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Henke questions RV hall deal

Elkhart city councilman David Henke wants a state agency to review an agreement between the city and RV/MH Hall of Fame.
Posted on Dec. 24, 2012 at 12:00 a.m.

ELKHART — David Henke doesn’t think the agreement the city made with the RV/MH Hall of Fame is proper or fair.

The longtime Republican city council member sent a copy of the agreement to a state agency for review. He claims the agreement sets a bad precedent and any agreement should have gone through the city council and not the board of public works.

The RV hall agreement includes a discounted rate on its compact fee for utility service and was approved by the board of works on Nov. 20, one day after the council voted against efforts by the mayor to include potential discounts for other nonprofit groups outside of the city.

Henke contends the RV agreement set a bad precedent.

But Mayor Dick Moore said the council had a chance to have a role in deciding if discounts for other nonprofits should be offered, but opposed that provision.

Representatives of the hall quit paying compact fees to the city for several years, claiming they should be exempt from the bills because of their non-profit status. In the meantime, they racked up a $115,000 bill with the city.

In an effort to end the stalemate, Moore negotiated a settlement with the hall in which the hall agreed to begin making regular payments at a discounted rate. In exchange, the city agreed to forgive the $115,000 debt.

Word that the mayor and hall were near agreement surfaced in a trade publication in September and Moore quickly confirmed it was in the works. Some council members criticized Moore for plans to forgive the debt, but never sought to stop or alter the negotiations.

Moore has said that the agreement was needed in order to get the hall to begin making regular payments. Otherwise, the two sides could have ended up in court, he said.

“In my opinion this was our only option,” Moore said. “It was (either) do something to get them paying again or disconnect the service, close them down and get nothing.”

The formula for compact fees is based in part on assessed property value. While standard compact fees are based on 75 percent of assessed property value, the hall’s formula relies on 37.5 percent of assessed value.

Under the new agreement, the hall’s compact fee will be $1,034.35. Under the old agreement, the hall would be paying twice as much. At one point, when the hall’s assessed value was much higher, the hall was paying close to $5,000 a month for the compact fee, Moore said.

Henke, as he has often said, doesn’t believe Moore works closely enough with the council and is prone to pushing his own alternative ideas without input from the council.

He compared it to Moore’s desire to prohibit sign wavers on sidewalks despite council objections. His attempts to ban the practice were turned back by the council, but Moore now contends an existing city ordinance can be used to prohibit sign wavers from operating in the public right-of-way.

In a statement sent to The Truth, Henke said: “Again, like sign waivers and several ordinances, the mayor interprets in his own way and does not abide by law. This is not in the best interest of our community nor does it represent the process as depicted by Indiana Constitution.”

Henke said he sent copies of the agreement to the Indiana Department of Local Government Finance for review and predicted it could be sent to the Indiana Attorney General office.

Henke said he thinks the city council should have had a final say on the hall deal since compact fee revenues go into a fund controlled by the city council.

The hall agreement was approved by the board of works because it is a utility issue, but the council dealt with the compact fee policy rate hike through ordinances brought to the city council.

The apparent inequities caused by the compact fee formula surfaced again earlier this week and Moore announced the city would review concerns voiced by some businesses that are scheduled to begin paying under a compact fee beginning Jan. 1.

Moore and several council members have heard complaints that the compact fees are excessive.

Henke said the formula using assessed value needs to be changed and should be based on usage.

Moore said the pending review of compact fees could lead an overhaul of the entire formula.




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