Bond approval on apartment complex remains in limbo

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New Palestine Town Council President Bill Niemier

NEW PALESTINE — The final vote on a resolution to allow for $5 million in bonds for the proposed $61 million high-end apartment complex has once again been put on hold after a vote could not move forward.

The lack of a full council has once again kept the issue from being officially approved or denied as one of five council members is abstaining from the vote while another, who is against the project, has missed several meetings where the vote surrounding the bonds was on the agenda.

The proposed project is located in a Tax Increment Financing (TIF) area near the intersection of U.S. 52 and Mt. Comfort Road. The developers, Becovic Management Group of Indiana, say the project hinges on them getting the bonds.

The Becovic Bond Resolution has passed a first reading and through all other commission meetings and only needs to pass the town’s second reading on the bonds to become official. However, the request for the bonds has divided the council with two members voting in favor, two against and one abstaining.

That’s sent the vote to the town’s clerk treasurer to cast the deciding vote in the past. However, with one council member, Angie Fahrnow, missing and another, Brandee Bastin, abstaining, the vote is stuck with two in favor, one against, leaving only three of five council members taking part. The incomplete council has kept the vote in limbo or moving forward to allow the clerk treasurer to cast the deciding vote.

Last week’s vote once again had council president Bill Niemier and council member Chris Lytle voting in favor of the measure while council member Clint Bledsoe voted against. Bastin, who works for Hancock Regional Hospital, has abstained from the vote due to the fact the hospital once owned the land. She’s said even though the hospital has since sold the property where the complex is proposed to the developer, she doesn’t feel she should cast a vote now.

“We’re in the same position we were at the last meeting, so we’ll just put this item on the agenda for our next meeting and see if there is a change in circumstances at that time,” Niemier said following the 2-to-1 vote.

Fahrnow, who has been adamant against the bond issue, has not attended the past several meetings where the vote on the bonds was on the agenda. Nor has she participated via Zoom (a popular video-conferencing application) which council members often do when unable to attend meetings. Her husband, Doug Fahrnow, however came to the most recent meeting Wednesday, Dec. 7 and spoke about his wife.

He told Niemier he was not happy with comments Niemier made at a November council meeting accusing Angie Fahrnow of abusing her power as a council member. Niemier said Angie Fahrnow had asked for favoritism and then attempted to bribe the town’s chief of police following a car accident involving Fahrnow’s 27-year-old daughter.

Doug Fahrnow told Niemier during the public comments section of the meeting he didn’t appreciate Niemier bringing the issue of the accident to light and that it had upset his daughter and the family. Town Manager Jim Robinson interjected and told Doug Fahrnow it is Angie Fahrnow who is the one being accusatory of Niemier, himself and several town employees.

Niemier noted the smearing has gone both ways after Angie Fahrnow accused him of wrongdoing several meetings prior. Angie Fahrnow is on record as saying Niemier, a real estate developer whose company owns land near the proposed apartment complex, has something to gain from the bond project moving forward.

Niemier said he had planned to give a speech censuring Angie Fahrnow, but decided to hold off following Doug Fahrnow’s comments.

“I don’t think we’re yet at scorched earth, but we’re damn close,” Niemier said. “If people can’t come to this meetings and do their job then this council should consider adopting an attendance policy.”

Niemier went on to say council members should show up and vote, and if they don’t get their way, move onto the next topic.

“When you make it so personal, vindictive and ugly towards others and then don’t expect you’re going to get a little bit back, that might be something to reconsider,” Niemier said. “There have been some hammers thrown and I’ve been the recipient of a few and at some point it’s enough. Come in, vote and do your job or get the heck out of the way and let somebody else.”

Doug Fahrnow noted Angie Fahrnow is dealing with health issues and is unable to attend the meetings. Niemier suggested she should still take part via Zoom. He then said that Angie Fahrnow has been well enough to text people who are attending the meetings and discuss agenda items during the meeting via text and therefore should be able to cast a simple “yes” or a “no” vote on important issues such as the multi-million apartment complex.