By Ken de la Bastide
The Herald Bulletin
---- — ANDERSON – With the loss of potentially $3.5 million in federal funds, it appears Anderson’s elected officials have reached a tentative agreement on a new site for the CATS terminal.
During the 2014 budget hearings last October the Democrat-controlled Anderson City Council voted to remove $470,000 for the city’s share of the funding. The funding was used to purchase new CATS buses this year.
The disagreement between the council and Mayor Kevin Smith was over a location for the new terminal. The administration wanted it placed at the intersection of 14th Street and Central Avenue and the council was looking at the parking lot on the southeast corner of 14th and Meridian streets.
Smith announced Friday that the city is considering using Community Development Block Grant funds as the local matching funds for construction of a new City of Anderson Transportation System facility.
The city was facing an October deadline to dedicate the local matching funds or lose the $3.5 million in Federal Transportation Administration funding.
Both the council and administration have agreed the possible site for the CATS terminal is west of the McDonald’s restaurant. The site includes several houses, storage buildings and several former small business locations.
There are potential problems, though, because the property owner wants substantially more than the property's appraisal.
Council President Pam Jones said Friday she approached the administration in April about moving forward with a new bus terminal.
“We were told the city didn’t have the money,” Jones said of a meeting with Smith and Councilman David Eicks.
Jones said the money removed from the 2014 budget is still available for the CATS terminal and not in limbo.
“We didn’t want the city to lose the federal money. We were trying to save those funds,” she said. “We had to do something pretty soon.”
Jones said the dance studio at the former train depot was opposed to any bus terminal within a two-block radius due to concerns about young students' safety.
Eicks said council members met with the Madison County Council of Governments, which oversees federal grants in the region, concerning the alternative site and possible funding options.
Eicks said the $470,000 sought by the Smith administration was removed from the 2014 budget and placed in the city’s general fund.
“The funds were taken out because of the location of the terminal," Eicks said. “We de-funded the project.”
Smith believes the CATS terminal should be constructed in close proximity to the railroad tracks running through Anderson for use as a possible multi-modal transit facility.
“My focus has been on a rail transportation system instead of using express bus service,” Smith said of regional mass transit proposals. “We can use the existing dual track that remains in use today between Anderson and Indianapolis.”
He said when the Indiana General Assembly passed a mass transit bill it stripped out the option of rail service.
“The cost of a light rail system between Hamilton and Marion counties is almost $1 billion,” he said. “In Anderson, we have numerous opportunities for a dual track service. My goal is to construct a transit facility.”
Follow Ken de la Bastide on Twitter @KendelaBastide, or call 640-4863.