FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WANE) Both Fort Wayne City Council and Allen County Council members met for the first time in five years Tuesday night to learn more about the Regional Cities Road to One Million Plan.
“There are more questions than answers when it comes to the Regional Cities Initiative,” City Council President Russ Jehl said.
Northeast Indiana Regional Partnership gave a presentation outlining the plan. Jehl said it was the first time City Council has been briefed on the plan that outlines dozens of projects spanning across 11 counties. Council members also heard from Jeffrey Turner, who is the chairman of the five member Regional Development Authority Board that will oversee all projects for the region. Turner said right now the contract with the state to secure all of the $42 million approved by lawmakers just this month is still being finalized.
“The next step then is applications from all of the stakeholders from throughout the region, and then we will begin scheduling meetings of the Regional Development Authority to hear those applications and that could start as early as next week,” Turner said.
The original plan outlined 70 projects spanning 10 years, including 38 short-term two-year projects. The short-term projects will equal more than $400 million in investments. Most projects will draw money from private, local and the Regional Cities funds. The plan suggested about 60 percent of the funds will be from private investors, 20 percent will be from the money granted by the state and the remaining 20 percent will be local funds. Where those local funds will come from was one of many questions council members had for project leaders.
“The Regional Cities Fund is a great fund and a project with a lot of opportunities, but there are strings attached and we do need matching funds and there’s not a natural way to do so right now,” Jehl said.
Another concern brought up by some council members was why none of the members on the board overseeing the projects are from Allen County.
“Fort Wayne and Allen County is the economic engine that drives our region. There is no question whether or not, there is no question a large portion of this money is going to go to projects right here, because it drives the visibility and vibrancy of our region,” Turner said.
This was just the initial meeting to learn more about the plan, so both councils will be taking a closer look at the projects in the upcoming months. Once some of the short-term projects are given the green-light, Turner said he hopes ground will break as early as this summer on some of the projects.