The Journal Gazette
Wednesday, August 05, 2020 10:00 am

City Council seeks answers on Electric Works

DAVE GONG | For The Journal Gazette

A letter signed by most of the Fort Wayne City Council was delivered to the city's redevelopment director today, asking for answers to a laundry list of questions related to the Redevelopment Commission's decision this week to walk away from the $280 million Electric Works development.

The contract called for the city to raise $62 million for the project by issuing bonds. City officials previously designated $3 million for environmental cleanup on the 39-acre property previously owned by General Electric.

The letter -- drafted by Councilman Russ Jehl, R-2nd and addressed to Redevelopment Director Nancy Townsend -- was signed by every council member except Jason Arp, R-4th. It lays out concerns over the decision to terminate the economic development agreement.

During Tuesday's City Council meeting, Arp defended the Redevelopment Commission's decision, stating that the economic development agreement was extended five times since it was signed in August 2018. He also said termination of the agreement shouldn't have been a surprise.

The main question, the letter states, is "what is the plan moving forward?"

The Redevelopment Commission voted unanimously Monday to terminate the economic development agreement with RTM Ventures, the firm that owns and is developing the Electric Works site.

"Springing from that overarching question, will the City still be working with RTM (the Developer) in any capacity on the Electric Works Campus, or are we moving on completely," the letter asks. "Does the fact that the City does not own the land factor into this decision making process?"

The letter also asks whether the city can assure council members that a future project "will be less costly to the taxpayer."

"Now that the property has been increased in value with public dollars, have you formally asked the Assessor to re-assess the property," the letter asks.

In a statement Tuesday night, Jehl said "reasonable people" can disagree about whether it was time to pull the plug on city involvement in Electric Works.

"Regardless, we all deserve a real explanation and a plan moving forward, which is why Council members on both sides of the issue signed the letter and President Didier is adding Redevelopment to our agenda," Jehl said.

City Council could hear from city officials and representatives of RTM Ventures as early as Aug. 18.

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