The Public Square is the center of Shelbyville.
And the proposed $22.4 million renovation of the city's downtown was the central theme of City Councilman Brad Ridgeway's Town Hall meeting Wednesday evening.
Ridgeway (R-4th Ward) is a candidate for mayor in this year's election, running against incumbent Democrat Tom DeBaun who's seeking a third term.
DeBaun has proposed spending a total of $22.4 million on three projects to revitalize the downtown.
Under his plan, the city would enter into an agreement with three local private developers in support of those projects using a state law governing such public-private partnership deals.
Ridgeway opposes the plan, saying it concentrates too much spending in the downtown when other parts of the city are in need.
He noted that the city's own financial consultant has also voiced opposition to such deals.
At his Town Hall meeting in the VFW Hall, 1622 E. State Road 44, Ridgeway read a published quote from consultant Greg Guerrettaz of Financial Solutions Group Inc. in Plainfield.
“Here's our financial consultant that we've spend thousands of dollars on telling us what to do. And he's done a good job on refinancing some of our debt, so I appreciate that. But this is, what his comment was to me in 2016, or was, yeah, 2017. 'Guerrettaz,' name's Greg Guerrettaz, 'has little use for public-private partnerships. That's the most misused word in economic development going now,' he said. 'The private side seeks to place the financial risk of the deal on the public side of the equation. So public money ends up funding private profits,' Ridgeway read.
“That's exactly what we're doing,” he added.
City funding for the three downtown projects in the public-private partnership, or P-3, deal Mayor DeBaun has proposed includes:
$1,410,000 for infrastructure to support building 13 executive homes on the former site of Major Hospital plus townhomes across the street;
$4,450,000 to construct a parking garage as part of renovating the Methodist Building, 23 Public Square, into upscale apartments and retail space;
And $16,500,000 to reconfigure the Square itself, eliminating the circular traffic pattern, and upgrade streets leading into the Square.
However, Ridgeway said he supports the Hamilton-Major housing project for the Major Hospital site, just not as it's construed now.
And he covered a number of other topics in his 2-hour Town Hall attended by about three dozen supporters.
Regarding tax abatements, Ridgeway said that, to approve a tax abatement, he'd require that the company's executive leaders live in the city. He called it, “the Knauf way.”
He also said he'd make beautifying and improving neighborhoods across the city a top priority, as well as a strong policy to combat drug abuse.
And transparency in public meetings and city government activities would also be at the top of his list, Ridgeway said.
On the other side of the election contest, Mayor Tom DeBaun is scheduled to hold his own public meeting from 6 to 8 p.m. this evening at the Shelby County Public Library, 57 W. Broadway St.
GIANT FM will carry the event live on 96.5 FM and AM 1520 in Shelbyville, on 106.3 FM Greenfield, and online at GIANT.fm.
The mayor's re-election campaign purchased the air time.
And the Shelbyville Redevelopment Commission is due to hear the developers' proposals at the commission's meeting starting at 6 p.m. on Monday in City Hall, 44 W. Washington St.