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The Scoop

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Henry: $2.5 million loan offer removes barrier for city-county shared space

200 E. Berry St.

Statement made Thursday by Fort Wayne Mayor Tom Henry on city and Allen County space needs:

Thank you all for coming. Over the past year you’ve heard me talk a lot about my commitment to finding a community solution to the space needs of City and County governments.

As this long process has unfolded, I’ve become more and more convinced that in a common solution we have a rare opportunity to do something that is right for today and right for generations to come.

With the plan to put both public safety departments in the City-County Building and our development and management teams in 200 East Berry Street, we have a chance to come together as a community, to make things easier for our residents and to make local government work better. Isn’t that what this is all about?

Together we can rise above the outmoded ways of doing the people’s business and actually make our City and County governments more effective and more responsive. And we can do it wisely and prudently.

We have an opportunity to say welcome to new jobs and business development through the creation of a one-stop shop for growth. We have the chance to push the door to greater collaboration wide open and reach the full cost-saving potential that working smarter and working together will offer.

We are one community and our singular message to the world must be: This is the best place for your business to grow, and we’re a team that is ready to help you do it.

A streamlined, easier-to-use local government is essential to that. The 200 East Berry Street proposal is a good deal for City residents. But as part of the co-location proposal with the County, the good deal for City residents can be a great deal for our entire community – if we act now.

Last Friday at the public hearing, we heard that message loud and strong from our business community. It came from the 1,600 members of the Greater Fort Wayne Chamber of Commerce. It was reinforced by business executives representing over 20,000 jobs in our community who put their names on a letter and then came before the task force with their personal calls to action.

It was stated emphatically by an executive of one of our major corporations who told us that his company is making future decisions based in part upon how easy it is to work with local governments, and that we can do better. It was persuasively voiced by small business owners and neighborhood leaders who described why the same-old, same-old is not working. The tally from the public hearing: Nearly unanimous support for a community solution, nearly unanimous support for co-location.

Throughout this entire process, only one group has remained unaligned, our Allen County Council. That’s not to say that every elected official won’t have questions. Or that we all won’t whittle costs to the bone and value engineer every element to ensure that this effort comes in under budget like every other recent City project has done.

But your elected officials are all good stewards of taxpayer dollars. And I can I say with pride: We are all Hoosiers, so we guard every nickel. And in these tough economic times, we are even more determined to use our resources with care.

That’s why the chance to save money and better serve the public while reducing the footprint of local government is more important now than ever. That’s why this rare opportunity to find a community solution must not be lost.

While I have listened long and hard to the concerns of Allen County Council members, I am also listening to the voices of our community. We can wait no longer. I believe so strongly in a community solution to our mutual space needs that today I am removing the final barrier.

In support of the plan first proposed by Nelson Peters, I am offering Allen County government a City loan of up to $2.5 million to add to the County’s $3 million already committed toward renovation of the City-County Building. Proceeds from the sale of the County’s excess buildings can be used to repay the loan. With the pledge of these resources we can move forward – starting now.

It is time we demonstrated the courage to make decisions that are in the long-term best interests of our entire community. With the decision for co-location, we will be investing in the future and creating lasting value, benefiting all taxpayers and residents. This is a one-of-a-kind opportunity. It is not a City solution or a County solution, but a community solution.

We are one community. And the real truth is this: Together, we are stronger. This is our challenge for the new decade. Let’s come together, work together, build on our strengths and start to make great things happen for our entire community.

Send items for The Scoop to jgnews@jg.net.

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