Jehl Pitches Desired Provisions For Electric Works Negotiations

Jun 6, 2018

Credit Zach Bernard/WBOI News

As conversations between the City of Fort Wayne and the proposed Electric Works development appear to be moving forward, several council members are still looking to have some of their questions answered.

In an open letter to Mayor Tom Henry, 2nd district Republican councilman Russ Jehl outlined several provisions he would like to see from the developers and the mayor’s office as negotiations go forward.

Jehl says he made three separate efforts to contact the administration in April for specifics and didn’t get a response. Jehl’s provisions focused on four areas:

  • Any savings below the initial development estimate should be returned to the City Taxpayer.
  • The Developer’s Fee should be escrowed so the Developer’s money is exposed along with the Taxpayer’s.
  • The creation of an advisory panel of local developers and real estate experts to obtain further insight to the deal terms.
  • A complete list of infrastructure improvements and their costs associated with GE Electric Works.

“Without those, I don’t think that we are able to make an educated decision whether this is good for the public or not,” Jehl said.

Jehl was supported by Republican councilmen Paul Ensley and John Crawford in his remarks Tuesday. Jehl’s full letter can be read below:

Dear Mayor Henry:

The GE Electric Works project has weighed heavily on my heart, and I am sure it has weighed heavily on you as well. As we wrestle with the possibilities and implications of such a public investment, both positive and negative, the project will only be feasible with united municipal leadership.

That said, with communication between Council and your liaisons having been limited to date, I want to clearly outline several deal points which I hope you and your liaisons will address.

Notwithstanding the guidelines for a prospective public private partnership between the City of Fort Wayne and the Developers of GE Electric Works outlined in R-18-02-39, I respectfully request that a good faith effort be utilized to address the following issues for any prospective deal at GE Electric Works.

  • Any savings below the $220,000,000 initial construction estimate should be shared between the City and the Developer according to the proportion of the percentage of the municipal investment.
  • If a deal includes a Development Fee, it should be escrowed until the development reaches stabilization.
  • If a deal is negotiated between the Administration and the Developer, the Administration should brief Council on the deal points no sooner than 30 days before the terms are made public so it can have input on final deal terms. If Council elects to create an advisory panel of local developers and real estate experts to advise it on the deal terms, the Administration should promptly brief that advisory panel as well.
  • If any member of immediate family member of a City Elected Official, City Redevelopment Commission, City Redevelopment Department, Greater Fort Wayne Inc., or the Capital Improvement Board is financially involved (including but not limited to equity, investing, lending, or divesting) in the GE Electric Works development, it should be disclosed within 5 business days of the public announcement of a GE Electric Works deal.
  • A complete list of requested and/planned infrastructure improvements associated with GE Electric Works Phase I and an initial estimate of their costs should accompany any deal.
  • Full details of tax phase ins/abatement should accompany any deal for GE Electric Works, including those being provided under SEED designations.
  • A professional study should be submitted prior to a request to Council for GE Electric Works funding approval which estimates assessed value and property tax revenue of the project.
  • The Administration should exercise good faith efforts to negotiate any use of Legacy Funds as loans rather than grants, and any funds that dip into the corpus be lent at market rate.
  • Prior to public announcement of any deal with the Developers of GE Electric Works, proposed bond payment details should be provided to Council, along with details of how TIF property taxes will be allocated.
  • Exploration of alternative funding sources outside those itemized in R-18-02-39, such as LEDGE or SEED, should be explored.
  • Given this project’s status as one of the first high profile projects since the program’s inception, GE Electric Works’ participation in the Public Art Commission program should be outlined.
  • Prior to public announcement of any deal with the Developers of GE Electric Works, Council should be briefed on the status of leases, tenants, letters of intent, and square footage leased.
  • Given that this is Phase I of a two phase redevelopment at GE Electric Works, an outline of what public funding mechanisms remain robust and available should be provided.

I am committed to proactively and collaboratively working with you and your liaisons on these points and any other deal points on the GE Electric Works project. My decision to support or not support the public investment will be primarily based on its economics. Like you, I can only support an investment if it is in the best interest of the City and its Taxpayers, and these finer points in the project’s negotiations will greatly influence this outcome. Please let me know how I can be of assistance.

Sincerely,

Russ Jehl
City Council, 2nd District