La PORTE — Two of La Porte’s city boards clashed during last week’s Common Council meeting at City Hall when the city’s Redevelopment Commission caught wind of a potential resolution that would reopen Hoelocker Drive.
The discussion about opening up Hoelocker was brought up by At-Large Councilman Joe Mrozinske in an attempt to temporarily relieve congestion from the overpass that is currently being worked on by INDOT.
“I just wanted to explore every option available to relieve traffic congestion," Mrozinske said. "This is just the beginning of the closure and I don’t know what that is going to bring.”
Members of the Redevelopment Commission approached the podium during the public comment period of the meeting to address their concerns.
Nicholas Minich, director of engineering for the city of La Porte, gave his opinion of the project’s effectiveness.
“I’m not convinced that it would improve safety, accessibility or reduce congestion," Minich said. "Essentially when we constructed Clear Lake Boulevard, it was a replacement for Hoelocker. We realized that opening up the shoreline would create an access point for the public, which would lead to the opportunity for increased biodiversity, and a connection to the water, making it a better use for that property right in proximity of the shoreline.”
Minich then revealed that the city had no funding for opening up Hoelocker Drive.
“Reopening Hoelocker is not significantly expensive compared to large projects, but, at the same time, I think it would cost right around $40,000, and that is not funded in any way. We just do not have any money allocated for that project,” he said.
Minich said he had concerns about the potential loss of more than $1 million in grant money designated for city projects that are already in motion.
“If we were to forgo the Healthcare Foundation project, then we would also forgo any opportunity for the Tourism Grant Project," Minich said. "Also, if we were not able to move forward in creating the Loop Trail, which is what we essentially applied for the Healthcare Foundation to support, we could end up losing right around $1,070,089 in grants that have already been awarded to the city.”
Beth Shrader, La Porte City Planner echoed Minich’s concerns.
“If we were to lose Hoelocker, we would put at risk over $1 million in funding, and that’s not to mention the investment that the Redevelopment Commission is set to put in as the local match for these grant funds,” Shrader said.
Shrader continued with some logistics of the proposed undertaking.
“This is a process," she said. "If we needed to rebuild a section of Hoelocker, it would need to be engineered. After we found out how we were going to come up with the $40 to 50K to figure out how to do this, it would need to be constructed. By the time that happened it would be late summer, or even later, and we will have missed the bulk of the time period in which we were hoping to alleviate congestion.”
Bert Cook, executive director of the Greater La Porte Economic Development Corp. (GLEDC), gave insight into GLEDC’s disapproval of reopening Hoelocker Drive.
“GLEDC is the group that this body and this city uses to bring business to the community," Cook said. "When we look at the greater NewPorte Landing area, and all of the things that are going on there, you have a number of new businesses that have already opened in that area, we have a number of new businesses that are going to open in that area, as well. I just stress that all of those companies made those decisions based on the infrastructure plan that is in place right now. Changing that plan at this point would be a big challenge for many of those businesses.”
Cook urged the council not to consider opening up the road.
“Often times I stand before you, when we look at tax revenue compliance, and we stress the fact that we ask those companies to make good on the promises that they have made to our community. In this instance," Cook said. "I would urge you to stay the course with the infrastructure plan that our city engineer and our city planner have put in place, and continue to embrace the promises that we have made to those businesses in that area.”
The City Council has not yet introduced any resolutions which would reopen Hoelocker Drive for public use as a connecting street.