By BRADEN LAMMERS
JEFFERSONVILLE — An interlocal agreement that would pledge funds to fight tolling on the downtown portion of the Ohio River Bridges Project has one fewer participant.
An interlocal agreement was approved last month between Clarksville and the Clark-Floyd Counties Convention and Tourism Bureau to pay $10,000 each to fight tolling on the Interstate 65 bridges over the Ohio River. The Jeffersonville City Council agreed to allow their attorney, Scott Lewis, to seek an interlocal agreement with the tourism bureau, but stopped short of approving $10,000 to go toward the effort.
According to several city council members, the issue has never come back to the council and at the tourism bureau meeting Wednesday, the board declared Jeffersonville’s involvement dead.
“Jeffersonville, apparently, is not going to participate,” said tourism bureau Attorney Jack Vissing.
When the interlocal agreement was originally presented to the city council, concerns were offered about whether or not public monies could go toward a private nonprofit entity heading up the suit — Organization for a Better Southern Indiana.
An amendment to the interlocal agreement broadened the scope of how the entities can use the money to fight tolls on the newly planned and existing I-65 bridges.
According to the interlocal agreement, the $20,000 total will “be disbursed for the purpose of funding opposition to tolling.” However, language remained that would allow the money to be used to help pay for a lawsuit. The interlocal agreement would also designate the tourism bureau as the entity that would hold, and disburse, the funding.
“I explained [to the Jeffersonville council] that there is a legal way [the interlocal agreement] can be done, but they’re just not interested in pursuing it,” Lewis said. “There’s not been a majority of the city council willing to move forward with that from their point-of-view.”
Jeffersonville Councilman Dennis Julius, who originally presented the proposal for the city to pledge the money, agreed council support had dried up.
“We pulled it off the agenda three weeks ago because I knew I didn’t have the support,” he said.
The most recent related vote was 6-3, with Councilmen Brian Glover, Matt Owen and Nathan Samuel voting against. The vote was to allow Lewis to seek an interlocal agreement with the tourism bureau and to dedicate $10,000 out of the city’s gaming fund, subject to another approval of the agreement by the council. Several council members that voted for seeking the agreement said the issue never came back to the council.
City Council President Connie Sellers said she did not feel comfortable with the agreement pledging public money to a private lawsuit. Councilman Ed Zastawny added that he would need to know the contents of the interlocal agreement before voting.
“I don’t think we ever got to the detail to vote for or against it,” he said. “It seems likes it won’t ever get there.”
The tourism bureau and the Clarksville Town Council both passed an amended interlocal agreement that omitted Jeffersonville as a participant. Clarksville approved the agreement at its meeting Tuesday night and the tourism bureau approved the agreement at its meeting Wednesday.
Another alteration was made to the proposal that could include another group.
“We’ve opened it to say ... Jeffersonville merchants, in the absence of participation by the Jeffersonville City Council, to be allowed to participate by putting private money in the account if they’re interested in doing that,” Vissing said. “They won’t have a vote in how we spend it; it’ll be up to the town of Clarksville and the tourism bureau.”
But along with Julius, Councilman Mike Smith said he would still support Jeffersonville government pledging money toward the effort.
“I would still support it,” he said. “I don’t know if it’s over yet.”
The tourism bureau thought differently.
“I think it’s a dead issue,” said Board Member Mike Kapfhammer of Jeffersonville’s involvement.
Julius said he would pledge money as a business owner to the effort, but did not know in what amount he plans to give.
The downtown portion of the Ohio River Bridges Project is being completed by Kentucky and its contractor, Walsh Construction Co., to rebuild Spaghetti Junction and construct a new I-65 bridge. The work is expected to be completed by December 2016 at a cost of $971 million. Toll rates for both the east-end and the downtown portions of the bridges project have not been set.
SUN SETS ON PUBLICATION, AD MONEY EARMARKED
The Sunnyside Times has printed its last issue.
The monthly newsletter produced by the tourism bureau is being replaced with a quarterly glossy magazine, which will be distributed in similar locations, said Executive Director Jim Keith.
“We’ve done that for 10 years; it’s probably run its course,” he said of Sunnyside Times. “I truthfully believe far more of those [magazines] will be picked up than what the newspaper was.”
In addition, a marketing plan for advertisements through various newspapers was approved 5-1, with Board Member Jim Becker voting against.
The deal would pay for print and website advertisements in 10 communities in Indiana, including in the News and Tribune.
Keith said the $55,000 price tag is the same amount the tourism bureau would spend on advertising in newspapers, but it is consolidating its vendors by going through the News and Tribune’s parent company Community Newspaper Holdings Inc., which has a paper in each of the communities where the advertisements will appear.
However, the proposal was not resoundingly accepted, as Becker urged exploring cable TV advertising in those communities.
The board also agreed to look into that possibility.
FARMING OUT FUNDS
The tourism bureau also agreed to approve $10,000-per-year through 2015 to FFA.
A convention was held in Louisville for seven years, before it was moved to Indianapolis in 2008. The show is returning to Louisville this fall.
“In today’s world to get conventions of this type, you have to make a financial commitment to the organizations,” Keith said. “The commitment to FFA to get them down to Louisville was $1-million-per year that they come. Our portion of that is $10,000 per year that they come.”
The pledge amount was approved and the convention is set to be held in Louisville from Oct. 30-Nov. 2.