The following is the fourth in a series of messages from Mayor Chris McBarnes regarding the administration’s vision for addressing opportunities and challenges on the community’s horizon.
Frankfort must build and expand a comprehensive amenity infrastructure. This type of infrastructure means spaces which celebrate the performing arts, safe trails for exercise enthusiasts, fun and interactive water features such as splash pads or outdoor fountains, public art sculptures, spaces for recreational activities from shuffleboard to baseball, soccer fields and the list goes on. In short, what I’ve described above is what initial plans for Prairie Creek Park would provide our entire community and those who visit here.
Our administration has been very bold from day one in presenting ideas never considered before and implementing ideas that had not made it over the finish line in the past. I continue to be stunned at the number of people who encourage me to constantly play it safe.
Our platform has been one of transformational change. I didn’t return to my hometown after college to play it safe and do what has always been done. I returned to shake things up, bring a fresh perspective to local government, inject energy and a can-do attitude to help save my hometown. I have surrounded myself with the patriarchs and matriarchs of this community and seasoned professionals in all kinds of expertise so I can learn from them and together, strategic plans can be created. Every plan put forward was finalized with literally dozens of community meetings, citizen voice and feedback from residents every step along the way, all with a watchful eye on our city finances. Two direct examples of this are the City’s Comprehensive Economic Development Plan and Downtown Revitalization Plan. In announcing various projects, I call for action and implementation of plans our community has created together, not ideas created in a vacuum by one or two people.
Let your voice be heard, but if you don’t like an idea, please suggest a viable alternative, rather than only degrading the one on the table. As a community, I call for mutual respect and a true evaluation of the facts before conclusions are made.
I was elected with 89% of the total vote in the last mayoral election to continue to bring transformational change to Frankfort. This large majority voted for the idea our city could reach greater heights. It is my duty to help us get there. Ivy Tech provides the perfect example how we as a community with limited financial resources came together for the greater good and accomplished a major project never achieved before in our history. The implementation model for the creation of our downtown Ivy Tech campus is similar to the model for Prairie Creek Park. Why? Because it works.
First, public-private partnerships are established; we engage our community’s non-profits, businesses and corporations to put their own skin in the game. Money. This step creates a higher level of overall community buy-in to help ensure initiatives will succeed. Just like our Ivy Tech campus, Prairie Creek Park’s creation will have a public-private partnership as its foundation. We will take a decrepit area of our community and transform it into a high-functioning – in this case, recreational amenity – based upon countless community meetings and feedback sessions that came out of Frankfort’s Downtown Revitalization Plan.
We established the Frankfort Redevelopment Commission (RDC) in 2012 to provide Frankfort a cutting- edge development tool: Tax Increment Financing (TIF) District. An RDC does not create new or higher taxes. Rather, it collects an increment of property taxes paid in a certain geographical area. In this instance, that area is our downtown and then through State statute requirements, those incremental property taxes are invested into our downtown to revitalize it. Our TIF District generates approximately $900,000 per year. With this amount of revenue, paired with a staggering amount of private investment, which will be announced over the coming week, the City of Frankfort will be able to comfortably build Prairie Creek Park and settle all debt incurred through a term of approximately 10 years. This can be done without raising an additional penny of tax dollars.
Prairie Creek Park is our top development priority, with the goal of cutting the ribbon on this great facility by the 2019 Hot Dog Festival. Our March 7 Leadership Summit speaker Dr. John Crompton, a nationally-known expert on parks, recreation and tourism sciences will be sharing his wisdom and experience with us at 6:15 p.m. in the Skanta Theatre, so I encourage you to join us to learn more about how a project such as Prairie Creek Park will benefit Frankfort in so many ways. He will be making another presentation at a special City Council meeting March 8 at 7:00 p.m. in the Council Chambers in Old Stoney. You are encouraged to attend that meeting as well.
Now, on to Project Home Run. Here’s the truth: Project Home Run would fill a much-needed gap in our community. Citizens pleaded with myself and certain council members in my first term to build more softball and baseball diamonds. Our current supply of fields comes nowhere close to fulfilling our needs. A well-built facility could generate hundreds of thousands of dollars of revenue for not only the City but our local economy. We could build this facility within our current Frankfort RDC levy, without raising one additional cent of tax dollars if we deployed a similar public-private partnership model as we did with Ivy Tech.
I also hear people lament about the western corridor as the proposed location. Communities across this nation have retooled and redeveloped brownfields and industrial sites and turned them into great recreational assets. Again, the Frankfort RDC may only reinvest directly back into the general area in which their revenue is generated as approved by the City Council. This stipulation is the exact reason why the western corridor directly off our downtown is the ideal location for this project from a financial and local economic impact perspective. The initial proposed plan would not require new or additional taxes. If Project Home Run is not developed here, the area needs to be cleaned up. Due to the priority of Prairie Creek Park, Project Home Run is being set to the side for the time being, but before doing so, I wanted to set the record straight on it. Planning has not been in vain. We will not give up regarding this much-needed recreational resource. The discussion of where and how will continue.
We can roll up our sleeves, make important decisions and move Frankfort forward. Or we can settle in and accept mediocrity for our beloved community. The choice is ours.