Parking garage deal DWNTWN includes silencing trains in Muncie IN
$16 million bond paid by food and beverage tax funds improvements
By Rick Yencer
MUNCIE, INDIANA (NEWS) -A pledge of millions of dollars in food and beverage tax for a new DWNTWN parking garage and efforts to silence train whistles took government and civic leaders only an hour to decide last week.
The $8 million garage will accommodate the new Courtyard by Marriott expected to break ground in September along with the Horizon Convention Center which has been losing business since the old Roberts Hotel was closed and is now apartments for those of age.
Mayor Dennis Tyler also designated another $5.5 million of the bond for quiet zone improvements along railroads that are still being negotiated. Those involved crossing closings and installation of safety devices that would silence some 4,000 whistles a year.
Representatives of government like the Muncie Redevelopment Commission and Economic Development Commission joined the Muncie EDIT Corp. Board and Delaware County Civic Center Authority to approve leases and other agreements that would dedicate a share of the $1.8 million yearly in food and beverage tax to bond repayments after 2021.
Meanwhile, the city and county will provide other hotel and motel tax revenue along with other income tax revenue to make initial bond payments. The whole deal must be approved by Muncie City Council on Sept. 8.
Tyler stressed urgency to other government and civic center leaders since the hotel was ready to break ground in September. Final bond agreements were being written last week by bond attorneys as approvals were granted.
And the construction season is fading as Labor Day approaches and Tyler said any delay could delay completion of the hotel for nearly a year. The Muncie Sanitary District is expediting a large storm sewer project DWNTWN as other utilities are repairing and relocating lines.
Look for Franklin Street to be a construction zone much of the the fall as the district is already on Washington Street with the storm water job. Another $15 million bond repaid by storm water assessments is paying for that work.
Attorney Jim Borgmann, representing the civic center authority, said reserves would be available for the convention center operation besides making a new bond payment for the parking garage. An estimate of $812,000 yearly was mentioned, with revenue around $1.8 million during the past year.
Besides the actual projects, there's $2 million built in for interests, attorneys and other bond fees. Representatives of two local banks, First Merchants and Star Financial, were at the meetings besides representatives of Garmong Construction, the contractor for the garage.
Civic Center President Billie Sheppard encouraged fellow members to dedicate that revenue to the garage. All did, including Audrey Jones, also city controller; Sara Beach, city human resources director; Center Township Trustee Kay Walker, Tom Schnuck, Beech Grove Cemetery superintendent, and Warren Beebe, a former county treasurer.
Only one citizen with property and business interests in Muncie, spoke during a public hearing, and encouraged officials to make it clear the latest bond represented no general tax increase for property and business owners.
The main benefit is still for the convention center that has been losing meetings and conventions without a hotel.
That decline was reported by Joann McKinney, convention center director, who said business was down by 50 percent from last year. And she added most groups won't use a convention facility that does not have a hotel within walking distance.
Since the Roberts Hotel closed and now is an apartment complex, the convention center is now mainly a local venue for meetings, weddings and other chamber of commerce events. The chamber has its offices in the building.
And with the Cornerstone Center for the Arts, the Delaware County Fairgrounds and Ball State University, the convention center still has plenty of competition locally. And it still receives every penny of food and beverage taxes that local restaurants and bars pay.