Council panel OKs spending $8M on road projects, cleanup of city park

The city of Indianapolis plans to get a jump on $5 million in previously slated road and bridges projects due to an earlier-than-expected burst of funding from the state in the form of returned local income tax dollars.

The Indianapolis City-County Council’s public works committee on Thursday unanimously approved a plan to spend about $8 million in returned local option income tax dollars in two ways: $5 million to start designing and bidding out previously approved projects planned for 2020 and spending about $2.8 million to abate lead and arsenic found in an Indianapolis public park.

The spending proposal will have to be passed by the full council.

Dan Parker, the city’s director of public works, said the city was expecting to receive the money from the state, but it arrived earlier than anticipated.

“This allows us to get ahead,” Parker said. “In the past, money has been moved in January. Designing and bidding them in 2019, we’ll be jumping in front of the line for access to contractors.” 

That could allow the city to get a better deal on its planned projects, Parker said, which include repairing and repaving Keystone Avenue from 39th Street to 65th Street, and parts of Shadeland Avenue, Sherman Drive, and Harding Street. Funds will also go toward fixing a bridge in Geist and a bridge over Crooked Creek, among other projects.

The discovery of lead and arsenic at Sandorf Park, north of East Raymond Street and west of South Keystone Avenue on the southeast side, was discovered by the city last year. Since then, the park near Indianapolis Public School 19 has been cordoned off as city and state environmental management officials conduct testing.

The city has owned the Sandorf Park since 1959, but only discovered the contamination last year after it started a $2 million renovation project. The park was chosen last year as the site of the National Recreation and Park Association’s community project of 2018. But when the city started digging, it found foundry sand underground, which the city believes likely came from previous landowner LeHigh Portland Cement Co. 

“The former cement company used this land essentially as an industrial landfill,” said council Vice President Zach Adamson.

Council member Janice McHenry urged the city to try to recoup money from the company or its insurance agency. If not for the industrial waste cleanup, the city would be able to spend the money on more road projects.

“This a sizable amount of money, obviously, and we didn’t create the problem,” McHenry said.

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