Thursday, August 30, 2007

Ken Neumeister and the Shooting Range Land Deal

As readers know, I've been a proponent of Sheriff Fries' plan to build a shooting range in south Fort Wayne from day one. However, after learning that Neumeister Properties owned the land I thought it was my duty to look into the matter to ensure that everything was above board.

Kevin Leininger had a piece discussing some of the details of this transaction:
The story begins with the Adams Center landfill, even though the facility at 4636 Adams Center Road hasn't accepted hazardous waste since 1998. In 2002, the closed landfill's owners, as part of a legal settlement, agreed to give the 200 adjacent acres to the Ministerial Alliance. But the central-city pastors never developed the land, so on July 9 they sold it to Neumeister Properties LLC for $615,000, according to county records.

But in June, the County Commissioners had agreed to pay Neumeister up to $675,000 for the property if certain conditions were met, and County Council agreed to the purchase Aug. 16 for Sheriff Ken Fries to building a training center and outdoor shooting range. Neumeister will get to keep five acres at Adams Center and Paulding roads, and the county will pay to relocate a drainage ditch, theoretically improving the property's development potential. County Surveyor Al Frisinger said he's not sure how much the drainage work will cost.

If the deal closes - the land must still be rezoned - will Neumeister have profited improperly? Or will he have done the county - and taxpayers - a favor?

One point of contention I have with Leininger is that, to my knowledge, there is no documentation recorded by the county that says what Neumeister paid for the property. There is a mortgage recorded for the property for $615,000 but that is no guarantee that's what Neumeister paid for it. Having said that, Neumeister claims that he's only going to break even on the deal, and I don't hear anyone from the Ministerial Alliance protesting that they were swindled, so I don't see any reason not to take him at his word.

One might quibble on the definition of break even since it appears Neumeister is going to personally get 5 acres out of the deal and the county is going to pay to relocate a drainage ditch. However, at the end of the day Neumeister did help the sheriff acquire the property he needed and the County officials that approved the deal knew of his involvement. Should he be compensated for his time and effort? Certainly. Did he benefit from having access to people and information about future plans that others might not have had? Probably.

But I just don't see any kind of egregious violation of the public trust or anything else that would rise to the level of unethical behavior...

FYI: A recent addition to the Fort Wayne blogosphere, Roadkill Taxpayers, has posted about this very topic and takes a different view than myself

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