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Burns Harbor RDC awards bid for first section of Marquette Greenway Trail

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By LILY REX

The Burns Harbor Redevelopment Commission awarded low bidder Gariup Construction the job of building Phase 3, the first section, of the Town’s portion of the Marquette Greenway Trail.

The RDC voted to award the contract at its meeting Wednesday after Gariup outbid Rieth-Riley and Walsh and Kelly for the job. At $1,077,500, the project is under budget so far, despite worries that COVID-19 could increase costs. Glen Peterson, engineer for SEH, reported he most recently worked with Gariup on the west parking lot at Washington Park in Michigan City, and they do good work.

Phase 3 of the Marquette Greenway is being funded with a $1.78 million Indiana Department of Natural Resources (INDR) Next Level Trails grant and will stretch west from Ind. 149 to the Town’s border with Portage. Arcelor Mittal donated 60 acres of land for the Trail as part of a local match for the grant.

Westport PUD

RDC President Eric Hull said that Holladay Properties, the master developer on the Westport Development planned for the site of Food Truck Square and adjacent 28 acres across Ind. 149 from the Town Hall, has offered a lease option to fund the construction of the new Town Hall/community center building that will serve as an anchor for both the Westport development and the portion of the Marquette Greenway Trail that will run through it.

Hull said, “It’s a funding model that’s becoming more and more prevalent”, and that it could save money over funding construction with a bond.

Member Roseann Bozak asked if a lease would affect decisions making. Hull said the the Town would retain its rights to decision-making on the building design and would be able to buy it down the road. The members agreed Hull should get more details on potential lease payments and the buyout process.

Town Ambulance Service

RDC member Toni Biancardi asked members how they’d prefer to handle covering payroll for Town ambulance staff for the second half of the year. The RDC has been regularly contributing tax abatement fees to staff the ambulance since the Town ended its contract with Superior in 2018. The Town ambulance service has not yet been able to support itself though billing. Each ambulance payroll costs about $13,000.

According to Biancardi, the RDC committed $45,000 from its tax abatement fees for ambulance payroll through the end of this year, but that won’t be enough. Clerk-treasurer Jane Jordan said an additional appropriation that would allow the RDC to use the rest of its tax abatement fees is a potential solution. Approval for an additional appropriation can take 45 days though, which would mean the RDC may have to cover ambulance payroll for July and August before funds are released.

The RDC voted to request an additional appropriation in the amount of $139,490.16 to cover ambulance payroll for the rest of the year. The Town Council later voted to schedule a public hearing for the additional appropriation and gave the RDC permission to borrow from the rainy day fund for July and August payroll, if needed, on the condition that they pay it back once the additional appropriation comes through.

The approximate $139,000 request, if granted, will deplete the RDC’s tax abatement fee funds, but Jordan said the funds will be replenished in short order because Arcelor Mittal and Praxair are slated to pay $310,000 in tax abatement fees in August. RDC member and Town Council President Nick Loving emphasized that the RDC isn’t requesting additional money or borrowing from outside sources--just moving around money the Town already has.

RDC Vice-President Brad Enslen, for his part, said the RDC should be mindful of opportunity costs regarding support for the ambulance. “We need to keep in mind as we go down the road with this: what capital projects are we not able to do because we’re paying payroll? The purpose of the RDC is not to pay payroll, but to improve the Town with capital projects and make it more attractive to development.”

Enslen said spending on the ambulance is a worthy cause, but tax abatement fees don’t last forever, and there are important projects the RDC has had to put on the back burner. Karnerblue Consultant Tina Rongers said using 2020 tax abatement fees won’t affect current projects, but it could impact future opportunities.

“I think it does bring value to the community and development to have the ambulance service. I also recognize long-term that tax abatement and TIF funds don’t last forever,” Biancardi responded. “I agree we have to think forward and come up with a plan.”

Hull said Enslen has a valid point, but the ambulance is his priority for now. “For me, if I have to give something up to have the ambulance, that’s more important.”

 

Posted 6/12/2020

 
 
 
 

 

 

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