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The Journal Gazette

Wednesday, March 08, 2017 11:47 am

Tunnel land purchase takes 1st step

Dave Gong | The Journal Gazette

In an 8-0 preliminary vote Tuesday, Fort Wayne City Council approved a $272,500 request to buy a piece of land near the city’s Water Pollution Control Plant for the planned Three Rivers Protection and Overflow Reduction Tunnel. 

The site at 800 Glasgow Ave. represents the starting location for the project expected to cost about $200 million. The low bid submitted last month to the city’s Board of Public Works came in at $187 million. The contract has not yet been awarded. 

"This will be the location of the working shaft, where the contractor will base their operations and where the construction of the tunnel will begin," City Utilities’ Seth Weinglass told the council.

Described as the largest public works project in Fort Wayne history, the Three Rivers Protection and Overflow Reduction Tunnel will extend five miles from Glasgow Avenue to Foster Park at 220 feet below ground.

The project is part of a 2008 consent decree with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency aimed at reducing the number of combined sewer overflows from an average of 71 per year to four. 

The tunnel is expected to be substantially complete by late summer or early fall 2021. 

Since the property in question will be acquired through eminent domain proceedings filed in Allen County Circuit Court, the funds will be deposited into an account with the Clerk of the Court. This will allow the city to take possession of the property and begin construction, Weinglass said.

The value of the property was determined by a panel of court-appointed appraisers. 

The funds will be deposited via two payments of $20,000 and $252,500. 

The reason the acquisition went to court, Weinglass said, was because the city and the property owner – identified by tax records from the Allen County treasurer’s office as Property Max MMXIV LLC – disagreed on whether environmental remediation costs should be factored into the purchase price. 

"We tried to reach a negotiated purchase price, but the preliminary figure was $230,000 worth of environmental remediation costs that may need to be performed for any use of this site," Weinglass said. 

The panel of appraisers, Weinglass said, did not explain how they arrived at the $272,500 figure. 

Councilman Jason Arp, R-4th, abstained. 

dgong@jg.net