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Furthermore …

The former Indiana Hotel is poised to join the downtown renaissance.

Environmental board has pro-business slant

Earlier this year, environmentalists expressed concerns about a proposal to combine the state’s air pollution control board, water pollution control board and solid waste management board into a single Environmental Rules Board.

The more specific boards had better expertise, environmentalists argued, and the new 16-member board would have narrower representation than the combined 38 members on the previous boards. The legislature approved the proposal anyway, and on Thursday, Gov. Mitch Daniels announced his appointments to the board – and gave environmentalists even more reason to be concerned.

•The vice chairman and representative of small business will be Bill Etzler, vice president of Aqua Indiana, giving Etzler the opportunity to help make rules that his company must follow.

•The governor also appointed an official with Eli Lilly (Daniels’ former employer), which in 2011 paid a six-figure penalty for violating the federal Clean Air Act.

•The chairwoman will be Beverly Gard, a former state senator who just happened to write the law combining the boards.

•Required to appoint a health professional, Daniels chose the medical service director of ArcelorMittal Indiana Harbor, a big Lake County steelmaker.

Daniels chose to ignore a recommendation from the Hoosier Environmental Council to appoint Indra Frank, a physician and former HEC board member, to the new board.

“The HEC hopes the new consolidated board will err on the side of caution in protecting the public’s health and will strive to incorporate the views of public interest organizations who represent tens of thousands of Hoosiers and individual citizens directly harmed by pollution,” said Jesse Kharbanda, executive director of the council.

“The Environmental Rules Board, if it holds to its ideals, will play a critical role in protecting the right of every Hoosier to breathe clean air and drink safe, healthy water.”

Parkview shuttle bus

Citilink’s new Medlink route helps address a worrisome aspect of the migration of medical services toward the edges of Fort Wayne.

When Parkview Health built its new state-of-the-art $550 million Parkview Regional Medical Center just north of Dupont Road, the goal was to improve access to health care services throughout northeast Indiana. The proximity to I-69 makes the hospital easily accessible to residents throughout the region. But there were also concerns that Parkview Hospital on Randallia Drive would be largely abandoned, reducing the access to quality health care for people living in the core of Fort Wayne.

The Randallia campus continues to serve the community. And starting Jan. 7, it will be easier for people, including Parkview employees, volunteers and people wanting to visit patients, to travel between the two hospital campuses. Medlink, a service provided by Citilink and underwritten by Parkview Health, will provide hourly bus service on a route that traverses Randallia Drive, East State Boulevard, Parnell Avenue, North Clinton Street and Diebold Road. It will operate Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. and links up to Citilink routes 1, 2, 3, 4 and 21.

More information about Medlink is available on the Citilink website at www.fwcitilink.com.

Standard Citilink fares apply – $1.25 per ride with discounts available to those who qualify – and transportation for people with disabilities wanting to use the Medlink route will be available through the Citilink Access program.

The new program is crucial to improving access to the new hospital, which is otherwise outside of Citilink’s service territory.

Spinoff benefit

Five years ago, the Harrison Square naysayers were beside themselves when the then-nascent project faced yet another roadblock: The Courtyard by Marriott hotel developer’s insistence that an enclosed walkway be built allowing hotel guests to get back and forth to Grand Wayne Center without being exposed to the weather.

For architectural reasons, a direct walkway over Jefferson Boulevard wasn’t practical, so city officials and Harrison Square proponents came up with a plan to build a skywalk across Harrison Street connecting the hotel with the Indiana Hotel/Embassy Theatre. Courtyard patrons would then pass through an Indiana Hotel walkway to the existing skywalk between the Embassy and the convention center.

Harrison Square opponents criticized the cost to city government – $1 million for the Indiana Hotel, plus about $300,000 more for the walkway.

But now, as Dan Stockman’s Friday story explained, the Indiana Hotel is poised to develop its long-vacant upper floors, and the skywalk was a key to its development.

Between the city’s contribution and a $550,000 grant from the Robert Goldstine Foundation, the Embassy board and staff renovated the third floor to accommodate and the walkway and – perhaps even more important – installed a new elevator from the basement to the seventh floor, offering access to the entire building.

The Embassy hopes to announce a more definitive plan in the first quarter of 2013 for the old hotel, possibly including a two-story ballroom, office space and a rehearsal studio.

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