News From Terre Haute, Indiana

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March 15, 2013

City Council OKs downtown street traffic change

Fourth Street will have bike trail curbs, barriers removed to become two-way

TERRE HAUTE — Part of another downtown street will soon be changing from one-way to two-way.

The Terre Haute City Council passed without opposition Thursday night an ordinance to convert Fourth Street between Cherry and Poplar streets into a two-way street by Aug. 15, 2014.

This comes two years after the council voted to convert Fifth Street downtown from one-way to two-way. Councilman Todd Nation, D-4th, who represents that section of downtown, put forward both changes.

The project, which could cost up to $250,000, will involve removing barriers and curbs installed in 2006 on Fourth Street as part of the city’s trail system. The trail could be retained using a “share-the-road” system, which involves painting lines on the road, Nation said.

In favoring the change, some councilmen said the bike trail on Fourth Street created a hazard for drivers and emergency-response vehicles.

“As you look back, [the trail design on Fourth Street] was a mistake,” said Councilman George Azar, D-at large. It is now up to the council to correct that mistake, he said.

Changing Fourth Street into a two-way street will create a net gain of about 20 parking spaces, said Chuck Ennis, city engineer.

Last week, Ennis estimated the cost of the change to be about $250,000, mostly from the need to install new traffic signals at Fourth Street intersections. However, that cost could be reduced if existing traffic signals are taken from intersections where they are less needed, Nation said. Ennis also told the council last week there was no money set aside in the 2013 budget for the project, leading Nation to suggest the project could wait until 2014.

n Also Thursday, the council voted to give a 10-year personal property tax abatement to Tri Aerospace LLC. The vote came after a debate about whether the company should receive a 10-year or an eight-year abatement.

According to abatement guidelines adopted by the council several years ago, Tri Aerospace qualified for an eight-year abatement, not a 10-year. However, a few companies that have failed to reach the 10-year plateau have nevertheless received 10-year abatements in recent years.

“I am not against an abatement for this company,” said Councilman Azar, who led the committee that drew up the guidelines and who favored an eight-year abatement for Tri Aerospace. Azar said the guidelines were created by a diverse group and should be either followed or abandoned.

But those favoring the 10-year abatement carried the day, led by Councilman Jim Chalos, D-at large.

“I don’t want to throw the guidelines out,” Chalos said. However, Tri Aerospace is a smaller company and might suffer in the guideline’s point system relative to a larger firm, he said. He also praised Tri Aerospace for its community involvement and for creating above-average salaried jobs.

Those favoring an eight-year abatement were Councilmen Neil Garrison, D-5th, Don Morris, D-at large, Nation and Azar. They were defeated by five members voting in favor of keeping the 10-year abatement intact as requested. Those council members were Bob All, R-2nd, Amy Auler, D-1st, John Mullican, D-6th, Norm Loudermilk, D-3rd, and Chalos.

The 10-year abatement on a $400,000 investment will save Tri Aerospace about $32,600 in property taxes over the next 10 years. The difference in the eight-year and 10-year abatement was about $1,800, Azar said. The investment will create three new jobs at the business, said Jeff Lewellyn, an attorney for the company.

n Finally, the council also approved Thursday a request for increased ambulance fees from the Terre Haute Fire Department. The higher fees will help the department generate up to $200,000 in additional revenue annually, fire officials said. Last year, the ambulance fees generated about $1.4 million, said Fire Chief Jeff Fisher. Ambulance fees were last increased in 2009.

Reporter Arthur Foulkes can be reached at 812-231-4232 or arthur.foulkes@tribstar.com

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