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Rolling out the red carpet for investors

By DARREL RADFORD - dradford@thecouriertimes.com

The city of New Castle is not in the real estate business. But there are business opportunities here that could be very real, according to one City Council member, who wants a way to get the word out about them.

Monday night, Councilman Aaron Dicken said he’d like to see an accelerated effort at welcoming quality private investors to town.

“Does the city market properties like the former Firestone site?” Dicken asked during the most recent City Council meeting. “Surely there would be no legal ramifications if we want to advertise a building owned by someone else as being for sale.”

“We’re not brokers,” City Attorney David Copenhaver responded. “We don’t have a broker’s license.”

“We need to do some creative thinking to dance around that,” Dicken replied.

Copenhaver suggested working with Carrie Barrett and the New Castle Main Street non-profit organization as well as Corey Murphy of the New Castle-Henry County Economic Development Corp.

“At one time, we did have a comprehensive listing of all our downtown properties,” Copenhaver said. “Those get out of date very quickly.

“I would say the way to start would be sitting down with Main Street and Corey (Murphy),” Copenhaver added. “I’m not sure it would be legal for the city to use tax dollars for marketing.”

Dicken said his goal would be just to fill in gaps and make sure prospective businesses were made aware of opportunities in the city.

“The city could, through the EDC and the RDC (Redevelopment Commission) have inventories of downtown properties,” Copenhaver said. “We have done that in the past.”

In other business at Monday’s City Council meeting:

• Council member Mary Brewington praised street paving efforts to date, but asked about plans for 25th Street.

“They (Milestone) fell short on time,” said Dave Barker, director of public works. “They’re telling me their next target date to get to town is August 19. They’re going to do 25th Street first. I also got in touch with the railroad. They are going to take everything out but the rails and allow us to pave right up to the rails.”

Brewington also expressed concern about weeds overtaking what she called “real expensive” fencing left at the old Firestone site.

“Year after year, the weight on that fence is going to wear it down,” she said.

City officials said they would look into the matter.

• Councilman Jerry Walden congratulated everyone on the success of the recent bike races staged at Baker Park. 

“We had 122 riders from nine states, a very good turnout for the first year,” said Mike Bergum, New Castle’s director of parks and recreation.

Walden said ages ranged from 14 to 64, with one rider traveling on his bike from Indianapolis to New Castle and then on to Muncie before heading back to the capital city.

Walden praised both Bergum and New Castle Police Chief Matt Schofield for their efforts at organizing the event and maintaining traffic control.

Bergum said the city is planning on hosting the same event next year and making it more of a festival.

• Barker reported Phase 1 of the White Estates sewer project is now complete.

• Council conducted a public hearing on amending zoning districts in Northfield Park and passed a resolution as well as a fiscal plan for developer Jeff Smiley’s proposal. Members also unanimously supported annexing certain territory in Northfield Park.

Smiley wants to build new condominiums near the Henry County YMCA and Wilbur Wright Trail. Plans include two units, each with 2,050 square feet, in front and two more, each with 1,800 square feet, in the back. All four, he said, would have a 500-square foot second floor.