THE DEAN’S LIST
BY DEAN HOCKNEY, PUBLISHER
Four weeks ago, I said that it was not time to panic concerning the construction of Kokomo Municipal Stadium. I wrote that after the Federal Emergency Management Agency and Indiana Department of Homeland Security sent letters to the city demanding work be halted on construction due to the potential of breaching federal grant rules for the state. My exact words in my Dec. 16, 2014, column were:
So to the local baseball community, I say “hold your horses” and let this process play out. As with any major government building project, politics will be played and opposition will be heard. Yes, dealing with a federal entity can be cause for alarm due to a slow process, but the city administration is working on the situation and already has our Washington, D.C., elected officials involved. And rest assured, the Sports Journal will stay on top of the issue and report whatever outcome there is – I just do not think it is time for panic.
The process is now playing out, and on Jan. 6, Indiana State Senator David Long (R-Fort Wayne) authored Senate Bill 100, which after a committee report, Senator Jim Buck (R-Kokomo) took over as first author. In a nutshell, the emergency legislation – which is aimed at the local baseball project but could impact any project in the state – would allow IDHS to issue a cease and desist order to the construction project.
Indiana Senate Bill 100 synopsis: Authorizes the executive director of the department of homeland security to issue a cease and desist order when a political subdivision is taking an action that: (1) constitutes a violation of any state or federal statute or local ordinance, any state administrative rule or federal regulation, or any contract provision or condition of the receipt of any form of federal governmental assistance; and (2) creates an immediate risk that the state will lose grant funds under the FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency) mitigation grant program or that property owners in any part of Indiana will become ineligible to purchase insurance through the federal flood insurance program. Allows the order to be issued on an expedited basis. Provides that the order may be issued against and be binding upon the political subdivision, the executive of the political subdivision, the members of the executive, and a contractor or subcontractor. Provides that the attorney general may enforce the order by bringing an action in circuit or superior court. Provides for the imposition of a monetary penalty against a political subdivision that violates an order, and makes a violation of the order by an executive of a political subdivision or a contractor or subcontractor a Class A infraction.
The city, through a statement from the corporation counsel of the City of Kokomo, believes it is still in the right on the construction issue and stands behind its original statements that they are within the guidelines of the Hazard Mitigation Grant it received.
“The City of Kokomo questions the necessity of SB100 and believes that the provisions, regulations and protections implemented and controlled by the Federal Emergency Management Agency sufficiently address the concerns raised in the proposed bill and prohibit a political subdivision from unilaterally acting in such a way to jeopardize the State,” said Beth Garrison in the statement. “The City of Kokomo further questions whether the bill could potentially undermine or diminish a political subdivision’s due process rights, given the vagueness of the language set forth in SB100. As such, the City believes such legislation is superfluous and trusts the General Assembly will act accordingly.”
So what does this all mean? I will be honest, I have no idea. The bill still needs to go through the Environmental Affairs Committee, be voted on by the senate and house, and then be signed by the governor. Then, IDHS would actually have to file the order against the city, which the city would probably fight. Yes, this is not sounding good. If construction is stopped for any length of time, I don’t see how the stadium will be finished in time for the Jackrabbits inaugural season this summer in the City of Firsts.
But is it time for panic? I still contend it is not; but we are a step closer. Buck stated he hopes the legislation is signed into law by the end of January. If he gets his bill through the legislative process, then we will have something serious to talk about. Until then, I will continue to drive down Apperson Way every day and marvel at Kokomo Municipal Stadium going skyward.
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.