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Harry Baals building unlikely

City signals disfavor, despite web poll lead

– Despite garnering far more support in an online poll than the thicket of other suggestions, residents shouldn't expect Fort Wayne's new government center to be named after one of the city's longest tenured mayors.

Deputy Mayor Beth Malloy said naming 200 E. Berry St. the Harry Baals Government Center was "probably not" going to happen.

"We love Fort Wayne, too," she said. "We're not going to make any decisions that look bad."

The name has received 882 votes on the city's website, www.feedbackfortwayne.org as of Monday afternoon – more than triple that of its nearest competitor: Eugene Johnson Memorial Center.

Johnson was the properties manager for the Allen County Public Library while it occupied the building. The city's online poll allows anyone to submit names for the building and then vote on the suggestions.

Baals – pronounced "balls" by the then-mayor but "bales" by his descendents – became the Republican nominee for mayor in 1934 and was elected for three successive terms. He returned to politics in 1951 by winning a fourth term but died in office in May 1954. His accomplishments include elevating the railroads in town and negotiating the contract with the Army to establish Baer Field as an air base.

While Baals was a popular mayor, Malloy noted he had an unfortunate name and some elected officials have said such a name would be an embarrassment to the city.

Regardless, Malloy said the online feedback effort has been a success because it has generated interest in local government and created buzz.

"I'm glad people want to get involved," she said. "We are having fun with government."

Frank Suarez, city spokesman, said public voting on the issue will remain open through Friday. When it is closed, Mayor Tom Henry will be given as many as 10 finalists from which to choose the name for the office building. Suarez said Henry will make the selection after talking to division directors and community leaders, but he said the name will come from the list of suggestions made by the public.

The city bought the building, the former Renaissance Square, and is remodeling it to house most city and county departments. The City-County Building would then be the home for the city and county police departments.

blanka@jg.net

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