Mayor Proposes Initiatives To Improve Fort Wayne

By Maureen Mespell
By Rachel Martin

August 28, 2012 Updated Aug 28, 2012 at 10:05 PM EST

FORT WAYNE, Ind. (Indiana’s NewsCenter) – Fort Wayne City Council introduced two major initiatives, proposed by Mayor Tom Henry, that could affect you. One includes the way you could do business, and the other how you travel around the city.

Fort Wayne City Council introduced the Mayor's plans Tuesday night, one of which would include more small and minority owned businesses in city contracts. Instead of hiring big name, out of town firms, city officials wants to see what local businesses have to offer.

The mayor wants to hire Mason Tillman Associates, a consulting firm, for $143,000 to examine how many small businesses can contribute to future services for the city—something the council has yet to approve.

“It’s to see how good a job we’re doing, how we can do better, what’s the need, how many people are out there who could be providing work and services that don’t even know how to offer it,” said Tom Smith (R), City Council President and 1st District representative. “Do we really need an outside consultant to do that? I don’t know. I think that’s going to be a very serious discussion.”

Smith says if council decided to approve the consultant, the plan could better expose small and minority-owned businesses and give them an economic boost. Smith predicts it could give the city a boost as well.

“There’s bound to be. Maybe it brings in more small businesses. It probably will include economic benefits, it would have to. How much I don’t know we’ll just have to wait and see,” Smith said.

The other plan proposed at Tuesday’s meeting is revising current city bike and pedestrian laws.

“It’s an update to Fort Wayne’s bike laws, some of which are quite old and discontinued, haven’t been enforced, and to fill-in some gaps. This is to help both motorists and bicyclists negotiate the city better,” said Mitch Harper, (R – 4th District).

A recent national poll states walking and cycling have doubled in cities over the last 20 years. That’s why city officials have been reviewing ordinances in other cities to help Fort Wayne be more “bike-friendly.”

“We have new bike lanes downtown. Motorists have to know how they cross over what is essentially an additional traffic lane for bicyclists. Those sorts of situations this ordinance is intended to deal with and gives some real guidance to law enforcement, to bicyclists, to motorists as to what the rules are,” said Harper.

Harper says even when and if the bike ordinance gets approved, the city will need a necessary period of education.

“[That’s why] Having the police be a partner in terms of giving guidance to bicyclists and to motorists until there can be a lot more education as to what the rules of the road are,” he said. “We tried to simplify and make more general rules rather than dictate a lot of very detailed rules that would be difficult to follow.”

City council will discuss both small business and bike ordinances in upcoming weeks. Council members say more research needs to be done on both plans before approval, but they anticipate that happening in the next month or so.




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