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.

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