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The week ahead

Down payment on legacy

Nearly two years after city leaders and citizens began deliberating how to handle a major influx of cash from the lease and sale of City Light to I&M, the City Council this week is poised to bring the latest phase of deliberations to a close by approving how to allocate nearly $20 million of that money.

The process has been nothing if not deliberative, inclusive, thorough and exhaustive. Various task forces spent numerous hours examining proposals, determining the community’s needs and deciding how the money would best help the city and its residents for many years into the future.

Last week, a Republican-controlled City Council agreed with the Democratic mayor’s proposals on nine separate uses of the money. To their credit, the council members elected in 2011 demonstrated little of the partisan bickering and sniping that had become standard with the previous council. Even where there was difference in ideology – particularly whether the city should reserve $8 million for universities that may have other means of raising money to relocate and expand downtown – council members were respectful and professional.

Tellingly, the council voted unanimously to support five of the nine proposals, including $500,000 to study whether – and where – development along the flood-prone riverfronts is practical. Even those items that faced some opposition received at least six votes among the nine members, hitting the two-thirds majority the council and Mayor Tom Henry mutually agreed was needed to approve spending the money.

Though it was not specifically voted upon as part of the ordinance facing final council approval this week, the decision to save $30 million indefinitely is one few residents should oppose.

Electoral College

Yes, Election Day was six weeks ago, but President Obama won’t truly be elected until today – when the Electoral College selects the president.

Though the Democrat won the presidency, in Indiana and 23 other states that Mitt Romney won the Republican electors will cast their ballots. Allen County GOP Chairman Steve Shine was chosen by delegates at the state party convention last summer to represent the northeast Indiana 3rd Congressional District.

Barring the rare move of an “unfaithful” elector voting contrary to their state’s outcome, Obama will win 332-206. Indiana, by the way, has never had an unfaithful elector.

911 call center

The Consolidated Communications Partnership Board, which oversees the 911 call center, is expected to cover two important issues at its meeting on Tuesday. The partnership, which includes city and county representatives, will discuss the location of the 911 call center and changes to the agreement between the city and county over the financing and management of the consolidated dispatch center.

Fort Wayne Fire Chief Amy Biggs will give partnership members an update about the possibility of moving the emergency dispatch center from the basement to the sixth floor of the Ed Rousseau Centre. She expects the estimates to renovate the space to accommodate the call center will come in lower when compared with the costs associated with moving the center to one of the two locations outside the building that are being considered.

“We are certainly striving to reduce costs, knowing the whole project has been a strain on city and county finances,” Biggs said.

Some have voiced concern about the security risks of housing all of the public safety departments in one building. But Biggs points out that police and fire are already in the building and said officials have already experienced the strategic advantages of having everyone in one building. During the June 29 windstorm, public safety officials were able simply to walk downstairs and immediately develop a plan for dealing with the emergency, including handling the huge influx of calls for emergency assistance.

Another issue to be resolved is where the current tenants of the sixth floor, Victims Assistance and Metro, would be moved.

The sixth floor appears to be a good location to consider for the dispatch center. But it’s unfortunate that it’s taking so long for city and county leaders to come to a decision on where to put the dispatchers.

The board is also expected to consider proposed changes to the agreement between the city and county for operating the consolidated call center.

The three-year agreement approved in 2010 called for the city to pay 70 percent and the county 30 percent of the operational costs. The new agreement changes it to an 80-20 split and is based on call volume. However, the bill for the improvements to the call center infrastructure would be split 50-50. The new agreement also calls for a change on the makeup of the governing board by removing the deputy sheriff and adding one of the county commissioners.

Parking meters

The Board of Public Safety is expected to discuss a proposal from the city administration to increase parking meter fees on Tuesday. City leaders want to double the parking fees at downtown meters from 25 cents to 50 cents an hour.

City officials also want to double the cost of a ticket for a parking meter violation from $5 to $10 with the fine increasing to $20 if the ticket is not paid within 30 days.

The board should approve the change. The current fees and fines are absurdly low and only encourage people to ignore the meter and occupy prime downtown parking spots for lengthy periods of time.

Final leaves

The thorough neighborhood-by-neighborhood leaf pickup is completed, but local residents have one last chance this week to arrange for curbside leaf pickup. Residents who still have leaves can place them in biodegradable bags and call 311 to arrange for pickup this week. Friday will be the last day for leaf collection, but residents should call earlier in the week to ensure pickup.

To attend

Consolidated Communications Partnership: 2 p.m. Tuesday, Citizens Square
Board of Public Safety: 4 p.m. Tuesday, Citizens Square
Fort Wayne City Council: 5:30 p.m. Tuesday, Citizens Square

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