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August 1, 2013

JEFFERSONVILLE: Museum space finally secured

Incorrect procedure followed, says redevelopment attorney

JEFFERSONVILLE — Leases for two museums previously approved, then resubmitted, but that still did not follow the correct procedure were approved anyway Wednesday night.

Revised leases for the Clark County Museum and the Vintage Fire Museum and Safety Education Center were presented and approved by the Jeffersonville Redevelopment Commission.

The Clark County Museum plans to relocate from a space on the fourth floor of the Clark County Government Building to properties at 721 and 725 Michigan Ave. The Vintage Fire Museum would move into the former Bales Auto site along Spring Street.

Changes in the leases from when they were previously presented increased the rent amount to $500 per year for each entity. The motion to approve the leases was passed 3-2, with Redevelopment Commissioners Rob Stevens and James Lake voting against.

After the vote, Lake questioned the legality of the request for proposal, or RFP, issued by the redevelopment commission on the sites because neither included a $2,500 deposit in earnest money.

The redevelopment commission previously approved a $1 lease with the Clark County Museum in January to move into the properties, and moving forward on a deal with the fire museum, the redevelopment commission reneged on its approval to include the lots in a larger RFP to be issued for 84 properties that were acquired as part of a proposed canal project.

No viable bidders came forward for either site, while two developers submitted proposals to develop an area near Spring and 10th streets.

Redevelopment Commission Attorney Les Merkley agreed with Lake that the correct process was not followed.

“My legal opinion would be that they are not responsive to the terms of the RFP,” he said.

Merkley added that his legal advice when the RFPs were initially returned was to reject all of the offers received.

“It would have resolved this issue,” he said.

When he advised the redevelopment commission to reject all of the offers, including offers from White Reach Development and API to develop the Spring and 10th streets area, he explained the commission would be forced to wait 30 days, at which point it could freely negotiate with any of the proposers, or accept new offers.

“I think you were in the same position with White Reach that you’re in with the museums,” Merkley said.

The commission also approved the RFP from White Reach Development initially, but later rejected the offer because it did not meet the requirements outlined in that it lacked a purchase price. There was no figure given in the proposal, but instead was based on a formula included in the offer, which would also be dependent upon site conditions and grants that were received by the developer.

API offered a purchase price on the property of $1.

However, when the redevelopment commission agreed to rescind the proposal already approved with White Reach Development, which also triggered the start of the 30-day waiting period, a condition was added that the commission would only negotiate with White Reach to determine a purchase price for the site.

Because the same procedure was not followed with the museums — waiting 30 days due to the entities not meeting all of the requirements of the RFP — Lake made a motion to rescind the approval granted earlier in the meeting.

“We had to rescind those previous approvals based on some technicalities,” he said. “I don’t think we’re handling those [museum proposals] the same.”

Redevelopment Commissioner Jack Vissing, who is also an attorney, said he believed the museums’ RFPs were compliant and there was no issue with moving forward with allowing the entities to locate within the properties.

“We had given these entities leases before we ever went out and sent RFPs,” he said. “No other entity came forward. The $2,500 [in earnest money] is more than the $500-a-year rent they’re paying. So it made no sense for them to put that money up. And I believe we’re fine.”

Vissing added that the redevelopment commission is not selling either museum the property in which they plan to locate.

“We’re not giving up title on this piece of property,” he said. “This is just a usage fee for a period of time, about five years. It’s still going to be ours. We’re still going to own it, we’re not giving it away.”

The motion to rescind the approval granted earlier in the meeting failed 2-2, with Lake and Stevens again voting against and Redevelopment Commissioner Kevin LaGrange absent from that portion of the meeting.

Look for more information from Wednesday’s redevelopment commission meeting in an upcoming edition of the News and Tribune.

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