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9/12/2017 10:22:00 AM
Loogootee considers using tax money for private senior housing project

Tim Pinkham, Washington Times Herald

LOOGOOTEE – Can a municipal government entity use taxpayer money to help build a senior housing apartment complex being built by a nonprofit agency?

That is the question officials with the State Board of Accounts want Loogootee City Attorney Isha Wright-Ryan to answer, Clerk-Treasurer Nancy Jones told the Loogootee City Council Monday night.

Mayor Noel Harty read a letter during the council meeting from Hoosier Uplands Economic Development Corp. and Milestone Ventures. Hoosier Uplands has purchased the former West Elementary School from the Loogootee School Corporation, except for the gymnasium.

Milestone Ventures partners with nonprofit organizations to facilitate affordable housing development.

Harty said Hoosier Uplands plans to renovate the school building into Eagle Place Apartments, with 20 units for seniors. The letter said architectural plans and specifications are complete and renovations are expected to begin in November.

The Harty said Hoosier Uplands applied for state grants to pay for the estimated $2.1 million project. However, the grant request was not approved until the third year it was submitted. Due to rising construction costs during the three-year delay, Harty said the grant money received no longer covers all the costs of the proposed renovation.

In the letter to the Harty, the funding shortfall is said to be $200,000. To help bridge that gap, Hoosier Uplands requested the city pay $29,700 to cover the costs of constructing and furnishing a community room inside the building. It would be a place for residents to gather for meetings, games, birthday parties and other events.

When council members asked where the money would come from, Harty said he expected to use Economic Development Income Tax or EDIT funds.

However, at that point, Jones said state officials would not allow the use of EDIT unless they received a legal justification from Wright-Ryan for using taxpayer money to help build a private facility.

Harty told the council there is presently a four-year wait in Loogootee for senior housing. If the 20 units are built, he said that would free up 20 homes for sale to those needing housing.

The council took no action on the request, which was turned over to Wright-Ryan for review.

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Editor, John C. DePrez Jr.; Executive Editor, Carol Rogers; Publishers: IBRC and IAR

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