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January 1, 2013

Fuel alternatives, parks and a party top 2013

2013 shows a lot of promise

Plenty of groundwork was completed on several projects throughout the area that shows the possibilities for progress in 2013 is very promising.

The area’s parks and trails will certainly blossom into bigger and better places for locals and those regionally will enjoy. The potential for economic growth can come in many forms if early indications from the City Building prove to be true. And with the city celebrating its 175th birthday this year, there will be plenty of activities for people to enjoy each month.

The following is a compilation of top stories to watch for 2013.

1) Trash-derived fuel in Logansport

Just as “Weapons of Mass Destruction” and “YOLO”, or You only live once, became overused terms of their time, so will the words “energy campus” in Logansport.

City officials are seeking upwards of $630 million of private investment to turn part of its existing coal-fired power plant into a plant that burns pellets of residential refuse. The plan would add jobs and is projected to decrease rates for residential and commercial customers alike. The hidden gem in all of this, city officials say, is the byproduct, or steam, that the plant produces and can be used by a number of industries. That byproduct could turn this revolutionary answer to Logansport Municipal Utilities’ question of what it will do to produce energy in the future into an explosion of revenue and economic development opportunity.

The Utility Service Board will review proposals in the coming weeks from companies interested in the project.

The plant would burn solid waste pellets and would achieve total system capacity of 300 megawatts, far more power than the 38 megawatts the plant currently generates at maximum capacity.

Up to this point, LMU has lost nearly $4 million in the past three years. None of the four alternative plans laid out this summer — including repowering existing generators, repowering natural boilers and converting boilers to natural gas — would allow the utility to get back in the black without base electric rates rising at least 95 percent.

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2) Rejuvenation of France Park

Cass County commissioners hired a new superintendent in 2012 and he has plans to take the park to the next level.

Lucas Beach is stressing affordable, health-conscious activities for 2013 with plans for a zipline, which will be built in the southeast corner of the park, and new single-track mountain bike trails.

Beach is working on rebuilding relationships with groups like D.IN.O., or Do INdiana Off-road, to bring bicyclists and more back to France Park. D.IN.O is the largest producer of cycling and off-road events, including trail running and mountain biking.

Other ideas, such as updating the restrooms, building wooden structures in the park and possibly adding rental cabins, are still being fleshed out. But Beach is working on a five-year plan, which should mean great things ahead for France Park visitors.

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3) A port authority in Logansport

Though city officials have been pretty quiet about the entire reason for creating a port authority, Mayor Ted Franklin has said the move could help spark a large expansion for an area business.

The City Council will consider the proposal for a port authority in the coming weeks. The authority would oversee the city’s two active rail lines and two rivers.

Under Indiana law, Logansport is able to create a five-member board appointed by the mayor, with the consent and approval of City Council, to oversee the city’s rails and rivers. The area already has a port authority to oversee the Logansport Cass County Airport.

The authority would also be able to address some of the rail issues, such as the rough travels over the 18th Street crossing near Main Street. Franklin has said he would hope the authority would tackle issues like that and even seek out matching grants for such projects.

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4) The much anticipated Huston Park

Hundreds of thousands of local dollars have gone into the construction of Huston Park and all of its amenities and area residents will finally be able to begin enjoying the park this year.

Myers Construction Management, Inc., who is constructing the park, has already completed the first phase, which includes the playground, 1 1/2 miles of walking trails, restrooms, a parking lot and the Mike Anderson Community Complex.

The park is in the 1700 block of Smith Street. It will also include a multi-purpose meadow that will provide space for football and soccer teams to practice, in addition to festivals and casual recreation.

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5) The city’s 175th anniversary

Months of preparation has already gone into planning the city’s 175th anniversary. A local committee has been meeting with area businesses and organizations to host events ranging from costume shows to a commemoration of the 1913 flood in March. The year-long celebration is set to kick off this month with Founder’s Day parties and end with a show celebrating the city’s historical figures.

The year’s activities include tours of Underground Railroad sites and Native American sites and reminders of the 175th anniversary in local parades and festivals.

The committee’s leader, Lita Rouser, has said Founder’s Day parties will begin on February 17 and will span across several businesses and people’s homes.

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6) Pedestrian bridge to connect Eel River Run and River Bluff Trail

As if the area’s trails and parks weren’t enough, construction of a pedestrian bridge is set to begin this year that will connect the Eel River Run near Riverside Park and the River Bluff Trail.

Contractors built the Eel River Run trail in 2012 and local businessman Milt Cole donated $800,000 toward constructing the it and building the pedestrian bridge.

The bridge project will cost $1.2 million.

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7) Annexing to the city

City officials have already earmarked $100,000 to study annexation of land around the city.

Mayor Ted Franklin put it simply in 2012: “We need to grow,” he said. “If you look at Logansport, we haven’t had a major annexation in close to 20 years.”

The last area the city annexed, he said, was an area near Sunny Field Estates.

The money for the study came from a fund supported by landfill tipping fees.

The study will examine potential new tax rates and other savings — such as fire protection and trash collection — that property owners in an affected area could expect.

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8) Cleaning up dilapidated properties

Look for the city to continue addressing properties that are inhabitable.

Mayor Franklin took an aggressive approach to cleaning up properties in the city and his administration is showing now signs of letting up.

It demolished several homes in the final months of 2012. Earlier in the year, the city demolished 1305 Spear Street in its first effort to clear out condemned properties. The city has a list of condemned homes it plans to address this year.

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9) Logansport looking overseas

Shortly after spring 2012, hardly a month went by where city officials didn’t talk about China. In coming weeks, the City Council is slated to consider replenishing the fund that paid consultants William-Lynn-James and Larry Ingraham & Associates in 2012 by six figures. Discussions with Chinese officials will continue this year and although they say business deals don’t happen overnight, Logansport is lining itself up with folks from overseas in the event Chinese businesses decide to come to the United States.

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