Goshen channels flood fund into disaster relief

Elkhart Truth file photo This photo taken the day after the flooding began to occur in 2018 shows the high water covering Linway Plaza in Goshen.

GOSHEN — City officials hope to be able to help Goshen residents quickly during the next natural disaster.

City Council voted Tuesday to refashion a relief fund that was set up soon after the February 2018 flood that caused damage to over 300 structures. Only 15 applicants ended up using the fund, for requests like furnace and water heater repairs, making a dent of just $22,037 in the fund total.

Council members in December began asking what to do with the remaining money, which was over $100,000. They considered a few possibilities but decided against simply reclaiming the money, which includes private donations matched by city funds.

The ordinance they passed this week renames the flood fund as the Disaster Relief Fund. It directs the remaining $107,517 toward individuals and households impacted by natural disasters such as floods, fires, storms, tornadoes or earthquakes.

The emergency assistance can be in the form of helping repair residential damage not covered by insurance or providing temporary shelter for people who are displaced. The measure states that the mayor will assess the magnitude of damage caused by a natural disaster and determine the nature and extent of assistance available, and how eligible people can apply.

The fund will close when the money is spent.

Council passed the ordinance after amending it to allow grant money to be used, and after discussing what sorts of disasters might be covered. 

Resident Glenn Null praised the measure, but wanted to make sure the fund also covers disasters like large fires that displace a lot of people.

“If you’re put out on the street, no matter what the reason, if Mother Nature did it or somebody at home cooked their meal, you’re still out on the street,” he said. “As somebody who liked this idea from the beginning and had a $100 bill to put into it – you know how tight I am with my money, let alone your money, I mean our money – I think this is a good idea. It is a feather in the cap of our city to be proactive and be ahead of the game instead of scrambling, like most agencies are.”

Mayor Jeremy Stutsman said officials would never be able to think of every possibility ahead of time, but said council could make additions if needed.

Airport hangar

Also Monday, council gave first reading to a $75,000 appropriation to help Goshen Municipal Airport build a stretch of taxiway for a new private hangar. The request from airport officials was originally $65,000, but Stutsman said officials wanted to include a little extra in case of cost overruns.

He said anything that isn’t needed won’t be spent.

Denny Richmond with the Board of Aviation Commissioners said $64,700 is the low estimate the board is considering, but the price may change if officials have to shift the 234-foot taxiway to one side or the other if they can’t get a light moved out of the way.

In June, Richmond introduced the plan by local company H2 Aviation to build a 12,000-square-foot hangar just east of the Indiana Helicopters hangar. He said the $1 million investment requires the construction of a taxiway to connect the hangar to the runway.

Council President Brett Weddell asked Tuesday if the board had any plans to pay the city back out of the increased revenue the new hangar is expected to bring with it. Extra fuel sales and land rent are expected to bring in $12,000 to $15,000 a year.

“We’d like to say yes to that, but typically all of the land rent and fuel revenue comes into our budget right now and I think this would be treated the same,” Richmond said. “We never really thought about it.”

Stutsman said the airport receives less funding from the state now and its account balance has been chipped away at for the past few years. He said the $12,000 to $15,000 in revenue would cover that loss and help rebuild the fund.

“We do subsidize the airport each year with general tax dollars as well,” he said. “This will help lower what we subsidize.”

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