North River purchase agreement no closer to being approved

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) –  Fort Wayne City Council has been concerned about the purchase agreement between the city and the sellers of the North River property. Last week they wondered why they couldn’t see the results of an environmental study, and why the seller doesn’t want to be liable for land remediation. This week they got some answers, but not all minds were changed.

City Council was expected to conduct its first vote on the purchase agreement. If it passed, it would be up for a final vote at next week’s meeting. However, Council voted to hold the first vote until next week.

City Councilman Michael Barranda said the hold meant nothing to him. He will vote no if certain language is not changed.

Different City Council members have different questions and concerns with the city’s purchase agreement. For Barranda, it’s language about seller indemnity.

“In regards to that language there were two big things, the insurance proceeds, we should be able to tap into that,” Barranda (R-At Large) said. “Two, we’re indemnifying for the seller’s intentional misconduct. Intentional dumping on the ground. I don’t think the taxpayers should have to indemnify for that.”

“It was crucial,” Fort Wayne Corporate Counsel Tim Haffner said about the language regarding seller indemnity. “We would not have an agreement without it.”

At Tuesday’s meeting, a representative from the city publicly addressed Council’s concerns for the first time. The language Barranda wants to see changed isn’t going to happen.

“It’s a seller that would like to know they’re done owning the property” Haffner said. “They’re ready to move on and do other things. The city may put the property to a different use, and that different use may require a different level of remediation. That should not be the seller’s responsibility.”

Council members have also been concerned with the cost of land remediation since the purchase agreement excludes them from being privy to environmental studies. In a presentation, the city said remediation could cost up to $250,000

“There is unknown,” Barranda said. “There’s a price tag on the things we don’t know.”

If the agreement passes its first vote next week a final vote will be held the same night. If it doesn’t get approved on that day, three days later on December 1 the agreement will expire.

NewsChannel 15 asked one of the sellers, Dan Rifkin, for an interview Tuesday, but he declined.