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City agrees to disannex properties

Star Managing Editor

CROWN POINT - Two Colorado Street properties were disannexed from the city by the Board of Public Works Thursday in the first case of east side property owners invoking their rights under a 1997 agreement that completed the city's annexation of the Interstate 65 and U.S. 231 area.
     The properties of Gerald and Ethel Black, 10828 Colorado St., and Frank and Julie Manfredo, 10718 Colorado St., were removed from the city after they showed they met the requirements of the agreement.
     The agreement allows land east of Iowa Street to be disannexed, as long as the land includes an external boundary of the city. That prevents unincorporated "islands" from emerging within the city limits.
     Thursday's action ends a process that began in October for the Blacks and November for the Manfredos.
     Their attorney argued that that was too long. Property taxes are determined based on conditions on March 1, meaning the Blacks and Manfredos will have to pay city taxes for the first half of the year, attorney Edward Kersten said.
     "I believe that 150 days is an inordinate amount of time to bring this to a hearing," Kersten argued.
     He also said the families should not have had to pay half the cost of advertising the hearing in local newspapers.
     The board did not address those requests, but City Attorney John Kopack noted there had been problems getting the appropriate paperwork.
Kersten presented a plat of the Blacks' property on request at the meeting.
     "This is part of the problem," Mayor James Metros said to Kersten. "They are finally doing the right thing by having you stand before us.
     "We have told them time and time again (to get a lawyer)."
     The resolution of the Black and Manfredo cases did not end the disannexation for the day, though.
     At the end of the meeting, Laverne Hein, speaking for his family, which owns EJ Farms at 120th Avenue and Iowa Street, said he was interested in disannexation, because "the taxes are going to kill us."
     A quick review of a map raised questions over whether the Hein farms included an external boundary.
     "We'll work with you; you just have to meet the statute," Metros told Hein.



Rising to new heights

City plots improvements

Committee to raise cemetery's standards

Star Managing Editor

CROWN POINT - A new committee will work toward improvement of the city's cemetery, a project spearheaded by cemetery caretaker Tom Hawes. 
     The city has owned the western half of the cemetery at Indiana Avenue and Wells Street since 1871, Hawes told the Board of Public Works last week. The eastern half, Maplewood Cemetery, is privately owned. 
     The board agreed to create the committee, to be made up of community members and people with experience maintaining cemeteries. 
     Hawes said one of the committee's goals will be "to run this thing more like a business. 
     "The cemetery is a drain on the city, I know that," Hawes said. 
     To help make the cemetery viable, "we want to utilize the walkways and some of the old roadways ... for future burial," Hawes said. 
     An estimated 800 to 1,000 plots could be created, and selling them could generate as much as $400,000 for the city, Hawes said. 
     Hawes also presented several immediate needs to the board. 
     The Crown Point Founders Committee, of which Hawes is a member, needs help with landscaping around the Solon Robinson memorial at the entrance to the cemetery; a water supply is needed at the cemetery; some trees NIPSCO is removing at the north end of the cemetery will need to be replaced; and fencing around the perimeter is needed to keep pedestrians out of the cemetery, Hawes said. 
     Mayor James Metros said the Public Works Department will investigate creating water service at the cemetery and the city will look into fencing the city's part of the cemetery. 
     He also said the city will make sure the trees are replaced, and that the Parks and Recreation Department will handle the Solon Robinson Memorial. 
     Maintenance work at the cemetery began in earnest last year with repairs to some of the monuments that had fallen, sunk, or been broken over the decades.       

Crown Point passes 231 TIF expansion

Plan now goes to Redevelopment Commission for hearing, approval

Star Managing Editor

CROWN POINT - The City Council approved the expansion of the city's Tax Increment Financing district to the I-65 and U.S. 231 interchange Monday, opening the way for the city to raise the money to extend infrastructure, starting with sewer and water, to the area. 
     City Engineer Jeff Ban said the utility work is expected to begin May 1. 
     That work, in turn, will open the way for potential development at the interchange. Mayor James Metros said some companies have already "signed on the dotted line," committing themselves to build there.   
     While the council approved the TIF expansion unanimously, Councilman James Wirtz (R-at large), expressed fear that property taxes raised in the district may not be sufficient to pay off the bond that will pay for the infrastructure work. 
     He said numbers he has seen do not tell him whether the new part of the TIF will be sufficient to pay off a bond of as much as $5 million. 
     "As the land sits now, will it generate enough tax revenue to make a yearly payment on the bond?" Wirtz asked financial consultant Greg Guerrettaz.
      Guerrettaz said he couldn't make any guarantees, but said the financial package was structured to take advantage of the existing TIF around 93rd Avenue and Broadway, and to retire both the old part and the new part as quickly as possible. 
     "We're trying to balance the cost, the concerns of the taxpayer, and getting this thing done," Guerrettaz said. 
     In a TIF district, property taxes paid as a result of development of the property go to a special fund used to pay off the loan that funded infrastructure improvements. The regular taxing entities - city, township, county, schools, library - do not get that tax money during the life of the TIF district. 
     Guerrettaz explained that the city would need to depend on money from the old TIF around 93rd Avenue and Broadway in the early years of the enlarged TIF, but by 2004, the city will be able to shrink the TIF district, starting with elimination of the residential areas off of 93rd Avenue that provide the bulk of the old TIF's funds. 
     "I have a degree of fear," Wirtz said. "I just want to have somewhat of an assurance that this thing is going to pay for itself without residential."
      Councilman Robert Corbin (R-5th), spoke strongly in support of the TIF expansion. 
     "For $5 million we can take control (of development) and do all the things we've said we want to do," he said. 
     Also, "the people are lined up to come in (to the intersection)," Corbin said. 
     The next step in the expansion of the TIF is for the Redevelopment Commission, which oversees TIF districts, to hold a public hearing on the issuance of bonds to fund the infrastructure improvements. 
     The hearing will be held at 7:30 p.m. April 17 at City Hall.


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