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FEMA, Indiana tell Kokomo to stop stadium work

December 15, 2014

The state and federal governments have told Kokomo to stop building a downtown baseball stadium because the city is violating the terms of a federal hazard mitigation grant it accepted for the flood-prone area.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency grant program requires the city to maintain the land along Wildcat Creek as open green space, but WRTV reported Saturday the city is pushing forward with the $9 million project, which includes spending $2.5 million on flood-prevention measures along Wildcat Creek.

Flooding in April 2013 damaged more than 300 homes around the 45,000-person city, about 40 miles north of Indianapolis.

The Indiana Department of Homeland Security sent a letter Nov. 24 giving the city 60 days to correct the situation. IDHS spokesman John Erickson said the agency is considering options to bring the site back into compliance.

"It's supposed to be kept a green space, and right now, that's not occurring," Erickson said. "What's at stake is millions of dollars in grant funds for the entire state."

Mayor Greg Goodnight said the city has submitted a corrective action plan and is "very optimistic we're going to reach a resolution to all of this."

"We looked at it, and we think there's a gray area," Goodnight said. "The document itself talks about recreational use, it talks about to mitigate flooding. When we are done with this project, it will actually have more capacity to absorb flooding than was previously there. We think it's a win for the community."

Records show FEMA and IDHS are particularly concerned about eight parcels of land.

"Some of the parcels being used for the baseball stadium are not being maintained according to the grant and applicable federal regulations," the IDHS letter said. "The construction activity includes paved sidewalks, dugouts, a concourse, and the use of fill soil, but the open space requirements generally prohibit improvements such as walled buildings, paved roads and parking, and the use of off-site fill."

Construction began over the summer on the stadium, which will have about 2,300 seats and 1,500 spots for lawn seating. An amateur team featuring top collegiate prospects has been lined up to use the stadium.

FEMA issued a statement saying its Hazard Mitigation Grant Program provided funding for purposes including the acquisition and demolition of flood-prone homes along Wildcat Creek to reduce the risk of flooding.

"These acquisitions were funded with an agreement that the community preserve the property as open space going forward. The open space requirement of the grant program — as defined by federal regulations — benefits the community by permanently removing the structures from the floodplain and greatly reducing the financial impact on individuals and the community when future flooding occurs in this area," FEMA said.

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