It's a busy week of updates with plans progressing for a USPS consolidation, the Allen County Jail and Project Zodiac. We also learn about the great urban chicken debate dividing City Council, and we meet new owners at the Green Frog, bringing some Brooklyn to Fort Wayne with updates and events.
Don't miss our picks for the Fort Wayne Foodslut's "foodie wrapped" challenge on Instagram (inspired by Spotify wrapped). Share your favorite local restaurants, dishes and drinks, too!
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Talk of the Week
The top story we're following.
USPS consolidation plans are progressing in Fort Wayne regardless of last week's public meeting and many unanswered questions.
Last Wednesday, about 20 residents and USPS workers attended an afternoon meeting at the Allen County Public Library where USPS officials shared preliminary plans to convert Fort Wayne's USPS plant to a “Local Processing Center" and consolidate its mail processing services to Indianapolis.
- This move would: save USPS up to $3.5 million annually, as part of a significant national consolidation under its 10-year Delivering for America plan, which calls for consolidating 30 locations (like Fort Wayne) by the end of 2023 — a figure which will eventually grow to 400.
- Nationally: both Democrats and Republicans are concerned about unintended consequences of this plan, which many fear has "lacked transparency" and "would have negative impacts on mailers," while not delivering on its promised savings.
- Locally: We spoke with a Fort Wayne-based USPS mail processing clerk who wishes to remain anonymous. They attended the meeting and say: "Many employees do not fully understand the repercussions that this could have on them, in part because reading through all these rules and following the nebulous cloud of updates is a part-time job in and of itself."
- Exactly how many jobs will be lost in Fort Wayne is still not clear. Initial Findings published Nov. 21 suggested a loss of 13 “craft positions” and 0 management positions. But those figures have since been updated to 35 “craft positions” and 1 management position.
- It’s still unclear: what exactly “craft positions” entails and whether it includes non-career employees or only career employees, which may make the job losses even higher.
- Our source says: "This is obviously a big change on its own, but it gets bigger. Sifting through the USPS.com page for documentation of similar changes across the country, it becomes clear that the number of craft positions impacted will be the remainder after jobs added to Indianapolis are subtracted from those lost in Fort Wayne.... So hypothetically, if the powers that be decide that 15 people in Indianapolis can do the work of 50 people in Fort Wayne, that's not 35 workers affected. That would be at least 50 workers directly affected, plus the countless butterfly effects it will have on the USPS employment opportunities of the entire region."
- Another question is: whether Indianapolis's plant can effectively handle the increased workload from Fort Wayne and other cities losing services. Consolidated centers (like Indianapolis) are set to absorb the sorting duties of five-to-10 mail processing centers.
- Vice President of the American Postal Workers Union Local 286 branch Tim Bracht tells WANE 15: “Fort Wayne has historically been high in the nation (as) one of the best processing plants, and Indianapolis has been the worst.”
Why it matters
Along with eliminating dozens of Fort Wayne USPS jobs, your mail time in Fort Wayne is likely to be delayed, and the city will not reap the "modernizing" benefits that have been touted by USPS as reasons behind this massive, national consolidation.
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Two quick updates.
- City Council will soon discuss allowing urban chickens in Fort Wayne, despite some council members ba-gawking at the idea. Currently, a city ordinance prevents any farm animals on properties within city limits. Last week, Councilman Jason Arp (R-4th) sponsored a bill to allow urban chickens, following his unsuccessful attempt to pass similar legislation in 2017. To his surprise, the bill divided council, narrowly earning enough support from Tom Freistroffer (R-at large), Paul Ensley (R-1st) and Sharon Tucker (D-6th). Those in opposition cite potential smells and noises of city chickens, but as a citizen supporter pointed out at the meeting: the bill would not permit roosters, and it restricts properties to no more than five hens, which must be enclosed and under control at all times. Nationally: Chickens are already allowed in many cities, including Indianapolis, Valparaiso, Chicago and other major metropolitans. "Studies show urban chickens provide pest control, produce eggs that lead to financial savings for families and encourage physical activity and outdoor engagement," The JG reports. The bill will be discussed at a future meeting.
- County Commissioners are progressing plans for the Allen County Jail project. After months of pushback from County Council and a warning from a federal judge, council and commissioners settled on plans for a more than $316 million new jail at 2911 Meyer Rd., funded (in part) by a new 0.11% correctional local income tax. Last week, council approved a lease-purchase agreement with the Allen County Indiana Building Corp., which will be responsible for issuing and repaying bonds and overseeing construction of the new building, set to begin early 2024 and end in 2027. At the meeting, nine county residents spoke in opposition to the new jail, pointing out that a new facility still doesn't solve deeper racial disparities, mental health conditions or jail maintenance issues the county is facing. Tony Borton, a member of the Help Not Handcuffs Coalition, tells The JG: “There’s been no discussion of that beyond the fact that well, if we have more staff, maybe that will solve the problem. So I think there’s a lot more discussion about oversight of the sheriff’s department, and then some guarantees from the commissioners that they’re going to maintain this facility.”
Local Amazon plant injuries. Project Zodiac secrecy. A new cafe and details on when new bars will open on The Landing. We cover it all in our premium newsletter.
This month: All paid subscribers get a free draft beer at the Green Frog with any food purchase!
We also meet the new owners from New York.
- A local couple Corey Noble (raised in Waynedale) and his wife, Stephanie Bonner, moved to Fort Wayne this year from New York, after buying the Green Frog from Cindy Henry. Now, they're updating its menu, events and space for a new generation.
- Fun fact: The couple still owns shares in several bars in Brooklyn and Manhattan, including Washington Commons, which was mentioned by Lena Dunham in the hit show “Girls.”
- They hope to: "bring some Brooklyn" back to Fort Wayne, by creating a welcoming, come-as-you-are, neighborhood hangout, with a focus on expanding the Frog's beer repertoire and whisky choices, while simplifying its food menu to a smaller number of well-done, favorite dishes.
Why we love it:
- It's exciting to see: beloved local spots like the Frog getting new life in a new time.
- Hearing Noble and Bonner talk about why they love Fort Wayne after living on the coasts reminds us of what makes this city special.
- We're looking forward to: checking out their weekly food and drink specials and events, like Karaoke Nights. Hopefully, more Drag Brunch events in 2024, too!
Learn more, and meet the couple in our full story!
To do list
Our favorite things to do this week.
- Party: like Buddy the Elf at Conner’s Rooftop Bar's new 21+ pop-up experience to celebrate the movie's 20th anniversary. The event runs now-Dec. 30 with holiday decor as well as food and libations from the four main food groups: Candy, Candy Canes, Candy Corns, and Syrup!
- Make: your own local "foodie wrapped" list, courtesy of the Fort Wayne Foodslut on Instagram. Similar to Spotify wrapped, her concept supports local by having you list your Top 5 favorite restaurants and dishes/drinks this year. See Kara and Mike's lists here, and post your own to Instagram, tagging @fortwaynefoodslut!
- Listen: to live local music at the Baker Street Christmas Show on Saturday at 6 p.m. at Baker Street Centre. Artists include Maleena Felger, Alicia Pyle & Mike Conley, Los Galaxy and Smooth Edge 2. Tickets are $10, and proceeds benefit Community Harvest Food Bank.
What else? We recommend six more things to do in our premium newsletter.
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Have a great week, Locals!
-Your Editor, Kara Hackett