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Posted on Wed. Aug. 13, 2014 - 12:01 am EDT

No Legacy money for city signs

City Council votes 4-2 in favor, but that’s not enough

New signs to direct people to various locations in Fort Wayne won’t be paid for with Legacy money.

The City Council voted 4-2 Tuesday to use $168,900 in Legacy funds for the signs. But the measure failed because it didn’t get the minimum number of votes needed for Legacy Fund projects.

This project was expected to cost a total of about $208,000.

The issue is now dead until a proposal for the signs passes muster with council members who don’t want to use the Legacy Fund for the signs and want a private funding source.

“I think there’s a better way to do this,” said Mitch Harper, R-4th, of the proposal to use the fund – money from the sale and lease of the city’s old electric utility – to pay for the new signage.

He likened it to the state’s way-finding signs, a measure he said he voted for when he was in the legislature.

But the state did not use department operating budgets or tax dollars for the signs, he said.

“Those have all been completely funded by those agencies and businesses listed on those signs,” Harper said.

Way-finding signs direct people to a location of interest, whether a school, university, landmark or private business, such as a museum or art gallery.

Harper also said that if locations listed on the signs had to pay for those spots, larger entities with other advertising options might not choose to use the signs.

Such vacancies would allow smaller groups their moment in the spotlight on the signs.

Harper and John Crawford, R-at large, were the only two members to vote against the proposal.

“I don’t think this is a good use of the money,” Crawford said.

Glynn Hines, D-6th; Russ Jehl, R-2nd; Geoff Paddock, D-5th; and Tom Smith, R-1st, voted in favor of the proposal to use the Legacy Fund to help foot the bill for the signs, despite some reservations.

Marty Bender, R-at large; Tom Didier, R-3rd; and John Shoaff, D-at large, were absent.

“This was not my first choice on Legacy spending,” Jehl said.

Despite his hesitation, he said it was important for the council to take the good-faith gesture from Mayor Tom Henry’s office regarding the need for the project and its specifics.

He felt the city administration had already improved aspects of the sign proposal that called for the use of public dollars.

Just how many votes were needed to approve the proposal varied depending on who had the microphone.

Smith said the measure should require six, not five, votes to pass because it involved Legacy money.

He voted in favor of the proposal because he said the signage is important, but he said he would like to find other funding sources.

Harper and City Council attorney Joseph Bonahoom were among those who said that only five votes were needed, since the money had already been removed from the Legacy Fund and placed in a trust.

Salt purchase

Also Tuesday, the council gave unanimous preliminary approval to the purchase of 14,000 tons of road salt for nearly $1 million for the 2014-15 winter season.

Putting such measure on the agenda in late summer is not unusual, said Frank Suarez, spokesman for the city’s public works and utilities.

The bulk purchase proposal of $945,840 in salt will allow the city to lock in a predetermined rate, he said.

The request will be discussed further at a council meeting in two weeks, when it will be put to an official vote.

The harsh winter of 2013-14 saw the city use $850,000 in deicing material, including salt, calcium chloride, sand and beet juice, according to data from Suarez.

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