Kokomo baseball stadium

This image provided by Sen. Jim Buck shows the design of Kokomo's baseball stadium and the location of eight parcels of land with deed restrictions mandating they remain open space.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency rejected the city’s proposal to modify its baseball stadium plans in a letter Thursday, and the agency also promised to investigate plans to develop another property in the city.

The property in question would be part the redevelopment of the Northern Indiana Supply Company. The project was given more than $5.2 million in tax credits last year and consists of 180 high-end apartments near the baseball stadium.

"There is a parcel that is not involved in the project at present, but there has been some information about the possibility of further development going onto the parcel," Erickson said.

There is just one parcel that could be part of those plans, said Indiana Department of Homeland Security spokesman John Erickson.

The letter from FEMA Regional Administrator Andre Velasquez III to IDHS Executive Director David Kane says, “it has come to FEMA’s attention that the City plans to pursue additional development on other parcels of land acquired under the HMGP.

“We will work with you to investigate these projects to determine whether the City’s development will, in fact, result in additional violations of the open space agreement.”

The city submitted a modified plan for its baseball stadium project in December after being informed on Nov. 24 of construction violations on eight parcels obtained with the aid of federal funds. Acquired through the Hazard Mitigation Program, development on the parcels is restricted.

Throughout the corrective action plan, City Engineer Carey Stranahan addressed the eight parcels and proposed a variety of construction adjustments, including the elimination of a picnic area wall and the addition of steel columns.

Velasquez references a Dec. 23 meeting between federal, state and local officials in which FEMA suggested the stadium project could be modified so that “none of the proposed construction was located on deed restricted parcels.”

The letter says the city’s modified plan continued to have “non-compliant structures” on the restricted land. The letter offers no potential remedy or information about how the suggested modifications could be improved.

City Attorney Beth Garrison said the city has reached out IDHS officials, asking for a meeting.

“The City is waiting to hear back from IDHS on whether they are willing to enter into meaningful conversations on possible solutions following FEMA’s letter,” Garrison said. “The City is hopeful such conversations occur, but if they do not, the City will consider what other options are available to it under the contract and proceed accordingly.”

Kokomo now has until Jan. 27 to correct the construction violations.

“Tuesday is the date when we can take action,” Erickson said. “What we are looking at right now is continuing to talk to Kokomo in the interim. We are also evaluating our possible actions, which could include taking the city to court.

"I can't say how quickly we will actually file. [If] they are not moving to compliance we will be doing that in short order," Erickson added.

However, IDHS will not enforce the deadline if city officials begin to show development toward bringing the parcels into compliance, according to Erickson.

"If something were to happen to move into compliance, we would give them time," Erickson said. "There would be daily monitoring to make sure things were moving along."

FEMA’s letter states it could take enforcement action in the form of withholding mitigation awards or assistance from the state or city, require the city to pay to bring the properties back into compliance and lose control of the land or take the city to court.

However, FEMA will not take action while IDHS continues to work with the city, said Erickson.

“There is no concern of FEMA funds being withdrawn,” Erickson said. “As long as IDHS is handling the situation on FEMA’s behalf, FEMA will not withdraw funds. We are on solid ground when it comes to the whole state.”

State Sen. Jim Buck, R, Kokomo, has been pushing legislation that would give IDHS the authority to issue a cease and desist order, based on the city's stadium project.

Buck filed the emergency legislation on Jan. 9 and it passed third reading on the Senate floor Thursday with a 41 to 8 vote.

“It is important to the entire state to protect ourselves from FEMA,” Buck said on Tuesday. “It is not just Kokomo, but it is the entire state that is running the risk of losing funds.”

George Myers can be reached at 765-993-4724, by email at george.myers@kokomotribune.com or on Twitter @gpmyerskt.

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George Myers covers city and county government. He joined the Kokomo Tribune on November 18, 2014.

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