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Ask The Mayor: Terre Haute’s Bennett On Budget Loan, Casino Bill

Terre Haute Mayor Duke Bennett says it's too early to say whether he'll run for re-election.

A new year brings a new loan request to keep the city on budget, the city is partnering with a grass roots effort to better brand the county, an independent announces plans to run for mayor – is it too early for Mayor Bennett to respond with his plans? And, is the mayor worried about big box stores closing up leaving a void in downtown?

On this week’s installment of Ask The Mayor, Terre Haute Mayor Duke Bennett 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: City Council this week is looking at a tax anticipation warrant loan – what does it do and is there any alternative than adding another loan to a city budget trying to relieve a deficit?

Bennett: I think it will get tabled until next month. We really don’t have to have it until the end of next month. But we just wanted to get it out front of the council. We’ve been doing this five of the past six years. We’re borrowing money we’re going to get in December. We get our tax disbursements in June and December every year. In order for us to cash flow everything, we take out that tax anticipation warrant and pay it back in December so our only cost is interest during the year. The cost in interest is about $150,000 a year and a small price to pay to make sure all our vendors are paid on time.

There’s no alternative. The council approved the budget for this year, they know our spending plan and what our situation was. We talked about our redevelopment loan and there are no surprises here.

Hren: Are you keeping an eye on any bills at the Statehouse and any effort to bring back the casino bill?

Bennett: We had a food and beverage tax bill for Vigo County that I’m not encouraged where that’s going to go right now. I think with this being a short session, it’s going to be hard to get anything done related to finance anyway. But we want to keep that up front to the legislators. The casino bill is still alive, but I don’t think you’ll see it in the form of a bill this session.

Hren: We received an email from John, he writes, with respect to the issue of whether parking meters should be installed in the downtown Terre Haute area, an informal local newspaper poll shows overwhelming public opposition to the meter proposal. Do you favor the installation of meters, and if so, how can you justify that in face of this apparent strong public opposition?

Bennett: I already knew people didn’t like it. But we have to look at all of our options. So if we have an issue with more people downtown, it’s a good problem to have, you have to figure it out in the long run. There’s no decision looming on the horizon.

Our group is going to meet for the first time at the end of this month. We’re going to do a lot of survey work with the business owners, we’ve got Indiana State University involved, Downtown Terre Haute and we’re going to take a look at what we can do to improve the parking and visiting experience downtown and someday if that includes parking meters, we’ll see if it takes us there.

I’m not pushing for it, I think it’s only fair we look at it and balance out what’s best for our downtown.

Hren: You’re only starting year three of your current term and already Independent Candidate Pat Goodwin announced he’s running for mayor, any reaction or thoughts on that or your future?

Bennett: No not really, I just continue to work hard for the City of Terre Haute. I’ll decide what I’m going to do when the time is right. Right now, half way through my term is not. I wouldn’t have done this in any past term, I think it’s important we stay focused on moving the city forward and not get caught up in politics two years ahead of time. To me there’s just too much work to do and so much to be done. We’ll talk about that later on.

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