State Sen. Jim Buck’s, R-Kokomo, "cease and desist" bill passed the third reading on the floor of the Indiana Senate today with a 41-8 vote.
“I am glad it passed on bipartisan support,” said Buck. “It is a hard bill to deal with, quite candidly, but there is so much at stake. The legislature doesn’t have a choice. It was a pretty good margin in anyone’s book, but we are a long way from done.”
The bill, which would give the Indiana Department of Homeland Security the opportunity to issue a cease and desist order for construction on Kokomo’s baseball stadium project, will be placed on the floor of the House of Representatives at a later date.
“I think this is a good bill, and I think this is an emergency,” Buck said during the Senate reading.
Following the bill’s passage, Kokomo Mayor Greg Goodnight questioned Buck’s motivations and stated he felt Buck had proposed the legislation for personal reasons.
“This is purely Jim Buck playing politics,” Goodnight said. “We all know this is an election year.”
Buck will speak with House Speaker Brian Bosma, R-Indianapolis, Monday, he said, and expects to have the necessary paperwork filed and on the desk of Bosma by the beginning of next week.
“I hope we can get this into the House as soon as possible,” Buck said. “I have already been in good discussions with multiple individuals at the House, and I think they are committed to passing the bill.”
Reps. Dave Wolkins, R-Winona Lake, and Greg Beumer, R-Modoc, will carry the bill during House proceedings, according to Buck.
Goodnight also accused Buck of partnering with Howard County Republican Party Chairman Craig Dunn in an effort to purposefully slow city development projects.
“Jim Buck and Craig Dunn have tried to stop development of YMCA, the development on Buckeye Street, the reconstruction of the Firestone building and now they are trying to stop what we are doing with the baseball stadium,” Goodnight said. “They know what they are doing.”
While Buck refused to comment on Goodnight’s assertions, Dunn denied the accusations and accused Goodnight of shifting the blame.
“That is preposterous,” Dunn said. “They are the rantings of a person that is in denial of the basic truth. That is just patently false. It is a pattern of not accepting responsibility for rash decisions and the ignoring of the law. I guess I am his whipping boy.
“He has reached the point of desperation,” Dunn added, referring to Goodnight.
Dunn went on to accept his involvement in stopping redevelopment of the Firestone Building, but said he has done nothing to negatively affect any other projects.
“I fought against the Firestone Building because I thought it was a safety hazard,” said Dunn. “However, I think the YMCA project is a wonderful thing. I am a longtime supporter of the YMCA. I am also in favor of a baseball diamond and bringing a baseball team to Kokomo. To say that I tried to stop those projects is an absolute lie. I guess he thinks it helps him to demonize me.”
Goodnight, who said the city provided the Federal Emergency Management Agency with their corrective action plan on Dec. 22, also spoke about perceived mischaracterizations regarding the level of communication the city has had with both the IDHS and FEMA.
“[Buck] has had one short conversation with Carey Stranahan and me and that was in mid-December,” Goodnight said. “He is trying to paint this as if we aren’t in communication with IDHS. We were in communications with them before the project started and during the construction project. They were well aware of all of this, and it is all documented through emails and contractors.”
Both Dunn and Buck have expressed belief that the stadium project is a potential flood hazard, which Dunn said is something FEMA is rightfully concerned about.
The FEMA and the IDHS sent letters to Kokomo Mayor Greg Goodnight on Nov. 24 informing the city of construction violations on the baseball stadium project, which led in part to Buck’s bill.
In the letters, the two agencies informed Kokomo of violations on eight parcels of land, per deed restrictions put in place by the Hazard Mitigation Program.
Allowable uses for open space include, “small-scale recreational courts, ball fields, golf courses and bike and walking paths,” according to the Addendum to the Hazard Mitigation Assistance Unified Guidance.
The addendum also states that “the subgrantee and Grantee should review every situation for adherence to the relevant regulations, open space intent, and floodplain management principles.”
“I do believe the baseball stadium can be a flood danger,” Dunn said. “FEMA has told the state of Indiana facts. These aren’t wild accusations. They have said they will cut off flood mitigation, and I think that is a significant issue.
“I do think we will have a stadium when it is all said and done with,” Dunn added.
Sen. Karen Tallian, D-District 4, spoke against the bill while it was on the Senate floor.
“There are ongoing negotiations and they are trying to work out a solution,” she said. “We are trying to legislate a solution.”
The bill is a necessity and will help to protect the state from losing a significant amount of federal dollars, Buck said.
“We need this bill because FEMA isn’t giving anybody any wiggle room at the moment,” Buck said.