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February 12, 2013

Downtown projects in Kokomo have funding options

— With all of the buildings down in the city block between Kokomo City Hall and the Kokomo Family YMCA, there’s plenty of speculation on what comes next.

The city of Kokomo won’t be without funds to get started, however, regardless of how officials go about getting the former Button Motors property ready for a new downtown YMCA.

Monday, the Kokomo Common Council appropriated $2.8 million of the city’s accumulated economic development income tax funds, money Mayor Greg Goodnight can use on a variety of projects.

Goodnight might or might not get into specifics when he offers his 2013 State of the City speech, which city council members are expecting prior to the Feb. 25 council meeting.

But after five years with a stable, largely supportive council, there doesn’t appear to be much apprehension as to what Goodnight might use the money for.

After taking over significant cash flow problems in 2007, Goodnight has steadily built up the city’s reserves. The city last year never had less than $7 million in reserve.

“Lots of informal conversations go on about certain projects. I think [Goodnight] does that to see what the tone of the council is, and see if there’s support,” Council President Mike Kennedy, D-At Large, said Monday.

“We used to not get any notification at all [on EDIT projects],” Council Vice President Bob Hayes, D-At Large, added.

But the EDIT funds won’t be the only pool of money available to the city to get the Button site — and other city brownfield sites — ready for redevelopment.

Last year, a coalition formed by the city, Howard County, Greentown and Russiaville succeeded in obtaining $600,000 in grant funding from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for brownfields redevelopment.

Monday, council members heard from the consultant who is working on the implementation of that grant funding, Michael S. Meddock of Soil and Materials Engineers Inc., Indianapolis.

The grant funding is technically for assessing brownfield sites, so that local government can formulate cleanup plans and go after more federal dollars.

There’s the potential that if the coalition can find good projects for the money, the $600,000 may be just a start. Meddock said the grant could be worth a maximum of $1.8 million over three years.

To qualify as worthy, a project should increase the local tax base, create or retain jobs, enhance or protect greenspace, and/or alleviate immediate public health concerns, Meddock said.

In older industrial cities like Kokomo, there are a myriad of potential brownfield sites, he said.

“To qualify for grant funding, a site doesn’t have to be contaminated; it just has to have the potential to have been impacted by its former use,” he said.

For more on this story and other local news, subscribe to The Kokomo Tribune eEdition, or our print edition

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