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Elkhart-RV Hall deal draws councilman’s ire

– A city councilman said he has asked a state agency to review an agreement between Elkhart and the RV Hall of Fame.

David Henke told the Elkhart Truth he has sent a copy of the pact to the Indiana Department of Local Government Finance for review. He contends that the agreement should have been approved by the City Council rather than the city’s board of public works.

RV Hall of Fame officials had stopped paying the city its compact fee for utility service several years ago, claiming it should be exempt due to its nonprofit status, the newspaper reported. Over the years, the hall accumulated a $115,000 debt with the city.

Under the deal negotiated by Mayor Dick Moore, the city forgave the debt and gave the Hall a discounted rate on the compact fee in return for the hall’s agreement to resume making regular payments. Under the new deal, the Hall will pay about half what it was billed before.

“In my opinion, this was our only option,” Moore told the Truth. “It was (either) do something to get them paying again or disconnect the service, close them down and get nothing.”

The Hall didn’t return a call from the Associated Press seeking comment Tuesday.

The city’s board of works approved the deal Nov. 20, one day after the council voted against the mayor’s proposal to give similar discounts to other nonprofit groups. Some council members were critical of the deal while it was being negotiated a few months ago, but they didn’t take any formal action to stop it.

Henke said he thinks the City Council should have had a final say on the deal because the fee revenues go into a fund that it controls.

The newspaper said the deal came to the board of works because it was a utility issue, but the council set the fee rates by ordinance.

The fees are currently based on assessed value of property, and Henke said they should instead be based on usage. Moore said the fee policy is under review.

Henke claimed Moore doesn’t work closely enough with the council and acts unilaterally instead.

Henke predicted the Indiana attorney general’s office might be asked to review the agreement.