Council votes no on nearly $20 million in bonds for new campus

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The Zionsville Town Council voted against approving nearly $20 million in bonds to finance a new campus, which would hold the street and stormwater and parks department buildings. Currently, both departments share a building at 1075 Parkway Dr. 

The proposed campus would have been at the former Rail Trail Gardens property west of County Road 875 East and south of Heritage Trail Park.

Prior to the vote, Mayor Tim Haak, Street and Stormwater Supt. Lance Lantz and Parks Director Matt Dickey presented on their department needs and the reasons behind asking for the bonds.

The Street and Stormwater Dept. building bonds, if approved, would have been $10.5 million. The Parks Dept. building bonds would have been $9 million.

“Approximately three years ago, the town agreed to purchase the former Rail Trail Gardens property,” Haak said. “A space-needs study was completed for each department and involved staff and other experts. It not only evaluated current office and meeting space and space for equipment, but needed space for growth over the next 25 years. The plan before you accommodates today’s needs and allows for growth, hence the campus concept.”

Lantz spoke on how the current Street and Stormwater Dept. location is out of space and has several limitations. He explained the bond would be for 20 years and would include acquisition of real estate, construction, architect and engineering fees and more.

“We currently have three employees share one work station and computer. We had to put a workstation in the breakroom,” Lantz said. “We have a single conference room that is very small. It only seats about six people, which is barely enough room for our weekly staff meetings, and we can’t host any meetings. We make frequent trips to town hall, hence the need for space to hold larger meetings.”

The lack of space also prevents proper project layout.

When the department’s salt barn was built in 2004, the town’s needs were for 300 tons of salt. Now, the town’s needs reach approximately 1,400 tons.

When the building was built, the Street and Stormwater Dept. had a staff of six, 10 vehicles and less than 25 pieces of equipment. Now, it has 16 full-time employees, 28 vehicles and 50 pieces of equipment.

Dickey shared similar concerns for the Parks and Recreation Dept. If the bonds had been approved, the parks and recreation complex would include a nature center, eight to 10 acres of specialized park wetlands, a bird watching area, the parks department offices, reforestation, public restrooms and more.

A finance presentation followed and explained to the council that even with the bonds, the town could maintain its approximate 15-cent tax rate. However, councilors expressed concerns about how much tax money would be pulled from the schools, library and other entities to allow for the bonds and to maintain the rate. Councilors also addressed concerns over annual maintenance costs for the new campus.

The vote was 4-3, denying the request. Councilors Josh Garrett, Bryan Traylor and Kevin Spees voted in favor of issuing bonds for the campus, with councilors Susana Suarez, Elizabeth Hopper, Tom Schuler and Jason Plunkett voting against.

For more, visit zionsville-in.gov.   

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