Happy New Year! I hope you had a great holiday season! During the last couple of weeks I’ve seen some news about the upcoming session of the Indiana General Assembly. It sounds as though some contentious issues such as daylight savings time and the proposed sale of the Indiana Toll Road are likely to be hot issues in Indianapolis this winter. Hopefully those discussions won’t derail what I understand is the planned review of how Indiana residents can be given some relief from property taxes. The property tax is tough on many individuals including many elderly people and those on fixed incomes. Local government needs a viable alternative funding mechanism to pay for police and fire services, road projects, etc.!

I’ve received some recent calls regarding NIPSCO’s program of assistance to customers in financial need. The thrust of the program makes sense, as there are many citizens who are having trouble paying their natural gas bills, especially in light of high costs this winter. The problem is that the bulk of the funding of NIPSCO’s assistance program is from a surcharge by NIPSCO paid by all customers, many of them are having difficulty paying their own bills in the first place. I’m a firm believer that we all need to be activists when it comes to making sure our public and private utilities get the job done right. Let me know your opinion regarding this and other utility related matters!

It’s that time of the year again…plenty of snow and temperatures dropping well below the freezing point. The ice rink at Headwaters Park is in full operation and there are plenty of other outside activities as well if you can bundle up and tolerate the cold weather. I remember skating at Lakeside and Reservoir and Franke Parks as a kid—what a great experience! Ponds in our city parks haven’t frozen over much in recent years but maybe they will this year and make skating possible— a great activity for kids!

There’s been quite a bit of discussion recently regarding the proposed Rieth-Riley Construction Company asphalt plant that may be built at 3400 Engle Road. When I discussed the proposed project with company officials at that site I had several thoughts. Another highway construction company in this area would create new jobs and increase competition for public construction projects and probably save taxpayer dollars in the long run. However, because the plant would be fairly close to residential areas with an obvious effect on traffic and possibly air quality, I asked Rieth-Riley representatives to meet with Indian Village and Kyle Road residents to discuss their plans. Recently I’ve had the opportunity to speak personally with several area residents about the project. To make a long story short, I’ve let company representatives know that while I fully support their expansion into the Fort Wayne area, I also believe that they should build their new asphalt plant in an area which is better suited for industrial development than the Engle Road location. The city’s goals of supporting strong neighborhoods while also encouraging new businesses and more jobs sometimes seem to conflict with one another. My experience is that when zoning guidelines are combined with some common sense both new jobs and stable neighborhoods are usually achievable.

At a recent Stone Lake Association meeting I was asked about what happened to the financial incentive package for the air carrier Shuttle America when that business left town a few months ago. Since then I’ve learned some additional information that I’ll pass along. The incentive package for Shuttle America totaled $750,000 and included providing assistance with buildings, public utilities, training, and other matters. Some of these dollars were state grants and some dollars were from local government. While the company was in the Fort Wayne area their goals of 150 employees and a $5 million payroll were met. About 75% of the initial financial incentive package is still available for future development in the form of buildings that can be sold or leased to another business resulting in more jobs for our area. Economic development is a highly competitive business. Our Economic Development Alliance has had many successes in recent years. At least the losses were minimized in this situation.

As you are probably aware, several new regulations are in place for voters. Now is the time to make sure you have a photo ID that you can take to the polls on election days in May and November during the next three years. Even if you don’t drive you can still go to a Bureau of Motor Vehicles branch office and apply for an official State of Indiana ID card. Voting absentee remains a smart alternative for anyone who is eligible.

This month the Fort Wayne City Government will send CEDIT request forms to neighborhood leaders throughout the city. Now is a good time to let your neighborhood contact person know what construction projects such as street resurfacing and new sidewalks you would like to see completed in your area during the next couple of years. Give me a call with any suggestions you may have for improving our city!

Keep warm! Call 427-1235 or yours truly if there are problems with public snow removal and also call me if you have concerns about other city matters.

The Waynedale News Staff

Tom Hayhurst

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