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Why Carmel leaders are proceeding with caution in Hamilton County Training Center deal

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As reported in this week’s Current in Carmel, there have been a lot of questions surrounding the proposed Hamilton County Public Safety Training Center. While Fishers, Noblesville and Westfield have each approved resolutions backing the project financially, Carmel is still considering the matter. It was given a positive recommendation in the Carmel City Council’s finance committee and will be presented to the full council, but it’s far from a done deal because there are some unanswered questions. It also needs to pass the County Council and Hamilton County councilors Rick McKinney and Fred Glynn have voiced concerns about the project.

I thought I’d take some time to explain a little more about why Carmel hasn’t jumped in and shown as much enthusiasm as the other municipalities by pledging the $40,000 to support the project.

First off, there are the “unanswered questions” that both Carmel Mayor Jim Brainard and his mayoral opponent Rick Sharp, president of the City Council, both agree exist.

“I need to know exactly what it costs,” Sharp said. “I need to know who would do the construction. I’m not making any comment on what’s going through the minds of my colleagues in other municipalities, but for me I don’t think I received enough information yet to move forward.”

There’s a fear that they could commit to the project and then find out that annual costs are much more than the $40,000 that’s being proposed. City Councilor Eric Seidensticker said he also has questions about the cost of the land associated with the project.

City Councilor Ron Carter, who has worked on this issue for almost a decade, said he’s optimistic that it will all get resolved.

“I think if we can get effectively fewer than ten questions answered by the county commissioners, then it’s something I could feel very comfortable moving on,” he said. “I think we can get those answers. But my top question is who is going to manage it and how it’s going to be set up.”

While the talk of “unanswered questions” has been discussed at public meetings, there’s a second issue that seems to cloud this conversation. Some feel that Carmel is hesitant to lend its support because there’s a desire for Carmel to open up its own training center within its city limits.

That desire has been confirmed through interviews with Carter, Sharp and Brainard but they say it doesn’t affect their support for a countywide training center and that they are two somewhat separate issues. They tell me nothing substantial has been planned.

Brainard and Sharp said it would make sense because if firefighters leave the county to go train at the countywide facility, then they have to be taken out of service, which affects how many firefighters are available to work at that time. That’s why Carmel would want to have its own training center.

Carter said Carmel already has a makeshift training center, but he believes it still does some of the best training in the state. But an expansion of the Carmel training site might be a good idea, he said.

“It still would not take the place of a countywide training center,” he said. “I’ve talked with the fire chief about what would be a part of the countywide training center and a local training center, and they’re not that comparable.”

It’ll be interesting to see if the Public Safety Training Center is on the agenda for the next council meeting on March 16, which I’m told it likely will be. If that’s the case, I wonder if Seidensticker and others will feel they have had enough of their questions answered in order to decide on how to vote on this matter.


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