Goshen citizens want LaCasa’s help.
Community support came in a flood at the City Council’s Tuesday evening meeting, when an additional appropriation ordinance came up for a vote that included an $800,000 temporary loan for LaCasa to be used along with a $2.1 million federal grant for the organization’s neighborhood stabilization efforts. The project is aimed at properties in the north and northeast areas of the city.
The loan, which would carry a 1 percent interest rate, would allow LaCasa to purchase vacant houses as part of the effort. The federal funds can only be used to purchase homes out of foreclosure. Repayment of the loan would be required within 18 months from the release of funds.
LaCasa president Larry Gautsche said there were three main reasons the council should vote in favor of the appropriation. First was that the estimated total economic impact in the city of the $2.9 million initially put into the project would turn out to be approximately $5 million. His second point was that it would improve the neighborhoods where the work took place. His third point was aimed directly at the city.
“There is a lot of staff investment in this,” Gautsche said. “And it’s about the credibility of Goshen. If we turn it down at this point it will hurt the city’s credibility (in getting future government grants, etc.)”
During the public comment portion 12 people spoke, including former LaCasa Community Outreach Coordinator Grace Hunsberger, who helped organize the Northside Neighborhood Association while she worked for the organization, as well as local business people and Chamberlain Elementary School Principal Don Jantzi. All but Don Riegsecker, the last speaker, gave their support to the loan. Many credited LaCasa for past efforts in the city.
“One of the first things I saw when I came to Goshen was the impact LaCasa had on the community,” Goshen Chamber of Commerce president David Daugherty said.
Some concerns were raised by council members regarding potential competition with for-profit businesses and the ability of new residents to pay for the homes. Part of the requirement of the federal funds said that 25 percent of the funds must benefit people at 50 percent or less of the area median income in the county.
It was also explained that the federal funding was coming from the Housing and Economic Recovery Act of 2008, passed under President George W. Bush, not from American Recovery and Reinvestment Act or “stimulus” funds.
Before a roll-call vote was taken, council president Tom Stump explained that his vote had changed. He had originally planned on voting against the ordinance, but said that he believed the economic impact in the community was high enough that he should vote in favor. Councilwoman Julia Gautsche, wife of Larry, did not excuse herself from the vote, having filed a conflict of interest statement on Monday.
The final vote was 6-1, with Darryl Riegsecker voting against the ordinance.
Dixie Robinson, whose district contains most of the area affected by the project, was happy with the outcome. She said she had received probably 20 calls about the issue, every one of them in favor of it.
“This is going to fix neighborhoods and get families back into houses,” Robinson said.
Any income generated by the program will go back into the program to be reused for the same efforts. After 2013, all remaining program income would go back to the federal government.
• The council approved a series of revisions to the city’s tax phase-in point system. The items added included a multiplier to give lower-wage jobs a higher value than normal when the unemployment rate is at 10 percent or higher, added points for projects using existing manufacturing facilities that have been vacant for at least one year and added points for applicants who agree to use the E-Verify system to check all new hires’ legal residence status throughout the duration of the phase-in period.
• An interlocal agreement with the county regarding the C.R. 40/Waterford Mills Parkway Project was tabled until the council’s second meeting in March. for the city to consider items in the agreement regarding the status of C.R. 40 going west from Ind. 15 and regarding the county’s C.R. 38 project.
Goshen citizens want LaCasa’s help.
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