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.