A consultant team presents a vision for the city’s riverfront, the city removes more than 15 inoperable vehicles downtown, the mayor fills us in on area road construction and the mayor looks back over the past year.
On this week’s installment of Ask The Mayor, Columbus Mayor Jim Lienhoop 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: Since we last talked, the city made some news in the USA Today regarding Vice President Mike Pence and his trips to Columbus costing overtime to city employees. How much does his trips cost the city?
Lienhoop: $70,000 is a little bit of a misnomer. I think we could’ve done a better job explaining the math. It’s really about half that. We had several incidents that drove overtime for police and fire. So anytime you say the Vice President’s name, it makes headlines so he got tagged with a big portion of that. And as I told a number of people, we’re happy to help. We’re not complaining. It’s an honor for us to have a Vice President from this community.
Hren: I also came across an article claiming Columbus as a top city for the Millennial workforce. What does the city do to attract that ranking?
Lienhoop: Well Columbus has a pretty high concentration of engineering talent and a good portion are Millennials. What we try to do is offer them something to do when they get here. Columbus is a great community, but at times, it can be small. That’s part of what drives our interest (in developing) the riverfront is being able to provide some sort of outdoor recreational activity that simply doesn’t exist today.
Hren: The riverfront development project took a step forward with some visionary renderings and cost estimates, what’s the next step?
Lienhoop: We have a ways to go, but we have some really neat concepts. We asked the design firm to not only give us what’s possible, but what we might want to do. Unfortunately though we learned anytime you get down in the waterway, you go through a significant permitting process. To build a trial, we need to address stream-bank armament which is to protect the banks. At the same time, we’d be expected to remove the dam. So if we do anything, we have to do it all at once. And that raises the price. What was a $2 million project now ends up being $8.5 million. We simply don’t have that kind of money in our budget.
There will probably be a meeting in January where we hear from the consulting firm again, and then after that I don’t know we will have a next step on paper. We’ll continue to talk to people in the community on their willingness to fund this and there might be other projects these folks would rather fund, so we’ll have to see how this compares to them.
Hren: We talked about the inoperable vehicle ordinance a couple months ago, has it worked?
Lienhoop: Among the provisions are a carrot and a stick. The carrot is if you don’t want your inoperable vehicle, the city will pay to tow it to a salvage yard. The salvage company will pay sometimes as much as $200 for the vehicle and we will give the $200 back to the owner and pay the tow fee ourselves. I’d say we’ve been able to clean up 15 vehicles.
There’s a stick attached to this. And that is if you choose not to participate, you can be fined. Some of those fines could be up around $1,000. So that has encouraged some folks to move their vehicles.