FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WANE) — An unusually long City Council meeting on Tuesday that consisted of conversations about the 2024 city budget was punctuated with a complaint aimed right at the city.

“I was made aware that the softball field at Packard Park was to be demolished … I asked how did this occur,” said Allison Bricker, a resident local to Packard Park. “I was told there was a survey that was passed out, and that [there] was overwhelming support for having the historic softball field demolished.”

According to Bricker, the problem starts there.

“I kept talking to neighbors who have lived in the neighborhood for 30 or 40 years if they had heard of this survey, and no one had heard of the survey,” Bricker said.

She then claims that after being tossed between the parks department, neighborhood associations, and planning agencies, she finally filed an offical request for information to see the survey for herself.

A comparison of the proposed park with an aerial view of the park currently and the proposed plan.

Bricker said the survey actually claims the opposite of what the city says and that most of the survey results indicate people wanting to keep the ballpark, which incited a response from Tom Didier:

This morning we should be celebrating the bipartisan work that went into making cuts designed to provide more transparency in city government and finalize a budget that reflects the priorities of Fort Wayne residents. Instead, we are discussing integrity in city government. During the public comment period, concerned citizens shared another example of city leaders misrepresenting public opinion and hiding it from elected officials.

When the issue of removing the softball diamond at Packard Park came up at the council table, I asked directly about its removal. The City Council was told by the administration a survey was taken and that there was public support for the city’s decision to remove the diamond.

Tonight, concerned citizens shared the results of a freedom of information access request they submitted to retrieve the actual surveys after getting the runaround from the city when asking for the information from several city departments. What they learned is that there was indeed widespread public support – not for removing the softball diamond, but for keeping it there.

This incident is just the latest example of the city trying to keep information from the public. In this case, their lack of transparency actually impacted my vote on the matter before the council, and it clearly could have changed the character of the neighborhoods surrounding Packard Park.

This is not hard – you talk to residents and use their input to make better policy decisions. When they have questions, you answer them, you don’t force them to make a public information request to get the answers. Fort Wayne residents are tired of the city government asking them for their opinion when the administration clearly doesn’t care about what they have to say.

Tom Didier, Mayoral Candidate and 3rd District City Councilman

The statement was written under the heading, “Didier Frustrated by Henry Administration Lack of Transparency;” however, when the statement was released city officials came to the side of Henry’s administration, claiming that the decision was taken with the context of ample public support.

Neighborhoods are the backbone of Fort Wayne, and receiving input from residents in our neighborhoods has been and will continue to be a top priority.

We look forward to the upcoming enhancements at Packard Park through the master plan overseen by the Fort Wayne Parks and Recreation Department at the request of nearby neighborhoods with robust public input and feedback from residents in the Fairfield Neighborhood, Packard Area Planning Alliance neighborhoods, and the Southwest Area Partnership.

The decision to remove the ball diamond, that is one part of an overall master plan for the entire park, wasn’t taken lightly and wouldn’t have moved forward without the neighborhoods being in favor of a different use for the facility. The Parks Department has had positive discussions with the league that utilizes the ball diamond and have agreed that a new home will be found for future softball activities.

There may be a misunderstanding from Councilman Didier and the resident who expressed concerns about the upcoming improvements at Packard Park. The City Administration and Parks Department are happy to have a discussion with the Councilman and the resident so there’s a better understanding of where we’re at and where we’re headed with the upgrades that so many individuals and families are happy with and supportive of.

We also value and appreciate city employees who dedicate themselves to providing excellent services. Mayor Tom Henry and the entire City Administration have always placed a heavy emphasis on accessibility and transparency. Fort Wayne is an award-winning city that’s positioned for current and future success.

John Perlich, Public Information Officer for the City of Fort Wayne and Mayor Tom Henry

Fort Wayne Parks and Recreation Department Director Steve McDaniel echoed the statement Wednesday.

“We would be glad to sit down and talk with anybody who has some concerns. I know that we had a long discussion with the group that uses the ball diamond now and have made a commitment that we will find them another home. And so again, if the people I spoke to last night or anybody else has any comments, we’d be glad to sit down and talk with them,” McDaniel said.

While the Mayor’s Office responded in an official matter to Didier’s comment, the mayor’s campaign did not offer a response.

WANE 15 has received a copy of what Bricker claims is the survey she filed an information request for, but WANE 15 has also filed an information request to confirm the survey’s results.