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Scorecard: How effective was Mayor Henry at meeting 2012 goals?

Wednesday, February 6, 2013 - 7:49 am

Mayor Tom Henry was scheduled to deliver his sixth annual State of the City address Wednesday, reviewing achievements over the past year and looking ahead to 2013. Here's a look back at the goals Henry set in his 2012 speech and a review of how he handled them.

Vision for 'Legacy' fund

- What he said:

"Our $75 million Legacy fund has given us the ability to look to the future and envision it boldly -- something few communities can imagine," Henry said of the proceeds from the lease and sale of the old City Light utility to Indiana Michigan Power. In his February 2012 speech, Henry said he had given three special teams 90 days to report back to him with proposals for the money.

- What he did:

Henry's administration came forward in November with his first package of proposals for the Legacy money, totaling about $20 million, including a riverfront development study, downtown development fund, downtown higher education loan fund and improvements to city gateways. Although City Council wrangled over the philosophy behind the spending proposals, the panel ultimately endorsed all Henry's proposals with only a couple of minor changes.

The Harrison opens

- What he said:

“The Harrison will help us fulfill some of our priority downtown goals – creating new opportunities to live, work and play in the heart of our city,” Henry said of the long-delayed $18 million retail, office and apartment building, which had just begun construction at the time.

- What he did:

The first business, 3Rivers Federal Credit Union, moved into the Harrison in late January, and residents began moving into their apartments Thursday.

Financial belt-tightening

- What he said:

“Our city finances are strong. The state of our city is strong,” Henry said in his 2012 State of the City address. He touted his careful stewardship of the city's finances, including four straight years of flat budgets and $19 million in cash reserves.

- What he did:

Henry faced perhaps his toughest budget challenge yet last year as his administration crafted a spending plan for 2013. Faced with a $6 million deficit, Henry sought an extra $6 million in property taxes but was denied by City Council. In the end, Henry and council agreed to use interest money from the city's $75 million “Legacy” fund, along with about $3 million from the cash reserves, to fill the gap without raising taxes.

While Henry's administration granted a 2 percent raise to most city workers, it only budgeted enough money for about $2 million in street work – a fraction of the city's needs – and Fort Wayne Police went a second straight year without hiring new officers. The city's cash reserves decreased to about $12 million, as the city spend unbudgeted money on cleanup from a summer windstorm and a new city-county 911 radio system.

In response to the tightening fiscal situation, Henry formed a fiscal policy study group to look at ways to fill the annual budget shortfall. The group is expected to weigh a variety of options, such as budget cuts and higher local income taxes.

Streamlined permitting process

- What he said:

“The welcome mat is out! We are streamlining out permitting process and creating a one-stop shop for economic growth.” Henry pledged results from a $1.4 million city-county project intended to make it easier for businesses to get land-use permits. The plan is supposed to streamline the permitting process by aligning city and Allen County policies, ordinances and procedures.

- What he did:

Two of three key elements of the plan have been implemented: An online portal where businesses can apply and keep track of their permits, and a permitting “ombudsman” meant to serve as the main contact for businesses as they go through the process. The third major element, a reboot of city-county zoning ordinances, is ongoing, but the city and county revealed and started gathering input on some of the proposed changes last month.

Co-locating city and county law enforcement, 911 services

- What he said:

“This final stage of co-location will bring the sheriff's department, city police, fire, 911 communication and emergency management together in one location,” Henry said, referring to the new joint city-county public safety headquarters in the former City-County Building, now known as the Ed Rousseau Centre.

- What he did:

Fort Wayne Police moved in March to the Rousseau Centre, which they share with the Allen County Sheriff's Department and other public safety agencies. However, city and county officials spent much of the year trying to find a new space for the joint 911 dispatch center, which is expected to outgrow its current location in the Rousseau Centre basement. In late 2012, local officials decided to move the dispatch center – but not very far. The call center is expected to move to the Rousseau Centre's sixth floor, which will provide about 13,000 square feet.

More people recycling

- What he said:

“I'm issuing a challenge to the citizens of Fort Wayne. Let's increase our recycling participation rate from 70 to 80 percent,” Henry said in his 2012 address.

- What he did:

What he did: City officials launched a campaign to increase participation in the one-cart recycling program by reaching out to residents and even paying a local advertising agency to run an ad campaign.

According to Henry's office, participation in the program has increased to 78 percent, just off his goal of 80 percent. It's a 45 percentage-point increase from the 33 percent participation rate before the city went to the one-cart system in early 2011. Fort Wayne's recycling program has won multiple statewide and national honors.

Southeast-side housing

- What he said:

“A Fort Wayne that is built for success is a city filled with great neighborhoods that offer its residents great places to call home and enjoy life.”

- What he did:

The city Office of Housing and Neighborhood Services worked with private organizations on several tax-subsidized housing developments in south- and southeast Fort Wayne.

All 66 units of a rent-to-own development in the Renaissance Pointe neighborhood have been completed and leased. Private developers also are working with the city to revamp the run-down Eden Green apartment complex and to convert the vacant Coca-Cola bottling plant on Pontiac Street into an apartment complex. The city is also supporting a part of nonprofits that hopes to build housing at the site of the old Duemling Clinic for youths aging out of foster care.

Downtown street projects

- What he said:

"As our downtown activity grows, we must keep traffic flowing smoothly and make our sidewalks as pedestrian friendly as possible," Henry said in his 2012 address, adding that city officials were considering plans to narrow Jefferson and Washington boulevards. He also announced plans to convert Ewing Street and Fairfield Avenue to two-way traffic and add a roundabout at the intersection of Ewing, Fairfield and Wells and Superior streets.

- What he did:

The narrowing of Jefferson between Ewing and Harrison streets is expected to be completed Feb. 15, but a timeline and funding have not been established for the narrowing of Washington. The Ewing-Fairfield project will likely be funded with Legacy money and is set to start this year, with completion scheduled for 2014.

Other 2012 action

Over the past year, Henry also took up issues that he did not mention in his 2012 State of the City address.

- Transfer of Public Safety Academy:

In August, Henry and officials with Ivy Tech-Northeast announced that Ivy Tech would be taking over day-to-day operations of the southeast-side Public Safety Academy, saving the city more than half a million dollars in annual costs.

Built in 2007 for $27 million, the safety academy had been envisioned as a self-sustaining complex but became a money pit for the city when private support did not materialize. Under the new agreement with Ivy Tech, the college is leasing the entire complex and will have a purchase option after the expiration in 2021 of the original bond that funded the construction.

- Proposed takeover of Aqua Indiana's southwest-side water system

In November, Henry announced that the city would move toward a takeover of Aqua Indiana's southwest-side water utility, which serves about 12,000 customers primarily in Aboite Township. Aqua has faced frequent complaints from its southwest-side customers because of high prices and a perceived lack of water quality and pressure.

For weeks, Aqua and the city have been locked in negotiations over an acquisition of the system. If those negotiations fail, City Council would have the option of condemning the system, which would allow the city to get an appraisal and make an offer. If Aqua were to reject that offer, the matter would go to the courts, which would set a value for the system, likely triggering a legal battle that could drag on for years.