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Carmel council seeks oversight of redevelopment expenses

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Carmel City Council members want further control of the redevelopment commission that carries out Mayor Jim Brainard’s vision for downtown, and Brainard said Friday morning that he won’t oppose the plan.

Council President Rick Sharp and members Luci Snyder and Eric Seidensticker are sponsoring an ordinance, to be introduced Monday, that would move the Carmel Redevelopment Commission’s staff and operations into a city department. That means the CRC’s annual operating budget, which is $6.4 million this year, would have to be approved by the council.

“It’s very comparable to what other redevelopment commissions in the state do,” Brainard said.

Council members have been scrutinizing the CRC’s expenses as they consider refinancing $183 million of the commission’s $267 million in debt. The commission has maxed out its credit and needs the refinancing to free up $8.8 million, which Brainard wants to use to complete the masssive City Center project.

To get the refinancing, Brainard agreed in April to an ordinance that gives the council final say over any future debt incurred by the CRC. The latest proposal means the council would also have oversight of the CRC's internal expenses.

Snyder, chairwoman of the council's finance committee, said it's too early to tell how the change would play out for the CRC's six-member staff, which works out of offices in the Evan Lurie building in the Arts & Design District. The CRC probably will save money by eliminating accounting fees, as the treasurer would be the city's fiscal agent, Clerk-Treasurer Diana Cordray, she said.

"I don't know what else," Snyder said. "That's probably a decision [to be made] closer to the beginning of the year. My job is to stop the bleeding."

Brainard said he's not concerned that the council will gut the CRC's operations, which include marketing and promotion for downtown businesses.

“I’m going to take everyone at their word; they still want to have a good redevelopment department,” he said.

The council might not be able to eliminate the bulk of the CRC’s operating expenses because they include subsidies to the Center for the Performing Arts, utility costs for the Palladium concert hall and overhead at the James Building, which houses theaters and offices.

The change would most likely impact the CRC’s direct overhead, which include a $462,505 payroll, outside legal and accounting services and leased office space in the Lurie building.

As part of the refinancing, the CRC proposed to lower its overhead from about $3 million this year to $1.1 million in 2013.

Under the proposed ordinance, the five-member redevelopment commission would be staffed by a city department, the Carmel Redevelopment Department.

Brainard noted that the department already exists and that the CRC’s current staff, which works under contract, could become full-time city employees. “Which would be a good thing for those employees,” he said.

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  • Not as it seems
    As to the Bridges and Silvara it would appear that it is not the Mayor who was behind this but a certain Council President. One of developers of the Bridges organized a major fund raiser for Mr. Sharp. Councilor Carter has a similar vision as the Mayor and voted against the Bridges and Silvara. Mr. Sharp patted himself on the back that it only took 1 1/2 hours in council committee meetings to make minor modifications where as a trash ordinance took 9 months. There seems to be a new wannabe Mayor in town these days
  • Repy to Wes
    Wes, anyone who lives near Spring Mill, either on the east or west side, is, or will be confronted by large commercial developments. Either within the immediate future, or in the near future. Many have already been approved, or soon will be. The 31 overlay was well east of Illinois, until Brainard and his cronies decided they should make that west of Illinois. Now, not only is, or will their be commercial all the way to Springmill, the developers are trying for commercial on the west side of Springmill. None of this area was in the Tax increment areas, until just a few years ago. Someone needs to pay for the palladium.
  • Reward for bungles
    So am I reading this correctly. No one from CRC has been sacked or fired. They bungle their accounting, incur massive debts from over stretching their budgets and then we the Carmel taxpayer bails them out, despite earlier promises we wouldn't do it, then the people involved become employees of Carmel and gain significant benefits going forward.....umm where/how do I create a CRC Mark II for my own future benefits ???
  • Commercial Development?
    I'm confused how he is ruining neighborhoods on the west side of Carmel with commercial development? Between Spring Mill and Michigan the only commercial development is in the Village of West Clay.
    • GREENWOOD
      p.s. And no jobs.
    • MOVE TO GREENWOOD
      If you folks in Carmel dont like what happened, move to Greenwood. We have a redevelopment tax district that took in over $240Million dollars in the last 12 years under Mayor Henderson---and all we have is a Walmart on County Line Road----but absolutely no complaints from the citizens. My point is that the State needs to step in as there is abuse on both ends of the scale.
      • Further problem
        For those of us who live west of Meridian, the problem is what Brainards plans are doing to our neighborhoods. The City government is continually destroying neighborhoods with their aggressive zoning, and seeking of more and more commercial development. Some of our neighborhoods are needlessly being surrounded by commercial construction, and shoe horning in TIF districts to pay for the over spending. This, when other areas of commercial Carmel is suffering significant vacancies. All they are doing is moving businesses from one area to another (usually to the TIF districts). Why they have not discovered the age old of improving, and utilizing existing infrastructure, I will never understand. Kite however, gets it. His improvements at 116th and Rangeline are going to be a home run.

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