Home > Political Animal > Indifference or Incompetence…

Indifference or Incompetence…

Or both?

By Jim Sack

Fort Wayne Reader


For the better part of a week a contractor worked on the intersection of Bluffton Road and Broadway, ostensibly to make the intersection safer for pedestrians. The immediate result was hundreds of angry motorists. One of two lanes approaching from Waynedale was closed, causing that confusion where traffic merges from two lanes to one, the
jockeying for position, those few trying to jump the line and an occasional raised middle digit. The line of cars extended to the light at Brooklyn, to Engle and back to Winchester, over a mile of unnecessarily frustrated motorists.

Sadly, it could have been minimized, if the Board of Works had cared…which apparently, they didn’t. Having crews work during rush hour is bad enough on such a heavily travelled stretch, but not bothering to have an officer on site to move things along
at the complicated intersection added to the backup. Signage was also lacking to divert traffic or warn of the mess. Photographs from the last traffic-snarled day show two smallish piles of debris — about eight wheel barrows full, about ten minutes of one bedraggled worker hauling to the berm — was all that blocked a turning lane, thus causing the long, long back up. Of course, blame the contractor for laziness and indifference to residents, but also blame the Board of Public Works for not planning ahead, not bothering to coordinate with the police department, not warning adjacent
neighborhoods, not taking the motoring public into consideration.

Apparently, this is not the only project where the BoW has cut customer-service corners. Word is that the Board of Works is pulling back on its array of projects as promised a
couple of years ago in exchange for neighborhood support of a tax increase. Fewer street repairs, fewer alley rebuilds, less resurfacing. Why, you might ask? Word is the BoW over-promised. The other murmur is the city is spread thin in light of the many, many projects currently underway, and the fears the mammoth GE deal is prompting. Dear Motorists: You’re on your own. Dear Taxpayer: Another hike is on the way. As for making the intersection at Bluffton and Broadway safer, the fundamental goal…it’s not.

Drip, Drip, Drip

A city spokesman noted one night at council that a quarter of all the water produced at the filtration plant is lost before it hit the first tap. A drive around some of the older sections of Fort Wayne will reveal hundreds of pavement patches where water mains have broken at a cost of a few thousand backhoe dollars each, not to mention customer
inconvenience. So now, City Utilities comes to the community to announce price hikes in the coming year and for years to come. Five percent here, five percent there and five percent into the foreseeable future. Water, explained a CU
spokeswoman, is the cheap part of the equation. Pipes, maintenance, workers, clerks, and the rest are a bigger portion of the bill; so why not just let the slow drip continue? With over one-hundred-year-old systems we can expect increasingly significant failures. An engineer once explained the problem in the Northcrest area as a result of the post-
World War Two construction boom where first-quality materials were in short supply, so second or third grade pipe was used and now it is corroding, rusting, collapsing. So, the proposal is to invest tens of millions in our system. This new hike, one that will ratchet up for years, comes on the heals of the $188 million cost of the big dig to reduce the raw
household sewage that flows into our rivers. Imagine how that would affect attendance along the river front…

Most people believe City Utilities is well run. City council regularly approves without much ado any new appropriation for equipment or systems that engineers bring to the table. Most understand we are paying now for the corner-cutting and hazardous behavior of past generations, administrations and councils. Most citizens understand we have safe water, but the costs keep ticking up making it increasingly tough on many people to afford that cool, clear water. Perhaps a Fifth Tuesday is in order.

The Document is On the Table

The mayor has sent his terms to the developers of the General Electric campus. As of this writing they await a response.

RTM, the developer conglomerate, wants $65 million; the mayor offered $50 million from city funds. Of the $220 — $240 million needed to complete Phase One, the first half of the project, the city’s portion, would be 20-25%, a substantial amount. State and federal money makes up the bulk of the total while private equity and developer “skin” is minimal.

The mayor’s document, prepared by the law department in cahoots with the city’s corporate council and a bevy of advisors, is all about the terms of the deal — in short, how the money will be used, when it will be paid, out and what is expected in return. It is about performance. Think Red River.

In most development deals the parties have different sets of expectations and needs, so there is always a period of dickering back and forth to arrive at a compromise. That was likely the case when you bought your house, and is the same in the case of Electric Works. As the deadlines rapidly approach to secure state and federal funds negotiations
have begun in earnest between your representatives and the developers. What had been negotiated in the media, at council and at dozens of kaffeeklatschen has now progressed to the finely worded world of lawyers.

Never pay full price.

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