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Last updated: Wed. Dec. 04, 2013 - 09:40 am EDT

Fort Wayne 1 step closer to restoring public safety director position

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FORT WAYNE — Mayor Tom Henry will get his new public safety director.

City Council members gave preliminary approval to a measure re-creating the position, one the city had for decades and then eliminated in 2000.

Henry announced a week ago he wanted to bring back the position, which oversees the police and fire departments as well as Animal Care & Control.

He also announced that if the City Council approved the position, he would appoint current Police Chief Rusty York to fill it.

The council voted unanimously Tuesday to create the job, which will pay the same salary as York receives now. York was paid $126,632 in 2012.

Deputy Mayor Karl Bandemer said the position will allow York to think strategically about all aspects of public safety. He said that because the police chief position will be filled internally, the only budgetary impact will be the domino effect of promotions that will cost an estimated $55,000.

He said the city spends more on public safety than anything else.

“This is a small investment to maximize our largest investment,” Bandemer said.

When asked what he would do differently as public safety director than he does now as police chief, York said he would be something he did not have as a new chief: a mentor.

Glynn Hines, D-6th, told York he has constituents asking why York should be promoted when violent crime appears to be out of control. If Tuesday’s fatal shooting on Oliver Street is declared a homicide, it will be the 44th homicide in Allen County this year.

The county’s record number of homicides in one year was 44, recorded in 1997.

“If the mayor didn’t think I was doing my job, I’d be home watching this on TV,” York said.

Hines responded that while that may be true, the public has its own opinion and deserves an answer as to why York should be promoted.

York said the issues of crime are complicated and that as chief of an undermanned department, he must spend all his time responding to crime that has already occurred. As public safety director, he said, he can spend most of his time trying to prevent crime.

The measure could get final approval next week.

Tax breaks

Council members also held a public hearing to continue the process of revoking property tax breaks for four companies: Progressive Hospital of Fort Wayne, SWS Trimac Indiana, Keefer Printing and RMD Resources.

Elissa McGauley, abatement specialist for the city, said each of the four had either changed hands, sold the equipment the tax break was on or moved away from the land with the tax break.

None of the four responded to certified letters, officials said, or showed up for the hearing. One company responded with a phone call, but it was the renter of the property, not the owner. And though its lease made it responsible for the property taxes on the land, council attorney Joe Bonahoom said, it had moved, so the tax break didn’t apply anyway.

Next week, the council will hold another public hearing for six companies that failed to file the annual paperwork required for the tax breaks.

Council members also gave preliminary approval to a coordination agreement with the state for the widening of Maplecrest Road between Lake Avenue and State Boulevard. Eighty percent of the $6.5 million project will be paid for by federal funds; construction is expected to begin in March. The council voted 8-0 on the measure, with John Shoaff, D-at large, abstaining due to questions over the project.

dstockman@jg.net


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