(UPDATED) FEMA SUSPENDS HAZARD MITIGATION GRANTS OVER STADIUM CONSTRUCTION, CITY CONTINUE TO BUILD ON NON-AFFECTED PARCELS

City of Kokomo Logo

BY DEAN HOCKNEY

UPDATED: February 27, 2015 at 2:00 p.m.

NOTE: As of Feb. 27, 2015 at 1:30 p.m., work continued on the non-disputed parcels at Kokomo Municipal Stadium.

KOKOMO, Ind. – The Federal Emergency Management Agency took the next shot in its ongoing dispute with the city of Kokomo concerning the construction of the downtown Kokomo Municipal Stadium. On Feb. 26, the federal agency suspended all hazard mitigation grant awards to the State of Indiana due to unresolved compliance issues with Kokomo’s baseball stadium project. Despite the ruling, construction continues on most of the baseball stadium project.

According to the Indiana Department of Homeland Security, the state of Indiana currently has $5.5 million in mitigation grant funds that will be affected by the decision.

“As long as FEMA’s decision stands, and Kokomo’s stadium compliance issues linger, Indiana will not be eligible for future hazard mitigation funding, which could result in millions of additional lost grant funding to Indiana cities and counties,” the IDHS stated in a press release. “IDHS is currently managing $50 million in hazard mitigation funded projects. Because these funds are already committed, they are not affected by the suspension.”

IDHS also said that the suspension of funds could affect the National Flood Insurance Kokomo.

“The suspension may also extend to future disaster funds and the NFIP as related to the Kokomo project,” the press release said. “The rest of the state is still eligible for future disaster grants and the National Flood Insurance Program.”

Despite the suspension of grants, as of the afternoon of Feb. 27 the construction of Kokomo Municipal Stadium continued – the city noted that they stopped construction of the eight parcels of land in question in November. Randy McKay, director of operations for the city of Kokomo, also called on Indiana Governor Mike Pence to join the city in the fight.

“We’re not completely surprised with the letter from FEMA,” said McKay. “We have been working closely with the state since litigation was filed to resolve this matter. We know the state understands the overreach of the federal government; this is not new to the governor. We hope the state will choose to support the city of Kokomo in our argument that we are in compliance. We intend to continue our discussion with the state to resolve the matter.

Kara Brooks, press secretary for Governor Pence, would not comment on the city’s request for support and directed questions back to the IDHS.

“Governor Pence and his departments have actively fought, or filed suit against, federal government overreach on the Affordable Care Act, Immigration Reform, Education Policy and other issues,” said McKay. “We are in continued talks with IDHS regarding this issue and our related lawsuit. IDHS has indicated a willingness to concur and support Kokomo’s position in recent discussions.”

FEMA determined in late 2014 that the Kokomo baseball stadium was not in compliance. As the grantee, IDHS has been working with the city of Kokomo to resolve compliance issues – to no avail. IDHS said in its press release that the city needs to take the eight parcels in question and return them to its original state.

“Up to eight parcels that are currently part of the baseball stadium project must be returned to open space, in accordance with FEMA’s hazard mitigation grant program regulations,” IDHS stated. “The City of Kokomo applied for and was granted FEMA funds from the grant program to purchase the properties.”

But McKay and city leaders do not agree with FEMA’s assessment of the eight parcels.

“We firmly dispute FEMA’s assertions that the eight parcels in question are not in compliance,” said McKay. “We believe that the redesign plans are fully compliant with the deed restrictions placed on the parcels; that is why we filed suit against IDHS on January 26. FEMA has not provided the City of Kokomo with any actionable, specific instructions for how to align the design with their demands. We have offered several alternative designs yet they provide no guidance for how we can address their concerns. They offer no explanation for their position.”

IDHS previously issued a letter on November 24, 2014, noting the violations and providing a timeline of 60 days for the city to resolve the issues. FEMA’s February 25, 2015 letter noted that the violations still exist.

“We are evaluating FEMA’s current position and are open to discussing what change, if any, is needed to the project in order to bring finality to it,” McKay concluded. “This political and bureaucratic interference may cause a delay, but we are committed to completing Kokomo Municipal Stadium.”

The issue is also being taken up at the Indiana Statehouse – with two prominent Kokomo legislators involved. Senator Jim Buck (R-Kokomo) has opposed the stadium construction and filed emergency legislation that would allow IDHS to issue a cease and desist order. Senate Bill 100, while passed by the Senate 40-10, has been stalled since Feb. 5 in the Indiana House of Representatives Natural Resources Committee. Indiana District 30 State Representative Mike Karickhoff (R-Kokomo) sits on the Natural Resources committee.

FEMA SUSPENDS HAZARD MITIGATION GRANTS OVER STADIUM CONSTRUCTION, CITY CONTINUE TO BUILD ON NON-AFFECTED PARCELS

Construction continues on Kokomo Municipal Stadium in mid-February 2015.

Construction continues on Kokomo Municipal Stadium in mid-February 2015.

BY DEAN HOCKNEY

KOKOMO, Ind. - The Federal Emergency Management Agency took the next shot in its ongoing dispute with the city of Kokomo concerning the construction of the downtown Kokomo Municipal Stadium. On Feb. 26, the federal agency suspended all hazard mitigation grant awards to the State of Indiana due to unresolved compliance issues with Kokomo’s baseball stadium project. Despite the ruling, construction will continue on most of the project.

According to the Indiana Department of Homeland Security, the state of Indiana currently has $5.5 million in mitigation grant funds that will be affected by the decision. In a press release, IDHS stated, “As long as FEMA’s decision stands, and Kokomo’s stadium compliance issues linger, Indiana will not be eligible for future hazard mitigation funding, which could result in millions of additional lost grant funding to Indiana cities and counties. IDHS is currently managing $50 million in hazard mitigation funded projects. Because these funds are already committed, they are not affected by the suspension.”

IDHS also said that the suspension of funds could affect the National Flood Insurance Kokomo.

“The suspension may also extend to future disaster funds and the NFIP as related to the Kokomo project,” the press release said. “The rest of the state is still eligible for future disaster grants and the National Flood Insurance Program.”

Despite the suspension of grants, construction of Kokomo Municipal Stadium is likely to continue – the city noted that they stopped construction of the eight parcels of land in question in November. Randy McKay, director of operations for the city of Kokomo, also called on Indiana Governor Mike Pence to join the city in the fight.

“We’re not completely surprised with the letter from FEMA,” said McKay late in the evening on Feb. 26. ” We have been working closely with the state since litigation was filed to resolve this matter. We know the state understands the overreach of the federal government; this is not new to the governor. We hope the state will choose to support the city of Kokomo in our argument that we are in compliance. We intend to continue our discussion with the state to resolve the matter.”

FEMA determined in late 2014 that the Kokomo baseball stadium was not in compliance. As the grantee, IDHS has been working with the city of Kokomo to resolve compliance issues – to no avail. IDHS said in its press release that the city needs to take the eight parcels in question and return them to its original state.

“Up to eight parcels that are currently part of the baseball stadium project must be returned to open space, in accordance with FEMA’s hazard mitigation grant program regulations,” IDHS stated. “The City of Kokomo applied for and was granted FEMA funds from the grant program to purchase the properties.”

IDHS previously issued a letter on November 24, 2014, noting the violations and providing a timeline of 60 days for the city to resolve the issues. FEMA’s February 25, 2015 letter noted that the violations still exist.

Senator Jim Buck (R-Kokomo) has opposed the stadium construction and filed emergency legislation that would allow IDHS to issue a cease and desist order. Senate Bill 100, while passed by the Senate, has been stalled in the Indiana House of Representatives Natural Resources Committee since Feb. 5.

DEAN’S LIST: HIGH SCHOOL FIGHT NIGHT; IS IT TIME FOR THE IHSAA TO ISSUE TOUGHER PENALTIES?

IHSAA

THE DEAN’S LIST BY DEAN HOCKNEY

What has the game we love come to? Moreover, what has high school sports become? For at least the third time this hoops season and fourth time in the last two years, an Indiana high school athletic event has been halted due to a fight.

On Feb. 20, a fight – or as one media outlet called it, a huge brawl – broke out in the stands of the Fort Wayne Bishop Luers at 3A No. 10 Gary Roosevelt boys basketball game. While no players were involved in the second quarter melee, the game was canceled as players – and Luers fans – were ushered into a locker room for protection. Dozens of people were reportedly involved in the fight, which was on the Gary side of the gym. The Luers team was given a police escort out of town.

This fight came just 13 days after Hammond and Griffith had an on-court fight that resulted in both teams having their seasons rightfully suspended by IHSAA Commissioner Bobby Cox. That fight involved players throwing punches after a hard foul and resulted in some fans spilling onto the court to get involved.

Steve Hanlon of the NWI Times said in a column that “every basketball fan in Northwest Indiana should be embarrassed. We have become a joke. Maybe we should shut the whole thing down.”

But this type of activity is not limited to the Northwest. In fact, it happened right here in the North Central Conference earlier this season. On Dec. 19, 2014, the varsity basketball game between Anderson and Muncie Central was stopped with 3:41 left in the third quarter when a fight broke out in the stands. It took 30 minutes for order to be restored and the game concluded – but not after arrests were made and students told not to come back into the game.

Terry Thompson, superintendent of Anderson Community Schools, told WISH-TV that, “administrators at both Muncie and Anderson High Schools had ‘anticipated a problem’ at the game due to prior social media rumors. School officials said the fight started after ‘ongoing problems between Muncie and Anderson social clubs.’”

On Sept. 27, 2013, future NCC member Indianapolis Arsenal Technical High School was involved in an ugly football incident that saw both benches empty, coaches trade punches and fans spill onto the field. That resulted in both coaches and several student-athletes getting suspended for a game.

Kokomo is not immune either – remember the football fight with Richmond in Sept. 2011?

While the IHSAA acted swiftly in handing out penalties, these events seem to be happening more often than in the past – or maybe we hear about it because of social media. But who is to blame? Ultimately, it is the school. Anderson and Muncie Central anticipated an issue but still couldn’t get the fight in the stands stopped. While I wasn’t there, maybe they did not have enough personnel – like law enforcement – at the game to prevent the ugly incident. At Gary Roosevelt, fans had to go through a metal detector before the game and it took 20 minutes for enough police to arrive – can you imagine that brawl happening with weapons?

Yes, the schools are responsible, but I also blame the IHSAA. While they are worried about how much a public address announcer incites a crowd, maybe they need to take a look at the root causes of these incidents. Maybe it is time for a sportsmanship policy for fans in attendance at games. And as for participants, maybe stiffer penalties are needed; how about an automatic suspension of 25 percent of the season if a player or coach is ejected?

I don’t know about you, but I am tired of reading about incidents that disrupt the play of our high school student-athletes. Enough is enough.

Until next time, remember to keep the man and ship in sports – and I’ll see you at the game.

Dean Hockney is the publisher of the Sports Journal of Central Indiana and sports editor of the Kokomo Herald. You can follow him on Twitter (@Sports_Journal) for the latest in local sports news and game reports.