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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
$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.
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
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
“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.”