Some City Council members unsure about North River purchase agreement

The North River property, bounded by Clinton, Fourth and Harrison streets near downtown Fort Wayne, will be purchased by the city of Fort Wayne for future development. (Google Maps)

FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WANE) –  A purchase agreement for the City of Fort Wayne to buy the North River property expires at the end of this month. Tuesday night some City Council members said they would not vote for the agreement as it’s currently written.

City Council members said there are way more questions than answers about the purchase of the property that runs between Clinton, Harrison and Fourth streets. With only a few weeks until the agreement expires, they feel the administration may have tried to tie their hands.

“This is like Johnny come lately, 11th hour, and I’m just not comfortable,” Councilman Glynn Hines (D-6th District) said.

Fort Wayne City Council said the administration has had the purchase agreement for the North River property since this summer. Along with the rest of us, they just saw it last week, and need to approve it by the end of the month for it to go through.

“It’s infuriating,” Barranda (R-At Large) said. “They’ve had this contract since July 27, they didn’t tell us about it until last Wednesday, it was posted for the public to see, that’s when we saw it on Thursday, and that’s the first time I could actually lay eyes on something they’ve had for several months.”

What Barranda did see he wasn’t so sure of. At Tuesday’s City Council meeting he asked for language that would give the seller full indemnity to be changed, and voted against even introducing the agreement, which would be the first step toward passage.

“The way this particular provision reads it doesn’t carve out that provision that the insurance company pays first,” Barranda said. “It just says taxpayers pay first.”

The City wants to buy the land that once held Omnisource Recycling for more than $4 million dollars. Environmental studies of the land have been done. Councilors said because of language in the agreement the studies can’t be shared with them or the public.

“In this case the public is asked to not pay any attention to the studies, to not pay attention to pricing, and assume the liability,” Russ Jehl (R- 2nd District) said. “I think that’s a major reason the public feels like it’s not a good deal for them.”

“We don’t know how much it’s going to take to clean the site up,” Hines said. “Supposedly the contract has to be executed by December 1, so that timeline just doesn’t allow all the questions to be answered.”

If language is changed it would have to go back to the seller to review then back to Council which would cut any chance of passage very close to the deadline.