The Latest Hometown Happenings Around Fishers
Writer / Larry Lannan
After many years of contentious talk and lawsuits, the final leg of the Nickel Plate Trail is now open. Mayor Scott Fadness and several members of the Fishers City Council were on hand for the October 2 ribbon-cutting ceremony. “This has a huge regional impact for the northeast side of central Indiana and we are very, very excited about it,” said Fadness.
On October 5, Indiana Public Access Counselor Luke Britt issued an advisory opinion saying the Hamilton East Public Library (HEPL) board violated the state’s Open Door Law by conducting a meeting in a coffee shop, “constituting a majority of the HEPL Nominating Committee taking official action on public business.” Hours after that decision was made public, HEPL Board Member Ray Maddalone resigned from the board.
After many months of behind-the-scenes meetings and negotiations, two residential developments, described as the Flat Fork planned unit development, north of 96th Street on Georgia and Cyntheanne roads, received final approval from the Fishers City Council. Attorney Murray Clark, representing the developer, told commission members the homes in the 96th Street and Georgia Road development will consist of ranch homes with a projected sales price of $450,000 to $550,000. A proposed commercial component of that development has been taken off the table. The 96th Street and Cyntheanne Road part of the project will contain 130 two-story residences with prices starting at $600,000.
Hamilton Southeastern (HSE) schools are dealing with the same issues individuals and commercial operations are facing –-increased costs of doing business. HSE Facilities Director Matt Rapp updated the school board October 3 on the 10-year plan to keep the school district buildings in good working order. He cited the nearly $4 million HSE price tag annually on natural gas and electricity use, despite steps taken to reduce consumption, due to dramatic increases in the rates utility companies charge.
Rapp cites the Mortenson Construction Cost Index showing a 2.94% hike in construction pricing in the past year. The index also says labor costs have increased 3.2%, and cites a labor shortage for skilled contractors. A project or repair in 2020 that would cost $5,000 has a price tag of $6,500 today. The bottom lines that Rapp says it will cost more to do the same work, year over year.
There is a gap in access to the Nickel Plate Trail, and the City of Fishers, along with Delaware Township, are teaming-up to correct that problem. October 9 the Fishers City Council officially entered into an inter-local agreement with Delaware Township to fill in the gaps to access the trail, from Lantern Road to the trail along 131st Street. The City of Fishers will take on the responsibilities of design, construction and inspection of the project which may require services similar to 137B report, while Delaware Township will contribute $400,000 toward completion of the construction work. The total cost of the plan is estimated to be $482,490.
After revealing details of his 2024 city budget in August, and conducting a public hearing in September, the mayor’s $164 million budget proposal for 2024 received final approval from the Fishers City Council October 3.
“The adoption of the 2024 budget reflects our unwavering commitment to the people of Fishers to continue building a smart, vibrant and entrepreneurial community, all while holding ourselves accountable to fiscal responsibility,” said Fadness in a written statement.
Councilor Jocelyn Vare raised concerns that the city’s debt load has nearly doubled in two years, and asked how much property owners would be assessed when Barrett Law road improvements are financed. Controller Lisa Bradford responded that the city has received bids on the road construction work, but will not know the amounts businesses will be paying along those roads until the financing is complete, which should happen in the coming months.
The HSE school board gave final approval to the $300.6 million 2024 spending plan October 25, on a vote of 5-2. Board Member Tiffany Pascoe cited several reasons for her “no” vote. She objects to spending tax funds on mental health and wellness “regardless of the [mental health] grant.” She also opposes spending funds on diversity, equity and inclusion. She points to payment amounts going to athletic advisors, and objects to a lack of a third-party “municipality group” to work financial matters on behalf of board members. Suzanne Thomas cast the other “no” vote on the 2024 budget. She said there is no “confirmation” of funding for support-staff pay raises and other educational programs.
In January of 2022, Ryan Taylor bid farewell to HSE schools, retiring after years of service to the district. He entered the private sector. However, it appears Taylor couldn’t resist a return to public education. The HSE school board formally approved his appointment October 11 as the new executive director of staff and student services, essentially the same job he had when retiring in 2022.