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Terre Haute Mayor Duke Bennett

While Terre Haute city officials have already slashed nearly $3 million off next year’s city budget, they’re facing the prospect of having to cut $500,000 more.

Inaccurate estimates by the state’s Legislative Services Agency and private consultants Umbaugh and Associates has Mayor Duke Bennett and his department heads looking for more fat in a budget-in-progress that’s fast approaching an October deadline.

Bennett says the city spends between $100,000 and $200,000 on consulting services, such as Umbaugh’s, each year.

Even though the budget estimates were off and the city is looking to shave hundreds of thousands of dollars from its budget, Bennett says the city will likely to continue spending on consultants.

“It’s an expensive part of what you do. But there’s no way we’d be able to do it without them. Because they’ve got the people that are engaged in day to day talking with the folks in Indianapolis that they need to be talking with. And we wouldn’t be able to do that alone, you know, talking from here. So it’s money well spent,” Bennett said.

Terre Haute city officials are also still trying to get their hands on part of the $8 billion the federal stimulus package has set aside for high speed rail projects.

Mayor Bennett has sent a letter signed by Vigo County’s towns, councils, airport and planning organizations to federal officials trying to make the case for the city to appear on any proposed high speed rail lines.

Bennett argues Terre Haute is a logical stop on routes that would connect Chicago, Evansville, Indianapolis and St. Louis. He says he will take that message to Washington, D.C. within the month.

I have several meetings set up to further this discussion. You know you’ve got to just stay in front of people and keep letting them know. If you sit back and just wait, nothing will happen,” Bennett said. “I just think taking a proactive approach and doing everything we can to be heard doesn’t guarantee anything other than they know you’re interested and they know you want to be part of it. Maybe when they decide some funding things, we can be a part of that.”

Bennett says federal officials are still using a report written in 1991 that outlined the Midwest corridor’s potential for high speed rail.

“What I keep getting told repeatedly from all these different sources is that they’re still looking at that 1991 plan they put together about the expansion of high speed rail in the Midwest.  It’s a little frustrating them wanting to use that as their guiding document. I think it would be healthy to revisit to see if that’s the right path,” Bennett said.

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