completed,” he said. “The main purpose of the pond is to act as a muffler.”

Lanz explained that the pond would hold some of the water in the area that floods frequently in order to keep the water from backing up in a 96-inch fallout pipe that runs toward Clarksville, and eventually into the Ohio River. He agreed that the plan would not resolve all of the city’s flooding issues in the area.

“If we get another rainfall like we did [in] 2009, all bets are off,” Lanz said. “That kind of four-and-a-half inches of rain, in about an hour, nobody can stand.”

Again, council members cited cost as a concern.

Councilman Dennis Julius asked for what the difference in cost would be if the city built only the pond, as opposed to the pond and the park.

Lanz said to create the retention pond the cost would total about $350,000.

“I fully support the pond,” said Councilman Nathan Samuel. “I think redevelopment and Tax Increment Finance dollars should be used to attract economic development, to try to bring in jobs, not for beautification projects.”

He admitted that redevelopment dollars have been used for beautification projects in the past.

But Moore said with the park, the city is going to convert that 4.8 acres into a desirable area for  businesses to locate.

“This fixes the flooding for a whole lot of people and a whole lot of businesses in downtown Jeff,” Moore said. “And the entrance into the city of Jeff, at 10th and Spring, is very attractive to restaurants and hotels now because we’re going to fix this flooding problem. If we do not fix this flooding problem, companies are not going to come in here and pour money into the entrance to the city of Jeffersonville. What you have there now is an eyesore. They’re not going to build there if they’re looking at what they’ve got to look at right now.”

Councilman Mike Smith addressed the difference between the administration’s plan and the canal project previously proposed in that they both included the retention pond.

“We’re trying to compare apples to apples,” he said. ‘We’re not comparing apples to apples.”

Julius said he did not have a problem with the pond, but he had a problem with a park in that area. But he said there was a bigger issue in that the city spent $13 million to acquire properties for the canal project that would address flooding and spur economic development.

“We need a vision and we need a plan,” he said. “We all need to figure out what that plan is and buy into it. And until that happens I think there’s going to be a lot of non-resolution.”

Look for more information from Monday’s city council meeting in an upcoming edition of the News and Tribune.