Gary tables alternative energy project
By Michael Gonzalez Post-Tribune correspondent March 6, 2013 7:08PM
No word on director
The fate of the Redevelopment Department’s leadership remained unclear after Wednesday’s Redevelopment Commission meeting. Sources have said Director Valda Staton has been fired, but city officials have declined to comment, calling it a personnel matter.
No one has been named yet as an interim director, according to Redevelopment Commission President J. Forest Hayes.
In other business, along with welcoming Hayes as its president, the Redevelopment Commission welcomed Gary Community School Corp. board member Rosie Washington as the schools’ representative on the commission.
Updated: April 8, 2013 7:47AM
GARY — City officials have put an alternative energy project, once fast-tracked through special meetings, on ice while they take a closer look at what it will mean for Gary.
Forest Hayes, Gary’s commerce director, Economic Development Corp., or EDC, director and, as of Wednesday, president of the city’s Redevelopment Commission, said nothing will happen on Gary Renewable Energy Plant LLC plans to build an anaerobic digester at the former Georgia Pacific plant, 201 Waite St., until city officials can more thoroughly check out the project.
“We want to work internally to vet every different piece of this project to make sure, a) it works and there is a comprehensive plan, and, b) it adds value to the citizens of Gary,” he said. “For that reason, we decided to take it off the (Redevelopment Commission) agenda, waiting for a full proposal.”
Hayes declined to specify what issues are holding up the project.
The project, which was to be the subject of an EDC public hearing Friday, also was supposed to go before Tuesday’s Common Council meeting, which was canceled due to weather.
It also was to be on the Redevelopment Commission meeting Wednesday, but it was not on the agenda.
Gary Renewable Energy Plant, a company launched last year, reportedly was to build the alternative energy facility on the industrial site that would convert hundreds of tons of organic material into gases that would power generators.
Also, the site is in the Airport Development Zone, a high-profile Tax Increment Financing, or TIF, area city officials want to use to woo investors.
On Wednesday, the Post-Tribune reported Township Assessor Jacqueline Collins’ office, in 2012, gave the former Georgia Pacific plant an assessed valuation of $6 million based on an invalid sales disclosure form. The form, indicating the property was sole by Porter County-based Clearwater Resources to VC Energy, should not have been the sole tool used to assess the property, Collins claimed.
That $6 million assessment may have boosted the TIF’s valuation by about $5.7 million, but that money would not be available unless property taxes were paid on the Waite Street site. A township assessor official Tuesday also said it was unclear if VC Energy filed an appeal on the new assessed valuation, which was eight times more than the $750,000 Collins’ office assigned the site only a year earlier.
Hayes said he “just learned” about VC Energy’s ownership of the 28-acre parcel on the city’s northwest side early Wednesday.
He also said the alternative energy project was one “the Economic Development Corp. is engaged in working through partnership with (the City of Gary).”
Hayes did not offer a timeframe for when the next steps, if any, will be taken.