The Indiana Department of Homeland Security announced today that the City of Kokomo has violated the department’s deadline to correct Kokomo Municipal Stadium construction violations – a move that is likely to result in further litigation between the city and state agency.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency and the IDHS sent letters to Kokomo Mayor Greg Goodnight on Nov. 24 informing the city it had 60 days to correct violations on eight restricted parcels within the baseball stadium project.
IDHS spokesman John Erickson and an IDHS property inspector were given a tour of the stadium this morning and determined that six of the eight parcels in question were not in compliance, according to Erickson.
“We had someone from the construction company Meyer Najem show us around and point out the parcels, and we then determined the city had not come into compliance on six parcels,” said Erickson.
Parcels 1 and 2, both of which are outside the stadium, were the only two found to be in compliance, Erickson said.
“While it looks like there are plans for parcel 2 to become a parking lot, there has not been any construction done on either of those properties,” Erickson said. “But if parcel 2 comes under construction, it also will be considered non-compliant.”
Kokomo City Attorney Beth Garrison responded to the IDHS' announcement, stating the city believes all eight of the parcels are in compliance.
"As detailed in the lawsuit we filed yesterday, the City of Kokomo firmly believes the stadium's redesign plan complies with the agreed terms of the grant agreement entered into between the City and IDHS in the early 2000s," Garrison said.
Garrison went on to say the city is still in communication with the IDHS regarding potential solutions.
"The Kokomo Municipal Stadium is the centerpiece of nearly $40 million in investments for a once blighted area in Kokomo and will provide much needed flood mitigation, jobs, tax revenue and recreational activities for residents of this community," Garrison said.
IDHS officials are set to meet this evening with representatives from the office of Indiana Attorney General Greg Zoeller.
“We are going to discuss how to progress from here,” Erickson said. “It will be a wide-ranging discussion about what actions we will take to bring them back into compliance and how we will deal with the lawsuit.”
The IDHS will release information about any plans for further action tomorrow morning, Erickson said.
The deadline comes one day after Kokomo filed a lawsuit against the IDHS and IDHS Executive Director David Kane in an effort to seek “declarative and injunctive relief” pertaining to the IDHS’ order to stop construction on the city’s baseball stadium project.
The lawsuit, which was filed in the Marion County Environmental Court, states the IDHS’ refusal to “honor the City’s contractual right to build the facility in accordance with the terms agreed to by the parties” is inhibiting the city’s ability to complete the project.
The city also included a copy of the stadium’s corrective action plan in the lawsuit, which was rejected by FEMA on Friday.
A letter sent from FEMA Regional Administrator Andre Velasquez III to Kane says the city’s modified plan continued to have “non-compliant structures” on the restricted land.
"The City disagrees with FEMA's January 22 letter, and IDHS' response to that letter threatens this investment and if enforced harshly and unnecessarily by IDHS, will amount to government overreach at its worst," Garrison said.