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The Journal Gazette

  • Thomas Didier represents the 3rd District and is president of the Fort Wayne City Council.

  • At-large Councilman Thomas Freistroffer is vice president.

  • Glynn Hines represents the 6th District.

Sunday, June 18, 2017 1:00 am

Tax will finance infrastructure infusion

Thomas Didier, Thomas Freistroffer and Glynn Hines

Over the past few years, we've had lots of good wins for downtown Fort Wayne redevelopment.

From the Allen County Public Library and Grand Wayne Center expansions, to Parkview Field and Harrison Square, along with upcoming projects like riverfront development and The Landing, Fort Wayne has had impressive energy that has led us to where we are, making our community a place that people want to live, work and invest.

These improvements are just a start to continue making Fort Wayne a place where families, young talent and retirees alike can share with equal value as a top-rated place to live.

As Fort Wayne has grown and changed over the years, plans for funding improvements to our streets and sewers have been successful, and Fort Wayne has covered a lot of ground in our neighborhoods. As members of City Council, we spend a great deal of time listening to resident needs and evaluating how to make those needs a reality.

Two pieces we have evaluated, and that we feel deserve additional attention as we move forward, are our alleys and sidewalks, which are integral to our transportation system. Years of wear and tear on these entities have given us an infrastructure that needs updating to be safe.

Fort Wayne has more than 150 miles of alleys, used by many residents for access to their homes and for trash collection. These alleys connect our neighbors – they are used more than one might think.

Many of these alleys are in disrepair. Frustration and wear and tear on vehicles are experienced by homeowners who travel these alleys. It is time for Fort Wayne to make this infrastructure in our neighborhoods a priority, and we are currently considering one option to do just that.

Second, as property tax caps implemented by the General Assembly have squeezed funding to municipalities and school districts, changing available transportation choices, there is a greater need for sidewalk options so all children have a way to get to school safe and sound. We have 1,600 miles of sidewalks in Fort Wayne and have identified hundreds of miles of additional sidewalks that are needed to make Fort Wayne truly safe and walkable, in addition to repairs to existing sidewalks.

This can't happen overnight, but we need to start finding viable ways to create additional sidewalks to ensure all of our children have a safe route to their respective schools. The safety of our children has to be a priority for all residents in Fort Wayne.

To have a prosperous community, the entire community has to thrive – both downtown and our neighborhoods. With this in mind, we are openly considering City Councilman John Crawford's proposal to adjust the local income tax, which would affect a median household by roughly $6 per month. This funding, which would generate an estimated $9.6 million a year, would allow the city to invest more consistently in enabling us all to share in a focus of two critical areas that need attention within our neighborhoods – alleys and sidewalks.

By investing roughly $40 million over the next 10-15 years on infrastructure, this will allow an unprecedented commitment communitywide. This dedicated funding will affect our neighborhoods, schools, families and children for generations to come.

Infrastructure is a critical part of any city. It's not exciting or flashy, but it is the backbone of our community and our neighborhoods and is needed for a good quality of life for residents, schools and businesses. Having safe, accessible transportation makes our city livable and our neighborhoods more desirable, which in turn makes the community more prone to outside investment.

Fort Wayne and Allen County have one of the lowest tax rates in the region – and any changes currently being discussed will not change that. This investment in our future is needed – and according to the calls we get from constituents – wanted by a good number of residents.

There is a component to this tax that will direct funds for riverfront development; this is another big win for Fort Wayne. This development, coupled with the neighborhood improvements, truly means everyone benefits. And, because of how the tax is structured, those residents on fixed incomes would not see their Social Security taxed, but would be able to enjoy and appreciate all of the improvements going on around them.

This is a bipartisan effort at all levels designed to better neighborhood value and the safety of all who use sidewalks, especially children.

The three of us will be listening intently to everything that will be presented on all sides in the coming weeks and, in keeping an open mind, doing what is right for the future of Fort Wayne.