Stadium Work

Work continues on Kokomo Municipal Stadium on Friday, February 27, 2015. Tim Bath | Kokomo Tribune

The Indiana Department of Homeland Security has asked the Marion County Environmental Court to make the City of Kokomo remove fill dirt on eight parcels of land that are part of Kokomo Municipal Stadium.

The request was part of IDHS' counterclaim against the City of Kokomo, responding to the city's lawsuit filed Jan. 26.

The city filed the suit seeking to prevent IDHS from halting construction of its downtown baseball stadium.

IDHS claims the City of Kokomo began construction on Kokomo Municipal Stadium before it had written permission to begin building on the parcels. The parcels were purchased using Hazard Mitigation Program funds and have deed restrictions that mandate appropriate uses of the land.

“Prior to construction, on July 17, 2014, a representative from DHS contacted a City of Kokomo employee and stated that the agency wanted to have a conversation with the City about the stadium project,” City of Kokomo Attorney Beth A. Garrison said in a statement. “That same day, the City sent correspondence to DHS and requested a meeting be scheduled, so that any questions DHS had could be answered. DHS did not respond, so believing it had no concerns regarding the project, the City started construction. DHS did not again contact the City until Oct. 16, 2014.”

In its response, IDHS admits to having "eventually" received the city's request for a meeting.

IDHS notified Kokomo to stop construction on the parcels in October. The city maintains construction ceased on the parcels in dispute that day, although partially completed edifices are still standing. As it stands today, there’s currently a concrete support wall leading into where the one of the dugouts is supposed to be already built on one of those parcels.

The construction on those parcels, completed or not, was done without the approval of IDHS or the Federal Emergency Management Association, the countersuit claims. As a result, FEMA declared the stadium project to be in violation of the entities’ agreement, and until Kokomo is deemed to be in compliance with the agreement, is withholding over $6 million of grant funds to be dispersed throughout the state.

The counterclaim is asking Marion County Environmental Court, where the suit was filed, to prevent the city from constructing the portions of the stadium which involve the eight parcels in question. It also asks the court to force the city to remove any cement or fill dirt that has been already placed on those parcels, because the IDHS contends those actions are not in compliance with the original agreement.

The City of Kokomo also told IDHS in its original proposal that the project accomplishes the city’s goal of reducing the risk of future flooding in the area. IDHS says in its counterclaim the city has not provided satisfactory evidence to prove that is actually the case.

That same day it filed its countersuit, IDHS also sent a letter to FEMA appealing the suspension of Hazard Mitigation Fund grants.

Calls to IDHS Director of Public Information John Erickson were not returned.

Josh Sigler can be reached at 765-454-8580, by email at josh.sigler@kokomotribune.com or on Twitter @JSig_KT.

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