Once rejected, Etna Avenue improvement project gets okay from council

A motion to accept funding for the much-discussed and once-rejected Etna Avenue improvement project was passed Tuesday, Aug. 11, by a 5-1 vote at the Huntington Common Council meeting.

Councilmen voting with the majority were Brooks Fetters, Jason Fields, Joe Blomeke, Keith Eller and Jack Slusser. Erv Ebersole was the lone dissenting vote, and Steve McIntyre abstained from what he termed an "illegitimate vote."

"In accordance to our rules that we have established, I don't recognize this as a legitimate vote and refuse to vote," McIntyre said when asked to vote.

The previous vote to deny the money was closer, 4-3, but Fetters and Fields reconsidered their votes after the council initially turned down the project in June.

Fields said when he held his public meeting on Etna Avenue and talked to the people of the area, he felt he had more information regarding the project and what the people want.
"I felt more comfortable with the information that I received ... I wish that [information] would have come before us the first time around," he commented during the meeting.

Fetters said his concern was with the way the council was to go about getting the money, specifically coming from which funding.

This was the major concern of several other council mmebers as well, trying to figure out where the majority of the money should be taken from -- County Economic Development Income Tax (CEDIT) or the Tax Increment Financing (TIF).

The motion was passed to use more TIF than CEDIT monies; the amount of which is unsure. The council will need to come up with its 20 percent of the total cost though, which is roughly $500,000. The other 80 percent of the total $2.58 million is provided through an Indiana Department of Transportation grant.

Fetters commented that even though he voted down the project in June, he felt then it had its merits.

Mayor Steve Updike was glad the motion was passed.

"I'm excited for Huntington ... This all fits into a long-term plan of major improvement for the south side of (town)," Updike said.

Fetters wanted the council to realize the city's money cannot fund everything.

"Because we said yes to this priority, there are things we're going to need to say no to. There is no shortage of places that we need to be spending our money."

Construction is projected to begin in the spring of 2013.