Parkview to pay up to half of SR 205 local match

     A formal agreement between Parkview Health System Inc. and Columbia City for a financial contribution to the local match for the state Route 205 project is now in place.
     The city council voted 4-1 Tuesday to accept up to $356,903 from Parkview for half of the local match for the planned multi-million project on state Route 205 in coming years.
     Columbia City’s share of that match, also up to $356,903, comes from the engineering contract the city entered into with American Structure Point Inc. for $451,855.
     The city’s payment for the contract came from unspent money incumbered from last year in the professional business account and rainy day fund.
     “It’s intended for economic development,” Columbia City Mayor Jim Fleck said of the funds.
     Without the project, the cost to the city to supply Parkview Whitley Hospital with utilities would be more than $600,000, according to Fleck.
     The lone vote against the agreement with Parkview came from council member Don Sexton, who objected to a phrase in the agreement that said the city and Parkview have “determined that additional improvements to state Route 205 would be of benefit to the city.”
     “This is not a necessary project,” Sexton said, and added that he was also unaware of any official vote by the city council to say that the project would be of benefit.
     A quick, informal vote was held where all members but Sexton voted that the project will benefit the city.
     For council member Dan Weigold, safety at the entrance to Morsches Park is an important factor for the project.
     The entrance to Morsches Park will shift east and align with Towerview Drive for a four-way intersection with turn lanes.
     “We might as well fight for some of that tax money to come back to our state,” Weigold said of the $3.2 million in federal grants and a $500,000 Congressional earmark for the project.
     A frontage road will connect to Morsches Park and offer access to Little Turtle Woods.
     Fleck said an entrance to the woods built by the city without grant funds as part of the state Route 205 project could easily cost $1 million.
     Weigold also said he felt the city had been financially responsible with the project, especially after plans were changed from a divided boulevard to a regular highway with turn lanes.
     Aside from the park entrance, council member Nicole Penrod said she feels traffic congestion will be a problem at the entrance to the hospital.
     Sexton also felt a public hearing planned in January would be worthless for input on the need for the project after Fleck said the project is “going to happen.”
     A representative from American Structure Point said all concerns of the public will be addressed at the hearing.
     The city’s board of works handling the payments for the engineering work also irks Sexton, who feels the city council should have more control of, and information about, the project.
     Since board of works meetings are public meetings, city council president Walt Crowder said it was Sexton’s fault alone if he was not aware of the project’s details.
     Aside from his own view, Sexton said the constituents he talks with are against the project.
     “All two of them?” Fleck countered.
     The environmental study for the project is still being reviewed by the Indiana Department of Transportation and must be finished before work can begin in 2012.
     Soil samples under the current highway will be done in the near future, the results of which will determine how much road bed rebuilding will need to be done when construction begins.
     Funding for the roughly $4 million project comes from $3.2 million in federal grants that require a 20 percent match from the city.
     A Congressional earmark for $500,000 requires no payback or match from the city.
     Those funding sources, coupled with the $713,803 in local funds will pay for the project.