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Council considers using Legacy money for USF downtown buildings

The Fort Wayne City Council will consider using $3 million in Legacy money toward the University of St. Francis’ downtown campus. The council approved the introduction of a resolution to assist the university Tuesday. A final vote will be taken at a future meeting.

The university’s $12.3 million project includes renovating two historic buildings – the former Chamber of Commerce, 826 Ewing St., and the University of St. Francis Performing Arts Center, formerly the Scottish Rite Center, at 431 W. Berry St.

Mayor Tom Henry told Rotarians Monday about the city’s proposal to invest $3 million in Legacy money to the university to help with the renovation process. Legacy Fund money comes from the lease and sale of the city’s old electric utility.

Fort Wayne city resident John Modezjewski addressed the council after they unanimously approved the resolution, saying he did not have an issue with the $3 million but did take issue with the city funding a Catholic university with public tax dollars.

Councilman Glynn Hines, D-6th, spoke to Modezjewski and another resident who suggested the council “put a lid on the Legacy funds.”

“We deliberated over a year on what to do with the Legacy funds,” Hines said. “We decided the money should be invested in economic development, youth and the riverfront.

“Schools have been identified and aligned with youth and development,” Hines said, and the city had also invested in Indiana Tech.

Hines said the council is deliberate in how the Legacy funds are spent.

“Not just anyone can come to the trough and get funds,” he said.

In other business, the council approved airport overlay districts around Fort Wayne International Airport and Smith Field. The move was part of a joint initiative to align city and county zoning laws.

The overlay districts protect the airports’ ground and air space and promote the public safety of residents living near the airports, according to the ordinance.

The overlays include a 2-mile buffer zone at Smith Field and 6- and 10-mile buffers around Fort Wayne International Airport.

Col. David Augustine spoke about the overlays, saying the 122nd Fighter Wing was hoping to bring F-35 Joint Strike Fighter jets to Fort Wayne’s Air National Guard base, which is adjacent to the airport.

“The airport is a treasure and we need to preserve the air and land use,” Augustine said.

The jets now take off and land over agricultural fields, disturbing no one, he said.

“But if the land use is not protected and a housing development goes in, there would be complaints of noise,” he said.

In its final order of business, the council approved tax abatements for four companies that are expanding:

  • Midwest Salt of Fort Wayne LLC, 4528 Hillegas Road – Project will cost $40,000 and will create six jobs.
  • GCG Industries Inc., 4636 and 4650 Newaygo Road – Project will cost $223,900 and will create two jobs.
  • Vermeer of Indiana Inc., 3310 Coliseum Blvd. W. – Five-year abatement on new manufacturing equipment; project will cost $500,000 and will result in four jobs.
  • AccuTemp Products Inc. – A $493,306 project at 5021 Investment Drive and a $263,354 project at 8415 N. Clinton Park Drive, creating 14 jobs between the two locations.

Editor's note

Because of a reporting error, a story on page 1A of Wednesday's paper and an earlier online version of this story about the city using Legacy money to help fund the downtown campus of the University of St. Francis was incorrect.

This story reflects the corrections.