Archive for January 27, 2015

DEAN’S LIST: BUSY WEEK ON THE BASEBALL FRONT

THE DEAN’S LIST

BY DEAN HOCKNEY, PUBLISHER

In the continuing saga of the construction of Kokomo Municipal Stadium, it was a busy week. On Dec. 22, Indiana Senate Bill 100 passed through the senate on its third reading with a 41-8 vote. The following day, it was referred to the house for consideration, which is where it stands. Senator Jim Buck (R-Kokomo) is the author of SB100 which, if passed, would allow the Indiana Department of Homeland Security to order a cease and desist – if it so chooses – on the construction of the baseball stadium.

After that, things got interesting. On Friday, a letter dated Jan. 22 from Andrew Velasquez III, FEMA regional administrator, to David Kane, executive director of IDHS, was posted online by multiple media outlets. The letter from FEMA stated the city was still not in compliance with required statutes and regulations to maintain properties acquired under the Hazard Mitigation Grant Program.

“As such, FEMA has determined that the proposed redesign is not in compliance with the open space requirements and the City is still in violation of the terms of the grant agreements. FEMA concurs with the enforcement actions you list in the November 24, 2014 notice of violation you sent to the City of Kokomo. Please remind the City that it is prohibited from developing on any properties that were acquired with Federal funds in a manner that is inconsistent with open space and without prior approval from FEMA.”

The Nov. 24 letter gave the city 60 days to “bring the properties into compliance.” The letter also stated that on Dec. 23, 2014, federal, state and local officials met to discuss the project. During that meeting, FEMA officials suggested as an option that the city could move or redesign the stadium so that none of the proposed construction was located on deed restricted parcels. In response, the city submitted the proposed redesign which shows that the city still plans to construct non-compliant structures on several of the parcels at issue.

With the 60 days expiring, the city filed legal action against Kane and IDHS in Marion County Environmental Court seeking declaratory and injunctive relief in an effort to continue construction of the future home of the Kokomo Jackrabbits Prospect League baseball team.

“We have honored our agreement with IDHS and it is unfortunate that the City of Kokomo has to file this legal action,” said Kokomo Mayor Greg Goodnight in a statement.

Goodnight maintains they have followed the intent of the guidelines, and only eight of the 70 total parcels are in question. He noted construction was halted on those eight parcels. He also maintains that IDHS ignored a July 17, 2014, letter from the city requesting a meeting to address any concerns – a letter sent before construction began.

According to city officials, Kokomo and its contractors communicated more than 25 times with state agencies regarding the stadium and flood mitigation between July and mid-October 2025, in which no concerns were expressed by the any state agency. The city maintains in its lawsuit that the IDHS “position is wrong as a matter of law” and the city has not violated any terms.

“Kokomo Municipal Stadium is a catalyst for economic growth,” said Goodnight. “Local high schools and the Prospect League Kokomo Jackrabbits will call it home. It is the center of nearly $40 million in investments, job creation and economic development. IDHS’s actions are big government overreach at its worst.”

I have seen documents provided by the city and I feel they are in the clear on this issue. But I am not a lawyer, and legalese can be quite tricky. I guess it will be up to the courts to determine who is correct in the definition of “open space” and “such uses include parks for outdoor recreational activities” as the grant states. Kokomo says that allows for construction of a baseball stadium, the state says it does not.

The Jackrabbits must think Kokomo Municipal Stadium will be ready as they announced season tickets were on sale. And as of 4:30 p.m. on Jan. 26, construction continues on Kokomo Municipal Stadium in frigid 20-degree temperatures. After all, the inaugural Jackrabbits game is only 124 days away.

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.

CITY FILES LEGAL ACTION AGAINST IDHS TO ALLOW CONTINUED BASEBALL STADIUM CONSTRUCTION

City of Kokomo Logo

City of Kokomo press release

The City of Kokomo has filed legal action against Director David Kane and the Indiana Department of Homeland Security seeking declaratory and injunctive relief in an effort to continue building the Kokomo Municipal Stadium.

The complaint, filed in the Marion County Environmental Court, states that, “IDHS has no right to prevent the proposed construction on the Parcels that comply with the Agreed Terms. The Agreed Terms, which IDHS and the City agreed to govern the future use of the Parcels, allow the City to build on the Parcels pursuant to and consistent with the Redesign.”  The stadium project encompasses approximately 70 total parcels—eight of which have had construction halted due to IDHS.

The suit comes after months of communication with IDHS officials, including a July 17, 2014 letter from the City of Kokomo to IDHS requesting a meeting to address any concerns the agency might have with the project. IDHS ignored the City’s request, and the letter, for months.  The City and its contractors had over 25 communications with IDHS, IDEM, and DNR regarding the stadium and flood mitigation between July and mid-October in which no concerns were expressed by the State. Beginning in mid-October, IDHS took unprecedented action in interfering with the construction.

“We have honored our agreement with IDHS and it is unfortunate that the City of Kokomo has to file this legal action,” said Kokomo Mayor Greg Goodnight. “Kokomo Municipal Stadium is a catalyst for economic growth. Local high schools and the Prospect League Kokomo Jackrabbits will call it home. It is the center of nearly $40 million in investments, job creation and economic development. IDHS’s actions are big government overreach at its worst.”

WESTERN CAPTURES FINAL HOWARD COUNTY BOYS BASKETBALL TOURNAMENT CHAMPIONSHIP

Western Champs

BY DEAN HOCKNEY

RUSSIAVILLE, Ind. – In the end, no one could knock off the champions. In the final rendition of the Howard County Boys Basketball Tournament, the Western Panthers grabbed its third consecutive – and final – county tourney trophy with a 73-63 upset win over Northwestern. Playing on its home court, the Panthers surged to a second quarter lead courtesy of the hot shooting of Des Balentine and never looked back.

“This was a great team win,” said Western coach Bart Miller. “Balentine and (Austin) Weaver showed great senior leadership and got us in the position to win. I am really proud of our six seniors. They have put in a lot of hard work over the years and it has paid off.”

Western won the tourney for the second consecutive year, but third consecutive time. The tourney was interrupted in 2012 and 2013 for the Coca-Cola Old School Sectional Tourney at Memorial Gym.

Northwestern (9-2) entered the contest with an 8-game win streak and the No. 19 ranking in Class 3A. It also had defeated the Panthers 57-51 on Dec. 5. But Western (6-7), which had played for a month without Balentine due to an injury, welcomed his return and controlled the tempo for much of the final three stanzas.

“When Des was out of the lineup, our guys took the challenge to step up – and now that is helping our depth,” said Miller. “Guys like (Brodee) Lipinski have been phenomenal for us coming off the bench and he scored seven points for us; he gave Des time to rest. And Josh Beeler is a sophomore and guarding (Blake) Oakley and a lot of teams best players. And now that Des is back, I am glad our younger guys are not backing down just because of his return. They are not slacking us, and Des is embracing them – it is a great complement to them and this team.”

Northwestern jumped to an early 14-10 lead after the first quarter. The Tigers maintained that pace, leading 20-15 when the wheels fell off. Lipinski netted a 3-pointer and Austin Weaver tied the game with a pair of free throws. The Tigers regained the lead 22-20, but Balentine scored a bucket on a fast break, hit a 3-pointer and capped a 13-2 Panthers run with a steal and layup for a 27-22 lead. The senior sharp-shooter hit another 3-pointer in the final minute of the half to give the Panthers a 31-23 halftime lead.

“Des looked like the Des of old,” said Miller. “We will see how he feels. But what can you say with his 21 points.”

Balentine said he was not rushing to get back in and accepted the slow approach that Miller and his physical therapists recommended.

I have been doing a lot of therapy at Accelerated – they have done a great job of getting me ready physically and mentally,” said Balentine after helping to cut down the nets. “I feel pretty good.”

Western started the second half with an 8-1 run, and after withstanding a small Tigers run, they put the game out of reach with a 12-2 run to end the third and start the fourth quarter. Balentine finished with a game-high 21 points in his second game back from the knee injury. He missed six games and played limited minutes in his HCT opening round comeback game. Western is 5-2 with Balentine in the lineup and 1-5 without him.

“This is a big win for us, especially after they beat us earlier this year,” said Balentine. “It was huge for the guys to play without me. We have good chemistry and I think we can make a run in the state tourney.”

Weaver finished with 16 points, Gabe Harp 11 and Shahan had nine points and a game-high 10 rebounds. For Northwestern, Austin Miller dropped in 17 points. Blake Oakley finished with eight points after dropping 24 on the Panthers in its Mid-Indiana Conference victory.

After the game, Miller reflected on the final Howard County Tourney. Miller has been around the tourney his whole life – as a child watching when his father coached and was Western’s athletic director, as a Western player and now as head coach. The county athletic director’s decided to end the annual event due to the breakup of the MIC following this school year.

“There is some nostalgia with this win,” said Miller, who has won both county tourney’s in which  he has coached. “I hate to see it go and it is a great thing in the community. All of the players know each other, but they compete and are still friends at the end of the weekend. It is just a fun atmosphere, and it is unfortunate that this is the last one. I am proud of our guys and glad they were able to win the last one.”

Eastern tops Taylor in consolation game

Much like Western, the Eastern Comets trailed in the second quarter before going on a 14-0 run to take a 22-15 lead into halftime before cruising to a 55-42 victory. Noah Cope led Eastern (6-7) with 19 points while Braden Evans added 16. Marlin Vazquez scored 12 points to lead Taylor (4-7) while Darian Stone had 11 points.

In the opening round of the tournament, Northwestern defeated Eastern 51-36 and Western took care of Taylor 53-42.