Kokomo Tribune; Kokomo, Indiana

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May 17, 2014

Can Kokomo afford flood control and new stadium?

City bonding $11 million for stadium and flood control

Between a baseball stadium and the parking garage, Kokomo residents are seeing a new burst of city-funded projects, with new city debt a necessary part of the equation.

Here’s what’s about to happen: When the city of Kokomo sells bonds to raise money for a new baseball stadium and flood control projects, it will be taking on $11 million in new debt.

Kokomo Mayor Greg Goodnight’s plan is to retire about $6 million of existing debt when the bonds sell, spending down part of the city’s $13.3 million cash balance, leaving just the baseball stadium/flood control bonds to be repaid over the next 15 years.

In inflation-adjusted dollars, the amount of new debt is about the same as what the city took on in 2001, when it bonded to build Kokomo Beach.

The critics are starting to speak up about the plans, led by Kokomo resident Greg Finley, who wrote last week that: “I am sick and tired of your pet projects that continue to spring up all over Kokomo.”

The mayor has plenty of fans as well, led by the head of Ball State’s Center for Economic and Business Research, Michael Hicks, who has written extensively about the need for communities to improve “quality of life” amenities.

“Places with better amenities do tend to have higher income households, and of course all the benefits that accrue to them,” Hicks wrote in a March column. “But for a business looking for workers, the nice place will offer a wage advantage over less attractive locations.

“This result has great meaning, for it means improving quality of place reduces business costs on the most costly of inputs; human capital. So, as we think about attracting business to Indiana, we ought to get better at thinking through these simple models.”

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