ELKHART — The final major hurdle appears to have been cleared in the Elkhart’s efforts to line up its share of funding for the Prairie Street overpass construction project.
The finance committee of the whole, which includes the entire Elkhart City Council, voted Monday, Feb. 25, 2013, to recommend supporting a plan to borrow money from the city’s Major Moves Construction Fund and use some money from utilities.
Mayor Dick Moore expressed a sense of urgency in seeing the council finalize the city’s $3.2 million share and thereby further locking in the $16 million in federal monies for the $20 million project that will ease congestion and improve the city’s north-south traffic flow.
Councilman David Henke, who hinted months ago that he was unsure he would support funding the local share, joined others in two unanimous recommendations for the plan, saying the improvements to infrastructure along parts of South Main Street and Prairie Street were too good to pass up.
The two recommendations supporting the plan were approved in separate 8-0 votes.
The city council will consider the plan at its meeting next week, but Monday’s action is a good indicator of sentiment.
Part of the funding involves borrowing $1.8 million from Major Moves and repaying it within five years with revenues from the city’s tax increment finance districts.
The money will be paid back at a 3 percent interest rate that will yield about $170,000 in additional money for the fund.
Among those speaking in favor of the project were representatives of the Greater Elkhart Chamber of Commerce, Economic Development Corporation of Elkhart County and Elkhart Community Schools.
Also speaking on behalf of the project was Sandra Seanor, executive director of the Michiana Area Council of Governments, who told the council that too many people had worked for too many years to let the federal dollars slip away from the project.
Work on the project began more than seven years ago.
She and Moore warned that federal dollars for local projects could become more difficult to secure in the future, given the budget challenges the federal government has faced in recent years.
Construction is tentatively set to begin in about a year and would continue for two years.