- Associated Press - Monday, June 16, 2014

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) - Plans for spending hundreds of millions of dollars on rebuilding pothole-strewn streets in Indianapolis have become caught in a political tussle over the source of the funding.

Republican Mayor Greg Ballard has proposed spending $350 million on road repaving and other infrastructure projects. Democrats who control the City-County Council have blocked the plan, saying they don’t like the $150 million in borrowing included in the plan that would cost the city about $90 million in interest payments over 30 years.

The dispute comes as numerous major streets around the city are filled with temporary patches for the widespread potholes that developed during this year’s brutal winter.

The stalemate is hurting all the city’s elected officials, Republican Councilwoman Janice McHenry told The Indianapolis Star (https://indy.st/1kGACWP ).

“We need to get things done. This is our purpose in government,” McHenry said. “What I heard from people is they don’t know why we aren’t getting things done. Streets, public safety, parks. This is what we are elected to do.”

Ballard is planning to submit soon revisions to his original plan that called for 496 miles of road repaving, new sidewalks and repairs to bridges, swimming pools and parks.

Meanwhile, after several weeks of haggling, the City-County Council approved $24 million in repairs to about 200 miles of streets. But Department of Public Works Director Lori Miser described it as a “drop in the bucket” of what’s needed.

Ballard has held town-hall-style meetings to tout the infrastructure plan and says residents are pleading with him to fix the streets.

“He’s taking it straight to the voters, hoping they put pressure on their councilors to get this done,” said Marc Lotter, Ballard’s spokesman.

Vernon Brown, a Democrat who is chairman of the council’s Public Works Committee, called Ballard’s town hall meetings a “propaganda tour.”

Brown said he prefers a committed revenue source for infrastructure work rather than borrowing money and that the mayor could show some political courage by calling for a tax hike.

“I’d prefer that over a bond, though I’d have to take a very close look at what that looked like, too,” Brown said. “The mayor knows our objections. No amount of money is going to fix all the streets. That’s just the reality and why we need a steady revenue stream.”

Indianapolis resident Michelle Cloud, a retired clinical researcher at Eli Lilly and Co., said the bickering is stopping city officials from addressing important needs.

“I was almost hit head-on by someone trying to avoid a bad pothole,” she said. “I used to drive hundreds of miles in Costa Rica, and our Indy roads are now as bad or worse.”

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Information from: The Indianapolis Star, https://www.indystar.com


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