Public Safety Academy Presents Budget Dilemma For City Council

By Jeff Neumeyer

October 15, 2010 Updated Oct 15, 2010 at 5:48 PM EDT

FORT WAYNE, IN (Indiana's NewsCenter) --- Fort Wayne city council members on Thursday got a double dose of sobering news about the city's struggling public safety academy.

It's not generating the kind of revenue it was supposed to.

Council was told the city can't afford to shut the facility down, but keeping it open is no bargain either.

The 132-thousand square foot center was built three years ago at a price tag of $26-million, with the vision that police and firefighters from this part of the state could get top notch training there.

The state of Indiana is chipping in $2-million bucks a year to pay off the bonds, but former Mayor Graham Richard’s administration sold the project, pledging to cover operating expenses by raising money from corporate donations.

Those donations and grants essentially never came through, so more than $750,000 annually in city tax dollars are being used to keep the doors open.

Closing the place would likely cut off a sizeable portion of the state subsidy to pay off the bond debt.

Liz Brown/(R) Fort Wayne Council At-Large: " I mean, we're stuck with it. I don't know what else we can do, even if we wanted to just close it today and cut our losses, it's apparent from what the director said last night, we legally can't do that, because we'd be on the hook for more money."

Bernie Beier/Public Safety Academy Director: " It's absolutely way too early to even consider closing the facility. Again, we built the academy, the bonds were set up, this is a 15-year investment in the south side of Fort Wayne and we should continue to invest."

Most everyone, including Beier, says that even after the economy begins to recover, it’s unrealistic to expect private donations to come in at a rate necessary to cover the facility’s operating costs.

Beier told council convincing state legislators to endorse some new revenue stream, like a fee tacked on to the purchase of license plates, could be part of the answer.

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