Council Committee To Study Fort Wayne Legacy Fund

Jun 14, 2019

Credit Rebecca Green/WBOI News

Fort Wayne City Council approved a study committee to evaluate the status and processes around the city’s Legacy Fund Tuesday night on an 8-1 vote.

The formation of the group was proposed by Council and Legacy committee members Michael Barranda and Paul Ensley, in an effort to respond to confusion over the roles, responsibilities and expectations of the committee going forward. The group will consist of the three Council members who also sit on the Legacy Committee.

The Legacy Fund currently sits at $33.9 million, though $10 million is expected to be disbursed to Electric Works upon closing later in the year. A recent project -- Science Central’s proposed planetarium -- has had the final approval for a $500,000 Legacy request held off twice since November as a result of the confusion.

Stacey Smith is the chairperson of the Legacy Committee, and says one of the main challenges her team faces is the unclear definition of “corpus,” which she says keeps projects in limbo.

“Is it the corpus when a decision comes before the board and then nine months passes and things will change, decisions will change, funding will change?" Smith asked. "We need some more direction. You guys need some more consistency as to give us... how do we look at corpus; how is that defined, how is that decided?”

Barranda said the committee won’t seek to influence how members of Council vote on Legacy projects, instead aiming to provide guidance in analyzing future projects.

“With respect to Science Central and Questa, they can still come to the table now. It’s the directions that we’re providing the committee that are unclear and we need to clear those up,” Barranda said.

He noted the measure was not a response to Council’s difficulties making a decision on Science Central, rather the confusion over the $10 million that has been committed to Electric Works.

“I think Science Central’s a great project, but we can put it on hold until folks are comfortable enough to vote on it,” he said.

6th District councilman Glynn Hines was the only dissenting vote on the measure, and argued the planetarium is connected to the greater discussion of Electric Works and the Legacy Fund.

“The point being with Electric Works was that it might not happen, but the $500,000 amount, as I heard at this table, was based on the corpus and people saying they weren’t comfortable going below the corpus,” added Hines.

A meeting between Electric Works and City Council Tuesday clarified the status of that project, all but confirming the $10 million committed to the project will be used.

The committee is looking to get to the bottom of five questions related to the fund:

1. Should the City Council approve a grant or loan that takes the balance of the Legacy Fund below $30 million? Are there situations in which this is acceptable?

2. What should the role of the Legacy Joint Funding Committee be moving forward? It currently acts in a granting capacity. Should the committee have an advisory role, be a decision-making body, take on a fiduciary role or act in some other way?

3. Who should be on the committee? Is the current membership structure the correct makeup for the committee moving forward?

4. What is the proper role of the administration and staff in bringing projects before the committee? Are there different processes for loans versus grants? How should that determination be made?

5. Are the guidelines, as approved previously, still relevant and appropriate? Should the Legacy Joint Funding Committee further define “catalytic” or “transformational?” Have these definitions changed as the community has changed?

The group will make recommendations early next year, which Ensley says can be used to provide guidance for the Legacy committee in the future.