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3/15/2017 6:06:00 PM
Northeast Indiana RDA board delays decision on 7 Regional Cities Initiative projects

Barry Rochford, Greater Fort Wayne Business Weekly

The Northeast Indiana Regional Development Authority postponed making a decision about whether to provide Regional Cities Initiative funding for seven projects at its meeting March 14.

The reason why is fairly straightforward: There’s not enough money to go around – at least as far as what’s been requested for each project.

In late 2015, northeast Indiana was among three regions tapped to receive a $42 million grant by the Indiana Economic Development Corp. through its Regional Cities Initiative.

Since then, the Northeast Indiana RDA board, which is charged with awarding Regional Cities funding to qualifying quality-of-life projects, has committed $34.3 million of the original $42 million. Funding requests for the seven projects the board presently is weighing total nearly $9 million, which is more than what’s available.

RDA board members didn’t comment about the pending proposals at their recent meeting in downtown Fort Wayne.

Michael Galbraith, director of the Northeast Indiana Regional Partnership’s Road to One Million plan, who serves as a staff member for the RDA board, said the board wanted more time to study the seven projects and to see whether adjustments could be made to the amount of Regional Cities money each has requested.

“I’m hopeful that the next meeting will have some answers,” he said after the meeting.

Current projects vying for funding are:

• A $2.4 million expansion of the Kendallville Outdoor Recreation Complex, seeking $400,000 in Regional Cities funding;

• A $1.3 million project to develop the Strawberry Valley Cultural Trail, seeking $254,000 in Regional Cities funding;

• A $1.02 million project to complete the 12-mile-long Fishing Line Trail between Rome City and Kendallville, seeking $175,000 in Regional Cities funding;

• A $26.4 million project to develop a riverfront park in Fort Wayne, seeking $5.3 million in Regional Cities funding;

• A $5 million project to expand the Eagles Theatre in Wabash, seeking $1 million in Regional Cities funding;

• A $4.8 million project to develop the Wabash River Trail in Wabash County, seeking more than $960,000 in Regional Cities funding; and

• A $4.3 million project to build an aquatics facility in Whitley County, seeking more than $861,000 in Regional Cities funding.

The RDA board next will meet April 11 at the Honeywell Center in Wabash.

Also, the Northeast Indiana RDA recently voted to not use its eminent-domain powers if it ultimately awards Regional Cities funding to the Wabash River Trail project.

Concerns about the RDA board’s authority to declare eminent domain over privately held land had caused some local officials to suggest Wabash County withdraw from the Northeast Indiana Regional Development Authority.

That has never been the RDA board’s intent with any of the projects it has committed to funding, Galbraith said.

“We just wanted to make it perfectly clear that the board has no thought, no desire to be part of any such action,” he said.

Board members Bob Marshall, Brad Bishop, Gene Donaghy and Andrew Briggs voted 4-0 to approve the measure. Board member Jeff Turner was absent.

Related Stories:
• Many northeast Indiana cities are incorporating arts programs to draw people, firms
• IEDC approves more than $3 million for Warsaw's Buffalo Street project
• Regional Cities Initiative spurs community growth in cities across Indiana
• Wabash County Council may consider withdrawing from NEI Regional Development Board
• One year later, Regional Cities Initiative funds almost gone for northeast Indiana

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