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Ask The Mayor: Goodnight On Historic Depot Revitalization

Mayor Goodnight

Howard County Innkeeper's Tax, wastewater/stormwater utility cost increase, pinball machine ordinance, Rebuild Highland Park update and year in review.

On this week's installment of Ask The Mayor, Kokomo Mayor Greg Goodnight addresses these issues and more. Listen to the full conversation with Indiana Newsdesk anchor Joe Hren by clicking on the play button above, or read some of the questions and answers below. A portion of this segment airs 6:45 and 8:45 a.m. Wednesday on WFIU.

This conversation has been edited for clarity and conciseness.

Hren: We're actually inside the newest downtown business to open in Kokomo, but it's different than many others in that it's in a city owned, newly renovated, historic train depot. Tell us how it came to be.

Goodnight: This building has been refurbished over the last year and a half. There are four pieces to the building. The city owns and manages it. We have two private businesses in the depot and we have two public spaces. The newest is Tin Man Brewing, their first location outside of Evansville and they just opened this week. Upstairs we have a public space that can be used for private parties, the city maintains it. On the outside we have Depot Park which is an outdoor public park and has Foosball table, ping-pong table alongside our north/south trail.

Hren: How much money did the city put into the depot and is it worth the investment?

Goodnight: We acquired this building rather inexpensively, I think it was $40-$45,000 but it needed a lot of restoration and that was important to us, that it stayed in the public's hands and that it was restored as closely as possible to its proportions and maintained. We invested mainly on the outside and the roof and some streetscape, probably $200,000.

Hren: I wanted to touch upon a city/county issue I read in the Kokomo Tribune over the Innkeeper’s Tax. It seems like the county wants to raise the tax from 5 to 8 percent but most of the money would fund projects in the city and city officials want to be able to oversee that tax. What's the main issue at hand?

Goodnight: We support the county raising the tax. The issue becomes because 70 percent of the people in Howard County live inside the city limits of Kokomo, we have six of the nine appointments to the CVB (Convention and Vistors Bureau) board. Over the last four years, the CVB has done an excellent job of representing tax payers. So now we can have discussions of a real downtown hotel and convention center. The discrepancy is we're interested in changing the legislation to raise the Innkeeper's Tax so we can fund the convention center, but we don't want to go through a micro-managed system where county government is involved in re-evaluating every capital expenditure that may come up.

Hren: How far along are you in the reality of a new convention center?

Goodnight: Well this is a key piece to that to make sure we have the long term funding mechanism. This became part of a plan three to four years ago, we did a downtown community needs assessment. But we don't have space that's adjacent to a hotel and we think that's a key piece. We've identified the parcel, the city has purchased some of those parcels to make sure this was a reality, the CVB board has built the cash reserves, so this is really the last missing piece.

Hren: I also read a report about a wastewater and storm-water utility cost increase of 9.7 percent, the first increase since 2004. Terre Haute and Bloomington also raising rates, something we've talked about on this show when we've been there. I assume this is all part of keeping up with long term control plans?

Goodnight: Yes, we mandated by the federal government. We have long term control plan, we have over $20 million in expenses coming up in redesigning our sewer system and we're on track to finish these control projects for the next ten or fifteen years.

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