Despite opposition by some members and a few amendments, City Council endorsed Mayor Tom Henry's first nine "Legacy" proposals for a total of nearly $20 million.
Each of the nine proposals, including a $500,000 study on riverfront development and an $8 million fund to help colleges expand downtown, passed council with the 6-3 "supermajority" required to spend any of the roughly $48 million currently available from the lease and sale of the old City Light utility to Indiana Michigan Power.
The higher education fund created the most discussion, as Councilmen John Crawford, R-at large, and Russ Jehl, R-2nd, argued that the city should not directly subsidize colleges and universities, while administration officials said the fund would help create a more vibrant downtown.
"This is one I can't support," Crawford told city officials. "You have good reasons and a lot of good logic behind you, but I don't think it's going to be worth $8 million."
Council members Marty Bender, R-at large, Tom Didier, R-3rd, Mitch Harper, R-4th, and John Shoaff, D-at large, also said they had reservations about the fund, yet all but Harper voted for it. Harper abstained.
Council President Tom Smith, R-1st, tried to quiet their concerns by assuring them that the city would not be transferring lump sums of cash for the colleges to use as they please. Instead, the city would maintain the fund, and applicants would ask for money on a specific project-by-project basis, he said.
"We can support public projects, private projects, I don't care, as long as we get great bang for our buck," Smith said.