Goshen News, Goshen, IN

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February 20, 2013

City Council discusses referendum funding

GOSHEN — A referendum has been planned for November that will allow Goshen residents to vote on the proposed funding of a new community center. But who should fund the actual referendum?

Goshen City Council members debated that question during their meeting Tuesday evening. During the meeting, councilman Jim McKee presented the council with a resolution requesting that Goshen Community Center Inc., the not-for-profit created to head up the community center project, reimburse the city for the cost of holding a special election — at this time estimated to be in the range of $58,000.

According to McKee, there has been some talk among project supporters that if the cost of holding a special election was the reason the overall proposal would fail, there is someone in the community who has said they would pay for the cost of the special election.

In light of that fact, McKee said he came up with the idea for the resolution as a way to try and relieve at least some of the burden that would be placed on local taxpayers should the community center project — estimated to cost approximately $27.6 million — eventually come to pass. Goshen Community Schools is also considering a rehabilitation project connected to the city’s proposed community center that could bump up the overall cost to $35.6 million. However, the Goshen Board of School Trustees has postponed its vote on whether to send its portion of the project to a referendum until sometime later this year.

“If there’s someone standing ready that would help the group out and their purpose, I think that would be a good thing, and I think it would be good for us to ask them to do it,” McKee said. “We’re not demanding them to do it, we’re not in a legal contract, we’re just saying if you have someone that is ready to do that, and they would do that, I think that would help relieve the taxpayers of Goshen for that amount of money. Nothing more and nothing less.”

In response, Mayor Allan Kauffman reiterated that the suggestion, made initially by Community Center Project Director Bruce Stahly, indicated that such a payment from a local community member would happen only if the cost for the referendum was determined to be the reason it would fail.

“I don’t think it was a broader statement than that,” Kauffman said.

Councilman Jeremy Stutsman also raised some concerns about setting a precedent when it comes to requiring individuals seeking a referendum to pay for that referendum. He also said any concerns over the cost of paying for a referendum should have been aired before the council voted to allow the referendum to proceed this past January.

“If this was a concern of the council, we should have brought this up before we voted,” Stutsman said. “I’ve heard rumors that there is somebody that would be willing to pay. But I almost feel that if this is a standard we set, that if you want a referendum for your project, you need to pay for it, it’s almost like they’re buying our ‘yes’ votes. I don’t think that’s right.”

Since the referendum is not scheduled to take place until November, council members eventually agreed to postpone a vote on the resolution until a later date in order to allow the council more time to research all details and options connected to the cost and scope of funding a referendum.

Other business:

• The council voted in favor of a resolution to enlarge the Consolidated River Race/U.S. 33 Economic Development Area with the goal of bringing significant infrastructure improvements and expanded business and employment opportunities to the area. The vote followed a similar vote by the Goshen Redevelopment Commission during their Jan. 8 meeting and more recently a positive recommendation by the Goshen Plan Commission Tuesday.

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