Portland Redevelopment Commission met today to discuss city projects the group could help fund.
It also voted to approve paying $31,000 to Ratio Architects. The firm performed building studies on three vacant and blighted buildings downtown.
The commission is waiting to receive a conceptualized budget, which is part of the study, before it releases the findings to the public.
Under a new state law, the Redevelopment Commission must create by July 1 a plan for how it will spend $800,000 of its funds, Portland Mayor Randy Geesaman said.
He gave members a list of different city projects that would benefit the downtown tax increment finance district.
Those included helping to fund the Ind. 26 East utility project, the Portland Municipal Airport runway extension, the Creagor Avenue and West Votaw Street Bicycle/pedestrian greenway project, the 2015 Downtown Façade program, projects to stop flooding in the downtown area and a new ladder fire truck for Portland Fire Department.
The group also discussed expanding the current TIF district or creating a new one, which would cost between $50,000 and $100,000. The group would use TIF dollars to pay for a fiscal cost benefit study, reporting forms and a tax impact statement.
The commission is currently funding a contract with Ratio Architects to perform building studies on the Bailey, McClurg and Tom and Rod’s buildings on West Main Street.
And commission member Joe Johnston said he’d like the commission to consider how it could help fund the Portland Pool project.
Commission member Mark Clemens said a regional project to create an industrial training center would also benefit the TIF district.
Members had some questions about the ways specific projects would benefit the TIF district.
Geesaman said though the airport is not part of the TIF district it adjoins it, and a runway extension is an economic development tool, which will directly benefit the TIF district.
The project isn’t expected to start until 2017, but money from the commission could be used to purchase 26 acres of land the city would need to acquire, which is expected to cost about $150,000.
“Is it fair for us to ask how the airport is doing at this current moment,” Clemens asked. “How are they doing financially, how are they doing to help us looking at expanding the current business?”
Geesaman said the airport’s financial situation has improved since the city acquired the revenue from the airport’s fuel farm.
“It’s doing very well, and it continues to expand, we have all the hangers full,” Geesaman said.
Commission member Brooke Aker asked if the city was looking at other funding resources for the Ind. 26 project.
The project will replace the road, but the city is planning to replace water and sewer lines beneath Ind. 26, which will cost about $1.2 million.
Clemens also questioned how the greenway project would affect economic development in the TIF district.
“As much as I would love to see a bike trail there, specifically, how does it impact economic development?”
Geesaman said about 75 to 80 percent of the proposed greenway would be in the TIF.
“I wouldn’t say economic development,” Geesaman said. “It’s really a quality of life issue.”
Members also wanted Jones and Henry, the engineering company working on sewer separation and mapping projects through the city, to come to the next redevelopment commission meeting to discuss how new flap gates would help with flooding issues.
The city wants to put in new flap gates for 10 of the remaining combined sewer overflows in the city. That project would cost about $120,000.
“They would love to come show you (maps that have been created),” Geesaman said of Jones and Henry.
And members were concerned about using TIF money to help the city purchase a new fire truck.
Geesaman said a new ladder fire truck would service 84 structures in the TIF district, including Jay County Courthouse.
“Is that considered infrastructure,” Clemens asked. “I’m struggling with this fire truck.”
Johnston said other Redevelopment Commissions have used TIF dollars to purchase fire trucks, so it’s not unprecedented.
The commission plans to continue to meet and discuss projects it will help fund during coming months.
It will need to present its plan to Portland City Council in time for the council to approve it by July 1.