Legacy for neighborhoods floated

March 4th, 2016

News Coverage:

March 4, 2016

Legacy for neighborhoods floated

Panel discusses funds for 'impactful' projects

Dave Gong | The Journal Gazette

Fort Wayne’s Joint Legacy Funding Committee met Thursday for the first time in nearly a year to discuss what kinds of projects the board feels might be worthy of Legacy Fund money.

“For those that aren’t aware, once this committee votes to approve something, there is a very long process where staff work with that grantee to put together legal documents and schedules. It takes months,” Chairman Ron Turpin said. “And I want to make sure whatever we approve has (City) Council support so that whoever we put through that process doesn’t do it for naught.”

One suggestion Turpin had is to invest Legacy Fund money into neighborhoods. Turpin floated the idea of setting aside a certain amount of money each year and challenge the city’s neighborhood associations to raise matching funds for community beautification or other projects that would impact individual neighborhoods. 

“So it’s not big dollars on Legacy, but it would be impactful in our communities,” Turpin said. 

Turpin noted he wouldn’t want every little project to go through the City Council for approval, but the council could be asked for a yearly allocation that would be administered by a city department like the Community Development Division based on parameters set by the Legacy Committee.

Committee member Thom Obergfell said he would support putting money aside for neighborhood improvements because many of the older neighborhoods have associations but don’t have mandatory dues.

“Oftentimes those neighborhoods really pull together the cash like if there (are statutory dues),” Obergfell said. “So I think that would be an incentive for some of the associations in older neighborhoods to gain support from the neighborhood and then get a match. I think there’s some benefit in that.”

Councilman Geoff Paddock, D-5th, said he’s heard from residents who would like to see some funding for small neighborhood projects and noted he likes the idea of setting aside funds for those kinds of initiatives. Paddock also said several of his fellow City Council members have indicated that they find job creation, economic development and matching funds important aspects of any project proposed for Legacy Fund money. 

“There are a couple (councilmen) who have said pretty clearly that if they see another way for a group to go, that they could succeed without the Legacy money … that they shouldn’t come for Legacy,” Paddock said. 

Paddock also said it’s important that the committee not set the bar too high and scare potential projects away.

An idea to use some Legacy money to support development on Fort Wayne’s southeast side was also proposed Thursday. Turpin said there may be opportunities to leverage Legacy Fund money with private funds if there are development opportunities available. 

“(A project) may have dollars to get most of the way there, but if Legacy could contribute $100,000 or $200,000 to kind of finish it off, is that the kind of thing that we ought to look at, because it is a critical area of the city that desperately needs that kind of development,” Turpin said. “I mean that’s the other thing that I’ve been kind of thinking about – is that a wise use of this resource for that.”

Stephanie Crandall, one of Mayor Tom Henry’s appointees to the committee, said she thinks investing in southeast Fort Wayne would be a good use of Legacy money. 

“The city does well when all of the city succeeds. So if there’s a part that’s struggling, then I think it would really help the entire city have a higher quality of life and a lasting legacy if we could help that area out,” Crandall said. 

The board also discussed the current state of the Legacy Fund, projecting how much money will be available at the end of the year, if no further projects are funded. Including all projects currently slated to receive money, the fund will have about $37 million by the end of the year. If no money is spent through 2025, the fund is expected to grow to $78.7 million. 

Concept letter deadlines for this round of consideration are due April 1. The committee will meet again to review those submissions May 19.