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Carmel council approves nearly $25M bond for land acquisition, water tower light show

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The Carmel City Council on May 3 voted 5-3 to approve a nearly $25 million bond to cover land acquisition for redevelopment efforts, a water tower light show, roundabout art and various other projects. The 20-year bond will be repaid through tax increment financing.

The only proposal struck from the bond was $650,000 to fund several electronic interactive kiosks throughout central Carmel to guide visitors and passersby to nearby restaurants, events and attractions. Councilor Tim Hannon, who proposed the amendment to remove funding for the kiosks, said he believes they should be funded through other methods, such as sponsorships or Hamilton County tourism dollars.

“Technology is very agile. It’s constantly changing,” he said. “Trying to predict what consumers use today, let alone 20 years from now, is nearly impossible.”

The council approved several other amendments, including a requirement that CRC land acquisition purchases of $50,000 or more tied to the bond must first come before the city council for a vote. The council also added a stipulation that the CRC conduct additional research into the cost and impact of the water tower light show and present its findings to the council, which will vote whether or not to proceed with the estimated $1.5 million project. The Carmel Public Art Advisory Committee will be required to weigh in on the light show as well.

Another amendment cut funding for a sculpture in the roundabout at Illinois Street and Zotec Drive from $500,000 to $250,000, as Zotec Partners has agreed to match city dollars committed to the project. The council voted to use the $250,000 saved for land acquisition.

Several other amendments proposed by Hannon, such as to remove funding for the water tower light show and remove funding for roundabout art along 96th Street, did not receive enough votes to pass.

Councilor Adam Aasen joined councilors Sue Finkam, Jeff Worrell, Miles Nelson and Kevin “Woody” Rider in voting in favor of the bonds.

“When I ran (for office), I made a vow that I would keep an open mind and I would do what I think is in the best interest of the city,” he said. “I believe at this time it is wise to continue with the vision that got us here today.”

Hannon and councilors Laura Campbell and Tony Green voted against the bonds.

“None of my constituents have wanted most of these things, aside from the land acquisition,” Green said. “That’s my struggle, knowing the land acquisition has to happen to go ahead and support some of these bonds.”

The council earlier this year approved a $38 million bond to support an expansion of the Carmel Police Dept. headquarters building and a $60 million bond for road improvements, with many of the upgrades happening Home Place, which is represented by Green. Some of the properties eyed for land acquisition are in Home Place as well.

None of the bonds are expected to lead to an increase in the tax rate.

INCLUDED IN THE TIF BOND

  • Land acquisition — $13.4 million
  • Carmel Clay Historical Society expansion — $2.5 million
  • Water tower light display — $1.5 million
  • CPAC interior signage — $225,000
  • Tarkington garage improvements — $720,000
  • Sophia Square garage improvements — $200,000
  • 96th Street roundabout art by Arlon Bayliss — $2.5 million
  • Zotec roundabout art — $250,000
  • Roundabout landscaping — $1 million

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