When a $280 million project with enormous public support gets axed, the big question is why.
On Aug. 3 the Redevelopment Commission nullified the economic development agreement with RTM Ventures to transform the historic General Electric factory on Broadway into a multi-use campus.
Gobsmacked City Council members wanted Mayor Tom Henry to appear before them in a public meeting to answer questions. He declined, instead sending the head of the Redevelopment Department and the president of the Redevelopment Commission to answer questions.
That didn't satisfy council members Glynn Hines, D-at large, and Tom Didier, R-3rd, so they drafted a resolution giving council power to investigate as outlined in state code.
Council members unanimously agreed to introduce the bill at its Sept. 8 meeting. On Sept. 15 they will discuss and vote on whether to proceed with the investigation.
If they do, they could subpoena the mayor as part of their investigation.
That's good news to Hines, who has pushed repeatedly for the mayor to speak.
The Electric Works project has been talked about for about five years. Public investment in the project was to be $65 million. RTM was given five extensions as they struggled to get their funding together. At the Aug. 3 redevelopment meeting the commission voted unanimously not to grant RTM a sixth extension, thus nullifying the economic development agreement.
Council had no advance notice, so they were stunned, as was the community at large.
Complicating matters, Do it Best had announced it would be the anchor tenant for the project. The decision left the company in limbo, causing people to worry that Do it Best might move out of the community all together.
The resolution to start the investigation gets to the heart of the matter, which is that Council — and others in the community — suspect there's more to the story than meets the eye.
In part the ordinance says, " ... with the unwillingness of the Mayor to discuss this matter publicly and the rumors circulating about the reasons for the cancellation, Common Council must find another way to get answers to questions of the citizens, community leaders, investors, developers, and other governmental units have to continue to move the community forward."
It also makes reference to the "clandestine cancellation of the EDA by Mayoral appointees, exacerbated by the unwillingness of the Mayor to discuss this matter publicly with the members of Common Council."
The meeting can be watched live beginning at 5:30 p.m. Sept. 15 by going to https://afw.viebit.com/index.php. You can read the resolution here: https://www.cityoffortwayne.org/custom/council_documents/documents/download/2020-09-11/R-20-09-20%20.pdf.