Two items approved by the Warsaw Redevelopment Commission on Monday will help the city move forward on studying the U.S. 30 alignment and on fostering workforce housing.
Jeremy Skinner, Warsaw community development coordinator, said the contract with DLZ Indiana LLC was for the U.S. 30 alignment study. The contract already was approved by the city’s Board of Public Works and Safety as the city is putting in $30,000. Redevelopment is putting in $32,000 from the Northern TIF District.
“This contract will help us, more like a red flag study, to understand what the limitations are” and what the future of U.S. 30 could look like, he said. Skinner said the study will identify potential problems, what can be overcomed and what can’t. “So when we move forward, and have public meetings in the future, we’ll have at least some legitimate knowledge to share with the public of what is possible and what is not possible.”
Mayor Joe Thallemer told the Commission, “This kind of goes along with the PEL that the state just has committed to, which is a Planning and Environmental Linkage study. It’s going to look at this entire seven-county route. My guess is, that’s probably not going to happen – the actual study – until sometime next year. Hopefully, early next year.”
Knowing that commitment is there, that the Indiana Department of Transportation will be looking at some of the options for U.S. 30, Thallemer said, “We certainly want to resume our public meetings to look at the different options, and now needing to be a little bit more, again, not trying to say that something’s going to work if there’s indeed a red flag. We have to be more careful about publicly what we say could be an option. We want to make sure of that. None of us are road engineers around here. This is a very expensive and complex project, and we definitely need assistance of an engineering firm that’s got experience with these types of roadway designs to look at and answer our questions, so that we go with confidence to the public before INDOT comes in and does similar things.”
Thallemer said DLZ has experience with I-69 and four-lane freeways. “I feel very confident we’ve got good partners,” he said.
Redevelopment unanimously approved the contract with DLZ.
Next, the Commission approved a memorandum of understanding (MOU) between it and the Kosciusko Economic Development Corporation to foster the development of affordable workforce housing within the city.
Skinner reminded the Commission that last year, they signed a housing predevelopment contract with the company that did a housing study of the county. With the MOU, they are just “swapping” KEDCO in to be the partner on that predevelopment agreement.
“So this $50,000, basically predevelopment, primarily can be used for the Owen’s property” on West Market Street, Skinner said.
He said they’re still trying to figure out how the Revolving Loan Fund through Zimmer Biomet/Indiana Housing Community Development Authority (IHCDA) works, but rather than delay work on the old Owen’s property, they’re moving forward.
“We still have not got a definitive understanding from the IHCDA what their money looks like,” Skinner said. “So I don’t know how they’re going to contribute at this point. We’re still working with them figuring out how their money” will play a part.
The MOU is just for predevelopment work, like minimal design work, legal services, surveys, etc.
Skinner said right now, they are putting together the purchase agreement for the Owen’s property. The funds are not to purchase the property, but for predevelopment items like having the purchase agreement put together.
Thallemer said Skinner was right and, “We have still not got great clarity from the IHCDA, but there are other pools of funds in that loan fund that we could access. The most important thing is that we not delay what we’re trying to accomplish in predevelopment work on that site. That could be problematic if we just stopped and waited for them. The important thing is that we’re committed to the potential that we’ve got, to pay for that if we have to, but we feel this gives us the opportunity to be involved with the housing fund that’s been set up just for this.”
He said they’re just waiting for the IHCDA to tell them what those funds are to be used for and how they can be accessed.
“It’s very frustrating, but we don’t want to delay what could be considered timeliness to get this done,” Thallemer said.
Skinner said KEDCO “ultimately will kind of be that land acquisition, that umbrella corporation that we’re feeding it into before we hit the development part. So, there’s a lot of moving pieces, but we’re all heading in the right direction, keep moving forward.”
Thallemer said the city is very appreciative of the IHCDA.
“This was a brand new, it’s called anchor workforce housing project, and they awarded a match to Zimmer Biomet,” Thallemer said. “Zimmer Biomet put up $1 million and IHCDA matched that, and they did the same thing in five other communities. And this is the first time they’ve done that. And our community is far ahead of the others in being ready to actually utilize this fund.”
He said they’ve had great meetings with the IHCDA and they’re all trying to figure out how the fund works.
“I think it’s more of a timing issue. I don’t think we’re sounding the alarm in any way, shape or form. They’re going to come through. It’s just a matter of, we now have a project we want to get moving on and we want to be timely about it,” Thallemer said.