A Terre Haute city councilman says he thinks Mayor Duke Bennett’s first-ever veto will be overridden at this evening’s council meeting.
In December, the Terre Haute City Council voted to establish what’s called a non-reverting fund to collect and spend money on refurbishing the portion of U.S. 40 which runs through the city. A non-reverting fund is one from which money cannot be transferred to another budget line item. But even after the council approved creation of the fund by a six-to-three vote, Mayor Duke Bennett vetoed the measure, saying he’d rather see the cash go into the city’s general fund.
“If we put that money in the general fund, it’s available to us to be able to cash flow ourselves until June. Then when we get our tax dispersement and we put all those funds back in there, that’s the exact same time we’re going to be making repairs to the road,” Bennett said. “So every dime that we’re getting from INDOT for the relinquishment will be used for repairs to the road.”
The money comes from a deal struck between the mayor and Indiana Department of Transportation officials, who are handing over responsibility for upkeep of Wabash Avenue to the city. But City Councilman Todd Nation, who owns a book shop along the National Road, said he’s not sure the money would ever go to rehabbing the street if it’s not in a protected fund.
“Well we agree that there are lots of immediate repairs that need to be made,” Nation said. “But the problem is, from my perspective, that when the money goes into the general fund, there’s not a clear path for it to come out and actually be spent on Highway 40.”
Nation said Bennett two years ago placed money allocated for upkeep of Highway 63 into the city’s rainy day fund, only to see the city use the cash not for roadwork, but for filling budget shortfalls. Nation says he will vote to override the mayor’s veto at this evening’s council meeting and believes he’ll be part of the necessary two-thirds majority to countermand the mayor’s order. Bennett said if that happens, the city will lose money to interest payments – effectively lessening the amount available to fix U.S. 40.